The Future of Cannabis
The American cannabis industry has grown so quickly that some might forget that it barely existed a decade ago.
But besides higher sales, what else should we expect from the industry over the next decade?
Here are some areas where we expect to see significant changes.
Cannabis Bars & Restaurants
Social consumption will shake up American nightlife. In ten years, happy hour might revolve around vapes, not beer.
The arrival of cannabis bars and lounges has already started to remake the social scene in states that have legalized. Los Angeles, Denver, and a handful of other cities have granted licenses for establishments where patrons can smoke and vape cannabis and choose from a menu of edibles. And while alcohol and cannabis currently can’t be consumed on the same premises, guests can order cannabis “drinkables” and mixers by the glass. These aren’t wildly popular today, but they’ll only grow in popularity as new products debut and cannabis venues proliferate.
Other states are watching. Last year, legislators in New Jersey drafted a bill that would have permitted public consumption venues and allowed for cannabis-friendly hotel rooms. While this measure failed, similar bills will probably pass elsewhere, perhaps clearing the way for a cannabis cafe in your city.
Take a look inside some of San Francisco’s cannabis lounges here.
Meanwhile, while we have our pick of chocolates and other edibles, we’ve only just begun to integrate cannabis into our cuisine.
A number of CDB products became legal at the federal level when President Trump signed the Farm Bill in December, but the FDA hasn’t yet approved adding CBD to food and drinks — meaning most restaurants don’t serve cannabis-infused meals (in New York, regulators recently ordered establishments such as pizzerias and tea shops to stop serving food items with CDB). We’ll have to wait until the regulations change (there’s a public hearing on the matter set for May 31) to see CBD options on the menu.
But there is still a demand, and some private chefs are stepping in to meet it.
LA-based chef Chris Sayegh (who’s dubbed himself the “Herbal Chef”) serves clients dishes prepared with THC and CBD oil. As a piece in Nation’s Restaurant News puts it, he’ll plan a meal by “front-loading with THC so the guests were euphoric by the fourth course, and then adding CBD to soothe them as they had dessert.”
In cannabis-infused dishes, cannabinoids work in symphony with the food’s flavor, making the experience about both taste and effect. Cannabis will add a new dimension to American food culture. It’ll be a new way to eat green.
Mass Production & the Rise of Custom Cannabis
Amateur hour is over. Competition between cannabis companies is driving innovation as new markets open.
And as far as quality is concerned, it’s now a race to the top.
New agricultural technology allows cannabis producers to set up high-end grow rooms that give them precise, data-driven control over lighting, irrigation, and soil conditions. We’re also starting to see tissue replication of the cannabis plant (Rolling Stone takes a look at this topic here) that will make it easier for brands to source high volumes of affordable, mass-produced cannabis.
But just as some of us are partial to craft brews — there will be always be connoisseurs in the market for naturally-grown, small-batch, artisanal cannabis. Discerning producers will continue to select natural plants for use in their production and extraction processes.
They’ll also continue combining terpenes and cannabinoids in different ways. This ongoing experiment will result in “designer” strains that will suit a consumer’s specific preferences. Enthusiasts will be able to achieve a “custom high” as they find strains uniquely tailored to their endocannabinoid systems.
We’ll see breakthroughs in our vape tech, as well. The “Internet of Things” will further enhance the user experience as apps that can sync with vape pens become more common. They’ll be able to parse user data in real-time to control the pen’s temperature, potency and frequency of the hits. (It’s easy to see how this will benefit medicinal consumers who use cannabis as a remedy for chronic pain and other ailments.)
From precisely-formulated strains to smart vape gear, we’ll soon enter an era of “custom cannabis.”
Investment & Cannabis Marketing
Cannabis startups seeking capital may find themselves in luck, as many investors today are bullish on cannabis. Leading alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies will surely get in the cannabis game as well and make acquisitions as the market grows.
Gary Vaynerchuk, an investor in Twitter, Snapchat, Uber, and Venmo, purchased a 50% stake in a cannabis-focused branding agency last year.
“It is so black-and-white obvious to me how large the cannabis industry will be over the next 30, 50, 70 years,” he told Green Entrepreneur. “I’m an entrepreneur. And to me it’s a combination of merit and opportunity.”
In a cover story for Dope Magazine, he explained why he thinks cannabis will have enduring mass appeal. “I so genuinely believe… that cannabis is a far better thing for many human beings than a lot of things that are legal in the United States on a federal level,” he said.
But even after they secure capital, tomorrow’s cannabis brands will still need to solve the marketing puzzle.
CBS considered running a medical cannabis ad during the Super Bowl this year, but ultimately decided against it. While this underscores just how far we’ve come from the anti-cannabis propaganda of the 1930s, cannabis brands are still working with limitations. They’re banned from the airwaves, and advertising on social media can get them deplatformed.
So, while they’ve waited for policy to change, they’ve written a new playbook that relies more on organic and influencer marketing — and these strategies may well pay the most dividends in the long run.
“In 2040,” Vaynerchuk predicts, “cannabis companies are going to be the ones influencing the way diapers, tires, soda, and shampoo are being sold.”
The New Green Wave
We may not see legalization at the federal level in the next ten years. But we’ll surely see dozens of small legislative and bureaucratic changes that will create a new cannabis culture — one with new products and experiences to be enjoyed. We, along with connoisseurs all over the map, are ready for it.
Until then, though, you can find us at the dispensary.