Cannabis Hits a Tipping Point and Crosses the Chasm

The cannabis market has reached a tipping point and is showing all the signs of an unstoppable juggernaut.

The signs are many, including:

  • Legalization is spreading at an accelerating pace.
  • The number of dispensaries is increasing exponentially.
  • Deals and investments are multiplying.
  • Big Alcohol, Big Tobacco, Big Finance, and Big Pharma have entered the market.
  • Big brand names like Coca Cola, Heineken, and Coors are entering the fray.
  • A vast new legal hemp market has sprung open.
  • A new generation of cannabis consumers is emerging.

Deals, Deals, Deals

As mjbizdaily reports, based on the number and size of the deals that were done, the year 2018 will go down as “a massive milestone for cannabis companies.” According to Viridian Capital Advisors, 557 deals raised over $13.5 billion in 2018, compared with 378 deals that raised $2.7 billion in 2017. 

Constellation Brands made waves with its $4 billion investment in Canopy Growth Corp. But Altria topped that deal with a $13 billion investment in vape company Juul, a deal that followed two weeks after Atria’s $1.8 billion investment in Cronos Group.

A key trend in the U.S. is the rapid expansion of large publicly traded cannabis companies through the establishment of multistate operations. This is the modus operandi of Acreage Holdings, Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries, MedMen, and Trulieve—which are the five largest multistate cannabis operators with the greatest market capitalization.

Domino Effect

The big news in 2018 was the legalization of cannabis in Canada. In the U.S., Maine, Michigan, and Vermont legalized recreational cannabis. Medical cannabis is now legal in 33 states and Washington D.C., and recreational cannabis is legal in 10 states and Washington D.C.

As increasing numbers of territories legalize cannabis, resistance to legalizing cannabis is crumbling. At least seven U.S. states are leaning towards joining the recreational ranks as government leaders in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and New Hampshire push for legalization.  

Around the world, bans are being lifted to legalize cannabis and allow trade. Most recently, Bermuda announced that was lifting a regulatory ban on marijuana investment funds, while Israel’s parliament approved a law to permit exports of medical marijuana.

At year’s end, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly voted to legalize medical marijuana and allow cannabis research. This follows on the heels of South Korea, Argentina, and Australia legalizing medical cannabis.

As Forbes notes, U.S. drug policies influence those of foreign nations, and the legalization of cannabis in the U.S. is having a contagious effect worldwide.  

Doubling Down on Dispensaries

The rapid expansion of the cannabis market is reflected in the exponentially multiplying number of dispensaries. Connecticut officials approved nine new medical cannabis dispensaries, which doubles the state’s existing number. New Jersey also doubled its number of medical cannabis dispensaries from 6 to 12.

Pennsylvania issued 23 new medical cannabis dispensary licenses, raising the state’s total to 79. Nevada issued 61 new recreational marijuana retail licenses, which nearly doubles that state’s number. Missouri plans to have 192 medical cannabis dispensaries open by 2020.

Michigan, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2018, approved 91 new medical cannabis licenses, including 45 dispensaries. Massachusetts opened its first recreational cannabis dispensaries, while the first medical cannabis dispensaries were licensed to open in Arkansas, Ohio, and Virginia.

Hemp Is Back

After an 81-year ban, the legalization of hemp in the U.S. became official when President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill on December 20. The ability to grow, process, and sell hemp products will unlock a wealth of new opportunities.

As Vox reported, not only will farmers coast to coast benefit from a new cash crop, but the CBD industry, which sold about $350 million worth of products last year, is projected to hit $1 billion in sales by 2020.  

Hemp becomes legal at a time when the demand for CBD oil is exploding. As Jason Williams of Wealth Daily notes, “CBD sales are growing faster than anyone could have predicted — faster than pretty much any other part of the cannabis market.”

And as Hemp Industry Daily reports, “CBD-rich hempseed is legal now, but it’s also rare, giving plant breeders a huge new market as barriers to national hempseed distribution are removed.”

Research Boom

Cannabis research is flourishing as biotech companies discover new medical uses and legal cannabis-based drugs are made available to patients. A historic landmark was reached in 2018 when Epidiolex was approved by the FDA, a move that caused cannabis to be reclassified by the DEA.

After five decades of barren neglect, the U.S. Congress is moving to fund and facilitate medical cannabis research. Besides a new Medical Cannabis Research Act bill, the U.S. federal government plans to award $1.5 million in grants during the 2019 fiscal year to researchers who study how components of marijuana other than THC affect pain.

Cannabis Crosses the Consumer Chasm

As the surging sales and supply shortages in the U.S. and Canada show, the demand for legal cannabis is strong. Consumers are taking advantage of the diverse medical and recreational cannabis products coming to market, including smokables, edibles, beverages, ointments, lotions, and suppositories.

