How the Push for Legalization is Influencing Cannabis Trends
A new report on the cannabis industry has identified several emerging trends as more states boldly ignore the federal government and push forward with legalization. Massachusetts is the most recent state to begin establishing a legal market for adult use marijuana. Governor Charlie Baker, who was not on board with legalization, finally capitulated to the will of the voters and has agreed to sign on the new regulations.
The report from Salar Media Group and cannabis lifestyle website Civilized identified five key trends that have evolved from the industry and what they mean for future markets. The first and most important is that cannabis legalization has pushed the frontiers of science. The report noted that as of 2015, there are roughly 22,000 published studies on cannabis. Last year, the first U.S. research institution was created to specifically focus on cannabis research. “The trend here is that cannabis is now being treated as a medicine with specific benefits and applications to specific diseases. This research will only continue to expand in the years ahead.”
Secondly, the cultivation of cannabis is leading to a greater stress on water and sustainability practices in agriculture. California passed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act last year that contained requirements for water usage and prohibits the use of volatile or poisonous solvents in cannabis preparations. The report specifically calls out Humboldt’s Finest, an alliance of cannabis growers based in Humboldt County in California for following “a rain grown, sun grown cultivation technique that collects rainwater and storm runoff” to be used for watering the plants versus relying mostly on ground water.
The next trend is the advances made in genetic and intellectual property of the cannabis plants. Businesses will be using these genetic advances in order to define their product and make it more predictable and consistent. The report said, “The general direction here is for combining functional studies and molecular modeling to improve the scientific community’s understanding of the molecular basis for the physiological functions of CBD.”
You’ve heard of craft beer, craft liquor and even craft mayonnaise. Now, there is also craft cannabis for picky cannabis connoisseurs. Farms and cultivators will hone special strains in limited batches and release them to great fanfare, not unlike a microbrew’s special beer. Similar to how Champagne region in France is home to the only sparkling wine that can use that name, Humboldt county in California will earn a special distinction. In that same vein is celebrity-branded marijuana. The trend has already started with Willie's Reserve and Marley Natural and is expected to grow.
This leads into the trend for more luxury cannabis brands. There are high-end dispensaries like Diego Pellicer and gold rolling papers. The report states that cannabis brands “are replicating what happened in liquor brands with the introduction of high-end, more expensive tequilas, dark liquors, vodkas and sake.” It also suggests that due to the stigma of marijuana, large mainstream corporations won’t want to get involved presenting more opportunities for cannabis-specific companies. These brands will also be able to command higher prices.
Other opportunities are being created for data companies to compile consumer research. Businesses like software management company BioTrack THC and cannabis delivery company Eaze are taking their data and creating custom cannabis consumer reports. The requirements from states to track plants from seed-to-sale have spawned a new industry of software development, while the lack of market data has opened the door for ancillary companies to tap their customer information and then, in turn, sell it.
Even though there is resistance from the Department of Justice’s new Attorney General, states are pushing back and fighting to retain their legalized marijuana. As the fight continues, these trends will continue to grow and gain importance. Especially if more states begin to legalize marijuana and if it eventually gets legalized at a federal level these trends will grow in magnitude.
(This article originally appeared on forbes.com and was written by Debra Borchardt)