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What’s the Point of a Fake Pot Plant?

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Not everyone has a green thumb. Which is why, in the midst of a plant-décor boom, fiddle leaf figs, orchids and succulents made from plastic, polyester and silk have become popular.

Now you can add faux cannabis to the list.

Pot Plant, an online store that opened last fall, sells artificial weed plants that are meant to be displayed in homes and businesses. But they aren’t just for show, the company’s founders say. They hope these plantlike objets will also help challenge negative attitudes toward marijuana.

“At its core, we’re trying to get people to see the plant for what it truly is,” said Karina Farris, 26, one of the brand’s founders. “It’s just a plant. It’s nature. It shouldn’t be anything scary.”

Ms. Farris, who lives in Newport Beach, Calif., came up with the idea for Pot Plant in July 2019. She’d been working in the cannabis industry after graduating from the University of Southern California and wanted to start something of her own, focused on shifting public perceptions of pot.

“There’s been a war on drugs for years and years, and people are programmed to see this plant and think it’s a dirty thing,” Ms. Farris said. “We’re working to reprogram what’s been told and what the narrative has been.”

Cannabis has an important place in her personal life. When her father was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2014, he began using cannabis oil while being treated for cancer and found that it helped him, Ms. Farris said. “He has always been a proponent and been very open about it,” she added.

This year, several states, including New York, legalized recreational marijuana. Most Americans agree with that policy direction, according to an April survey by the Pew Research Center. Sixty percent of those surveyed said that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use. The share of Americans who believe that marijuana should be legalized (without stating medical or recreational) more than doubled between 2000 and 2019, according to Pew.

Still, there are many who oppose recreational marijuana or simply haven’t thought about it. George Hernandez, 28, who founded Pot Plant with Ms. Farris, hopes to change that. His goal, he said, “is to have our plants in the homes of all types of people, of various ages from different backgrounds.”

Pot Plant has sold approximately 8,000 units to date, according to Ms. Farris. Its most popular item online is its 10-inch “Clone.” The company also has wholesale clients, including prop departments for television shows, as well as dispensaries and smoke shops.

The designs were created from molds of real cannabis plants, which explains how convincing they are. “At the last prototype, our one grower friend was like, ‘I don’t know, honestly this could be a real plant,’” Ms. Farris said.

Many people encountering these rather convincing replicas already have a high opinion of cannabis. Ilinca Sipos, 25, a marketing manager in Los Angeles, said that the fake cannabis plant near the entry of her home sparks conversations about how differently cannabis “is seen state to state and how lucky we are to live in a place like California, and how these differences show the growth or change that still has to happen on a macro level around cannabis.”

By making cannabis more visible, the company’s founders hope to challenge negative attitudes toward marijuana.Credit…Alexander Silva/Pot Plant

For others, the plant’s presence can be reassuring. Dustin Camper, 38, a lead patient care associate at a medical marijuana dispensary in Springfield, Mo., said that the four artificial cannabis plants in the building make visitors “feel more at ease.” The plant, he said, serves as an “icebreaker for them to sort of derail their worries and anxieties about the whole procedure of buying legal cannabis, in a market that’s very fresh in the middle of the Bible Belt.”

As the share of Americans who support legalization of recreational marijuana has grown, so too has the market for beautiful objects tied to consumption, such as upcycled glass bongs and ceramic ashtrays.

But the purpose of Pot Plant is more symbolic and visual, said Aimee Huff, an associate professor of marketing at Oregon State University. Pot Plant “shifts cannabis from something that is abstract to something that is physical and tangible,” she said.

It could also help with “destigmatization,” Ms. Huff said, because it invites people to view cannabis as an “aesthetic, natural botanical specimen” (at least in theory, as the fake plants are made of plastic and fabric).

“It allows people to mentally categorize cannabis as something that can be beautiful and tasteful,” she added — “different from a novelty gag gift.”

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