Not only are veteran cannabis users taking advantage of legalized cannabis products, but a new generation of “canna-curious” people are becoming cannabis consumers.

As headynj.com notes, as legalization takes hold, “the doors have opened up to a whole new tribe of people” who are experimenting with cannabis and making informed decisions.  

This includes senior citizens, a group that tended to be anti-cannabis in the past, but who are now embracing cannabis chiefly for medical reasons.  An example is Rossmoor’s Medical Marijuana Education and Support Club in California, where scores of seniors are experiencing the benefits of medical cannabis. These seniors are not only becoming consumers, but pro-cannabis activists as well.

Helping consumers cross the cannabis chasm is Francis Ford Coppola, who has complemented his wine products by launching a cannabis line called The Grower’s Series. The first product is a kit that sells for $99, which is aimed at “individuals who are wine drinkers who may be intimidated by cannabis by leveraging some of the same language.”

Mainstream commercialization is causing the cannabis market to become more sophisticated, refined, and upscale. As Leafly notes, legalization has brought maturity, innovation, professionalism, and credibility to cannabis.

For cannabis producers, the expanding market represents an immense opportunity, and competitive advantages can be gained by deploying the right cannabis management and analytics solutions. 

As the maker of the most modern, integrated, and scalable cannabis manufacturing solution, MaxQ has deep cannabis industry expertise. Contact us to learn more about the latest trends and management solutions in the cannabis manufacturing industry. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Cannabis Sparks a Beverage Revolution

