In 2012, Colorado and Washington State legalized Cannabis, totally decriminalizing and authorizing the sale and taxation of marijuana through authorized retail outlets. In the 2014 election, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia followed suit. The legalization laws were all phrased slightly differently, but they all presaged a big legal and social change. But instead of focusing on all the legal and social issues surrounding legalization, I will focus on one: how retail Cannabis establishments choose to present themselves.
I am in the somewhat unusual position of living in the only area in the world where two different jurisdictions with legalized Cannabis meet: the Portland-Vancouver metro area. I have seen Cannabis shops on both sides of the river. Despite differing laws, both states have shops with similar experiences. Shops usually have one-or-two tone painting, usually in subdued primary colors, or black and silver. Sometimes a green cross or green leaf is added to show what is being sold. Since these establishments are new, most of the decoration is very new. Overall, the decor is minimalist, with unadorned outsides and spare insides.
The appearance of Cannabis shops are almost the exact opposite of the appearance of head shops. Gone are the bright psychedelic colors, the black light posters, the R. Crumb style drawings, the rehashed Grateful Dead artwork, the confused and noisy interiors. Most of these businesses seem to have gone out of their way to avoid playing to the stoner stereotypes of the past.
I imagine that there are several reasons for this. First, either legally or by custom, businesses that sell Cannabis are prohibited it in doing it in a way that might seem to be attracting youths. Bright colors and cartoon characters might seem to be meant to attract underage buyers. Along with that, these businesses don't really want to attract many people: unlike headshops, which sold a lot of impulse purchases and knick-knacks (incense, posters, music memorabilia and the like), Cannabis shops don't depend on that type of purchase. The people who are there are ready to spend their money on a specific product. People lingering presents nothing but a security risk. For all those reasons, retail Cannabis establishments have seemed to eschew decor that would make them a hang-out spot for hippies and the like.
Beyond that, it could just be that the majority of consumers don't find the traditional "pot culture" appealing. Most of America's popular perception of marijuana use was formed in a few years in the 1960s and 70s, and while Cannabis was underground and illegal, these stereotypes persisted long after they were valid. Now that Cannabis is legal, a new Cannabis culture can come to light, and the way that the retail side chooses to market is part of a recognition that things are changing.