Eight Cannabis Leaders Discuss Emerging Trends in the Industry
I have the great honor of trying out many products and visiting many dispensaries and cultivation sites, and can spot emerging trends, but wanted to see what some of the leaders in the industry are thinking, as well. So, I asked industry consultant Andrew DeAngelo, Peak Extracts’ Katie Stem, WAFBA’s Morris Beegle, Aster Farms’ Sam Ludwig, and Weed+Grub’s Mike Glazer & Mary Jane Gibson, AlpinStash’s Danny Murr-Sloat, and performer Laganja Estranja to share their insights with me.
Here’s what they had to say…
Warren Bobrow=WB: What trends do you see emerging in cannabis?
Morris: It’s going to be a wild year for the cannabis industry, all industries for that matter with the global coronavirus pandemic, but I see upsides for the hemp and CBD industries. I believe because of the current situation that more emphasis will be placed on health and wellness, eating good foods, and taking nutritional supplements. If you don’t want to get sick, eat well and take care of yourself. I see hemp superfoods and supplements that include CBD, CBG, full and broad spectrum extracts will find their way into more and more peoples diets over the coming months and years.
Sam Ludwig: We see a movement towards sustainable brands. As the industry matures and the consumer base widens, the average user will be more discerning, caring about who, where and how the cannabis products they spend their money on are produced. Organic, clean and natural. That is what people want.
We are already seeing an increased demand for sustainable cannabis. This message is resonating with consumers and we expect the trend to continue. Aster Farms is vertically integrated, growing our own cannabis, so we can provide absolute transparency to our customers and control quality from seed to sale. This is especially important in light of the recent vape scare and with so many brands sourcing all of their flowers. Also, consumers are getting smarter and starting to realize cannabis is about more than just THC and CBD. Other lesser known cannabinoids, such as CBN and CBG, can help with things like sleep, relaxation and inflammation. In an industry that has been largely focused on THC potency, we believe a shift is coming. Full spectrum, sungrown cannabis, grown in live soil is the best way to express the plants full cannabinoid profile. That’s why we let nature do the work at Aster Farms.
Mike & Mary Jane: Less strain names like “Green Crack” and more like “String Theory Makes A Lot of Sense So It’s Likely We’re All In A Simulation.” Martha Stewart will open a chain of dispensaries called “It’s A Good Thing.” Also, the cannabis industry will continue to be strangled by taxes and regulations, and by the federal government’s failure to legalize it. On the flip side, there will continue to be fantastic people at organizations like Root & Rebound and Last Prisoners Project working hard every day to change things for people impacted by the racist War on Drugs. So, our advice is to grow your own weed — and listen to our podcast! We promise it’s funny, even though this is serious.
Katie: There will be more mainstream CBD companies, and consolidation of the industry to include more vertically integrated multi-state operators that can withstand market volatility. Small cannabis companies, such as ours, have proven resilient in times of crisis because of our small pool of employees, making layoffs unnecessary as we weather the storm of a global pandemic. Being in the industry for several years has also allowed us to maximize production efficiencies and maintain a number of months of product in inventory, allowing us to pause normal production in order to pursue expansion goals. However, as the industry matures it will be necessary to take advantage of economies of scale and automation in manufacturing. In addition, a primary goal should be to consolidate administrative tasks between multi-state operators in order to eliminate redundancy, and also reduce the number of jobs performed by each individual in a small/growing company. Between automation and pooling of administrative resources, we have estimated at least a 40% reduction in necessary personnel. Having a multi-state presence will also allow for more resilience as the market and regulatory environment shifts in individual states. For instance, a more established market such as Oregon could buffer one like Michigan, where licensing and supply is still very uncertain. In the last year, although there are thousands of new CBD start-ups, there are some clear front runners that will establish themselves as top performers in the market. It will be tough to compete with established CPG brands that have already taken shelf space in the supplements, food or beauty sectors; however, I believe there will be a place for those who can establish their expertise with cannabis/hemp as a differentiator.
Laganga: I think the greatest trend we saw come out of the cannabis industry last year was the creation of LGBTQAI+ Pride Month products. While it was great to see so much support among the community, I question the legitimacy. It’s my hope for this year that instead of placing rainbow stickers over existing products, real thought and effort are put into the creation. For example, my collaboration last year with Fruit Slabs not only expanded the brand’s flavor profiles, but it also was offered year around. This is because both Fruit Slabs and I believe you should be #ProudAF always, not just during Pride Month.
Danny: A rising trend that we are seeing is an increased demand for craft/connoisseur products. As cannabis, along with the knowledge of what craft cannabis means, becomes more accessible, we’ve seen a growing class of educated consumers. Once prohibition ends in a given state, there tends to be a rush to purchase any type of product. Once this novelty wears off, people want a product that tastes good, looks good, and something that’s created with ethical and thoughtful practices by a company they can believe in. Combine this with the emergence of companies whose sole focus is a quality craft product, you have a recipe for success in this sector of the market. This is awesome, because craft companies are almost always small businesses, and in an industry increasingly dominated by corporations, any area which favors the mom and pop businesses is great.
Andrew: Delivery, drive through, curbside pick-up transactions— governments ought to support and encourage this behavior. In-store experiences will change with social distancing, no display cases and plexiglass shields everywhere. Edibles and non-inhaled forms of cannabis will grow in popularity. Consumption lounges in legal states will be voluntarily shut down until after the pandemic. Legalization efforts will be stalled in the short term by coronavirus, but may gain momentum in the medium term as tax revenues plummet— it’s hard to object to a cannabis dispensary in your neighborhood when there’s no money to fund the school within it. And, the Great Recession opened up medical markets all over California as municipalities rightly decided they had bigger fish to fry than banning weed shops. It’s very hard to predict a future from the current vantage point on the curve of the crisis, but I see these trends holding until the mid to late summer.