The infusion of cannabis into beverages is transforming the beverage industry and consumers’ drinking habits. Consumers today can find THC and CBD infused into beers, wines, coffees, teas, sodas, waters, elixirs, and energy drinks. Wellness drinks, in particular, is a significant new category that is bringing  the health benefits of CBD to consumers. This first wave of cannabis drinks is only the beginning, as many of the big guns in the cannabis and beverage industries have set their sights on what promises to be a huge cannabis beverage market. Next Big Thing in Cannabis The first phase of legalized recreational cannabis in Canada did not include beverages and edibles. With the next phase set for the fall of 2019, the major Canadian cannabis producers are forging partnerships with beverage, bio-research, and alcohol companies to bring cannabis beverages to market. Among the big players is Canopy Growth, which made headlines as the recipient of a $4 billion investment from liquor giant Constellation Brands. Canopy CEO Bruce Linton believes cannabis beverages “represent the next big opportunity.” Edibles and infused beverages might have a wider appeal than smoking cannabis, Linton said, because consumers might consider eating and drinking the products to be more socially acceptable than smoking them. Likewise, Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy believes beverages will ultimately dominate the cannabis market, with only 10% of cannabis being smoked and 90% being consumed as cannabis beverages. Cannabis Chemistry Although many players recognize the commercial potential of cannabis beverages, there are significant challenges involved in producing them. Because cannabinoids are fat soluble rather than water soluble, as beveragedaily notes, “beverage producers are left with the age-old problem of trying to mix oil and water when creating cannabis beverages.” Another problem with oil-based cannabis absorption is that the effects are not felt for 90 minutes or more, in contrast to alcoholic beverages that are absorbed quickly. Among the companies that are developing ways to make cannabis water soluble and more easily absorbable are Trait Biosciences, Vitality Biopharma, Lexaria Biosciences, Ascent Industries, Chemesis International, Tilray, Sproutly Canada, and Emerald Health Therapeutics. Ascent Industries CEO Philip Campbell said his company’s Agrima Botanticals subsidiary has developed a compound that can be added to drinks to make cannabinoids water soluble and quickly absorbable, with the effects felt in 15 minutes. Sproutly Canada announced that it has developed a portfolio of cannabis beverages based on its water-soluble MisT and Infuz2O cannabinoid technology. Among Lexaria’s innovations is a new water-soluble hemp powder called ChrD+ that comes in packets and can be added to any hot or cold drink to infuse hemp oil. The Green Organic Dutchman (TGOD), which created a global division to focus on the beverage industry, has forged an exclusive agreement with Stillwater Brands to license its RIPPLE SC (Soluble Cannabinoids) technology to create soluble and fast-acting cannabis beverages. Taste Appeal Besides solubility, the taste of cannabis can be a problem, with many people finding cannabis to have an unappealing skunky flavor. Thus, cannabis producers are partnering with biotech research companies to acquire the know-how to create more palatable cannabis beverages. Terpenes are cannabis components that impart flavors and mood enhancements to cannabis products, and research is being devoted to infusing terpenes into beverages. NaPro Research, Flowr, and Yofumo are among the companies developing techniques to isolate terpenes and breed cannabis strains with particular aromas and tastes. As Mashable reports, a number of brewing companies are adding cannabis terpenes to their beers to produce various flavor profiles. Lexaria Bioscience has developed delivery technology called DehydraTECH that can be used to infuse cannabis in food and beverages. The technology enhances the taste, smell, speed of action, and absorption. Lexia has introduced a line of cannabis-infused tea, coffee and hot chocolate products, as well as an energy drink. Expanding into Cannabis Territory Among the beverage companies expanding into the cannabis market is Lifford Wine & Spirits. Lisa Campbell, CEO of the company’s Lifford Cannabis Solutions subsidiary, said many cannabis companies are in talks with food and beverage manufacturers that want to extend their brands into the cannabis space. Campbell said her company was working with a number of partners—including WeedMD, TerrAscend Canada, and Token Naturals—to bring “premium infused products” to market as soon as Canada officially permits edibles and beverages. Token Naturals focuses on extracting and refining cannabis oils, and CEO Keenan Pascal said his company was working with food and drink manufacturers to design formulas to bring cannabis-infused products to market. Among Token Natural’s products are bitters for infusion into beverages. Cannabis Brews Studies show that cannabis sales are growing at the expense of alcohol in states in which cannabis becomes legal. To hedge against a decline in their revenues, major beer brands are launching non-alcoholic cannabis beer lines. New companies also are sprouting up to bring cannabis craft beers to market. Constellation Brands, the company behind Modelo and Corona beer, has tied its wagon to Canopy Growth Corp. through a $4 billion investment. Molson Coors followed suit by announcing a joint venture with The Hydropothecary Corporation to develop non-alcoholic cannabis-infused beverages for the Canadian market. Heineken created a subsidiary called Lagunitas and teamed up with AbsoluteXtracts to create cannabis-infused sparkling water beverages called Hi-Fi Hops that are being sold in California. Most recently, Budweiser maker AB InBev forged a $100 million deal with Tilray to research cannabis-infused beverages. Keith Villa, who invented Blue Moon beer for MillerCoors, has launched a new company called Ceria Beverages that will focus on producing a line of non-alcoholic cannabis-infused craft beers.  Villa has partnered with Ebbu, a cannabis company that will provide the extract for beers with or without the skunky cannabis taste. As Villa notes, “It’s tough to make good tasting non-alcoholic beer.” Also pioneering new beer brewing methods is Province Brands, which has developed a unique method of brewing beer from cannabis rather than barley or grain. The process involves milling and “mashing” to extract fermentable sugars from the cannabis plant, an operation that requires specialized equipment and technology that would not be found in a normal brewery. In November 2018, Province Brands announced agreements with Lost Craft Beer and Brock Street Brewing Company to brew beers from cannabis and hemp. Cannabis Goes Pop Coca Cola originally contained cocaine, which was replaced by caffeine, so it’s no large stretch to infuse soda pop with cannabis. Rumors are rampant that Coca Cola and Pepsi are planning to introduce cannabis beverages. Bloomberg reported that Coca Cola was “in serious talks” with Aurora Cannabis. Meanwhile, a new wave of companies is already fielding a variety of cannabis sodas, including Keef Brands, California Dreamin’, Cannabis Creations, Canna Cola, Dixie Brands, and Sprig. Erik Knutson, founder and CEO of cannabis-infused drink manufacturer Keef Brands, believes that “cannabis beverages are the new soda.” Keef produces a line of cannabis beverages, edibles, and additives that includes Keef Cola, Keef Sparkling Blood Orange, and Keef Sparkling Lemon. Cannabis Elixirs The cannabis boom has unleashed a wave of research aimed at discovering the medical benefits of cannabis. As Raphael Mechoulam, the father of cannabis research notes, cannabis is a “medicinal treasure trove waiting to be discovered.” Among those leading the charge is Mindful CEO Phillip Hague, who observes that marijuana contains numerous substances—cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes—that have never been investigated in depth. Mindful and other cannabis producers are cultivating CBD-rich strains of cannabis to help unlock the medical potential of cannabis. Lauren Rudick, a partner at cannabis-focused law firm Hiller, says CBD could become an even bigger mainstream ingredient than THC for the beverage industry. “It’s the perfect wellness product, and there are going to be many CBD-fortified foods and beverages,” she says. As consumer demand for CBD products rockets, companies like Lexaria, Zoots, High Performance Beverage Co., and Sprig are racing to create CBD formulas and bring CBD-infused health drinks to market. We are witnessing an incredible turnaround in which the once-forbidden cannabis plant is bringing entirely new types of beverages to market—beverages that are revolutionizing not only the beverage industry, but consumer health, drinking habits, and lifestyles. As the maker of the most modern, integrated, and scalable cannabis manufacturing solution, MaxQ has deep cannabis industry expertise. Contact us to learn more about the latest trends and management solutions in the cannabis manufacturing industry. 

Hemp Makes Legal Comeback as CBD Oil Demand Surges

“Reversal of fortune” is the perfect way to describe the legal and economic comeback of the hemp plant in the United States. Banned and abandoned by farmers for decades in the U.S., the legal resurgence of hemp coincides with an exploding demand for CBD oil, which is fueling what is being called a hemp gold rush.

The ability to grow and sell hemp legally also promises a reversal of fortune for farmers across the United States, including cannabis growers in states in which oversupply is squeezing margins and driving growers out of business.

Hemp also represents new revenue opportunities for marijuana manufacturers, which already have the know-how and infrastructure in place to extract CBD oil from hemp. Marijuana manufacturers could easily add hemp to their product lines, either growing hemp themselves or serving as the processing plants for the many hemp farms sprouting up across the country, or both.

Hemp Rebound

Hemp has a long history as a versatile plant with a great many uses. In the U.S., hemp was a lucrative and widely cultivated plant before it was declared illegal by the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Hemp made a brief legal comeback during World War II before being banned again. Even though it has been illegal to grow hemp in the U.S., it has been legal to import it.

Hemp’s current comeback stems from the 2014 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp growing in the U.S. in the form of state supervised research programs. The 2014 Farm Bill gave each state the power to set the parameters for their hemp programs.

Today, 39 states allow industrial hemp cultivation, meaning hemp with less than 0.3% THC content by weight. Some states only allow academic research, while others allow growing, marketing, and selling hemp and hemp-extracted CBD oil.

Hemp’s full legal comeback is on the verge of becoming a reality with the U.S. Senate passing the 2018 Farm Bill, which includes the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. The bill removes hemp from being designated as a controlled substance, legalizes the plant under federal law, and allows CBD to be sold legally in all 50 states.

As Canagreed reports, the legalization of hemp would open the floodgates for investment and market development. With the medical benefits of CBD fueling the demand, a host of industries are launching efforts to bring CBD drugs, beverages, edibles, and lotions to market.

Hemp Image Rehab

Hemp, which has for decades been lumped together with marijuana and stigmatized, is now being hailed as a “supercrop” and a savior for farmers across America. Republican leadership, which has been among the staunchest opponents of legalizing cannabis, has become a major hemp industry booster, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

As High Country News notes, conservative politicians from Oregon to Alaska are increasingly championing hemp “as a potential lifeline for struggling rural communities.”

States Embrace Hemp

The hemp movement is gaining momentum in states from coast to coast. Bob Crumley, president of Founder’s Hemp, expects hemp to be a $1 billion industry in North Carolina, surpassing the state’s $800 million tobacco crop. Nevada, Vermont, and Wisconsin also are hotbeds of hemp growing activity.

The Buffalo News describes how hemp is taking off in New York State, where more than 60 farms and businesses have received hemp research permits as part of a state pilot program. The Des Moines Standard describes how Iowa farmers are itching to grow hemp, a plant that was once widely farmed in the state. Oklahoma farmers also are bullish on growing hemp.

Hemp is seen as the salvation of cannabis farmers who have been suffering from declining cannabis prices. Reports describe how cannabis growers in Oregon are turning to hemp as cannabis prices continue to plummet and the demand for CBD oil explodes.

Hemp CBD Market Trajectory

Many industry observers believe the hemp CBD market will be huge. Among them is the Brightfield Group, which believes “the hemp CBD market is going to skyrocket and is here to stay.”

The Brightfield Group says its forecast of a $22 billion hemp CBD market by 2022 is conservative and is based on interviews with hundreds of people in the industry, surveys of thousands of consumers, and analysis of millions of data points.

According to U.S. News, CBD oil commands thousands of dollars per kilogram, and farmers can make more than $100,000 an acre growing hemp plants to produce CBD oil.

“Word on the street is everybody thinks hemp’s the new gold rush,” said said Jerrad McCord, a farmer who grows marijuana in Oregon.

The promise that people see in hemp is reflected in the many new hemp ventures, commissions, and societies that are sprouting as fast as the plant itself. Among those leading the charge is Shane Davis, an evangelist for hempenomics, the idea that hemp “can create massive streams of revenue, liberate communities, and create economies.”

As the maker of the most modern, integrated, and scalable cannabis manufacturing solution, MaxQ has deep cannabis industry expertise. Contact us to learn more about the latest trends and management solutions in the cannabis manufacturing industry.