Bob Dylan once said that the times are a-changin', and no industry echoes that message like the cannabis sector. National and global attitudes towards cannabis are in flux, but the trend in developed countries is consistent: cannabis is being legalized, and businesspeople are capitalizing in a major way.
Here are industry insiders' views on how the future of cannabis will unfold:
1. Kraig Fox, President and CEO of High Times
“Brands. Brands. Brands. There is not a single consumer-facing industry whose economics are not directly tied to brands, and the cannabis market will be no different.
An effective brand has the power to shape an entire industry. As the cannabis landscape grows rapidly around the world, the brands that will rise to the top are those that invoke consumer trust, establish consumer loyalty, and demonstrate authentic and translatable brand values.”
2. Kim Rael, President and CEO of Azuca
“We can say one thing for certain: the future is big. Every segment, from edibles to concentrates to advanced vaping technology is growing. And don't forget CBD. That is also just scratching the surface. The tipping point will come when states in the Northeast legalize cannabis. Then the floodgates will open even more. Specifically, we are bullish on edibles, which we anticipate will account for 50% or more of cannabis sales. Within this category, we think beverages are on the rise.”
3. Allison Margolin, Attorney at Margolin and Lawrence and Medical Marijuana Advocate
“Industrial hemp will become an international economic and environmental force. Cannabis policy has already started to have impacts on redistribution of wealth. The Drug Policy Alliance funded Prop 64, which was one of the first legislative efforts to implement social equity and reparations for individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war in the past.”
4. Nick Levich, Co-Founder of Key to Cannabis
“The future of cannabis is perhaps better phrased as the future of hemp and
CBD. In my professional opinion, non-psychoactive applications of the hemp plant have the most widespread potential adoption, plus it is legal to ship hemp-derived CBD products across state lines.
This ability to partake in interstate commerce is what’s fueled the insane 39.5% CAGR of the CBD oil market. Furthermore, hemp biomass can also be used for textiles, paper, plastic, human food, and even hempcrete.”
5. William F. McFetridge, IV, Shareholder in GrayRobinson-Tampa
“Either broad legalization or re-scheduling at the federal level will lead to a boom in funded scientific research. Recreational marijuana will not cut that far into the medicinal side as additional, lesser-known cannabinoids are studied and understood, leading to new medicines that can be patented and marketed more like traditional pharmaceuticals. Eventually, traditional health insurance will cover cannabis-derived, FDA-approved medicines.
The recreational side will be dominated by large agribusiness, but smaller growers will maintain a niche and tout regional variations (climate, soil, nutrients, etc.) to market a more locally-focused, environmentally conscious product much like regional variations of wine. Quality control/consistency and a focus on intellectual property protection will drive development of new strains that deliver extremely specific user experiences. On the business side, stock in publicly-traded cannabis companies will become common-place in investment portfolios.”
6. Ashley Grace, Chief Marketing Officer at HempFusion
“Unfairly demonized for nearly a century by the selfish ambitions and greed of the petroleum, paper and pharmaceutical industries, there is now no denying the clear health and wellness value of cannabis. Heck, even the U.S. Department of Health has gotten in on it by patenting “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.” The future will see cannabis becoming the only substance to exist as a dietary supplement, as a food, and as an Rx drug. The magnitude this plant has on life will force collaboration and co-existence across all three of these categories in a manner that has never existed.”
7. Richard Harrington, Founder and CEO of Vaital Organics
“At the end of 2018, we started to see a lot of CBD Isolate products come onto the market. Recent advances in cannabis science has led to discoveries that mirrored the holistic trajectory of the rest of the health and wellness category. Scientists have discovered that along with the popular THC, CBD, CBN and CBG there are over 200 known cannabinoids, and hundreds of others that have not yet been identified. Ingesting these cannabinoids individually is beneficial but not as effective medicinally as consuming a full spectrum (THC included) blend of these health agents. We will see the market shift toward these full and broad-spectrum blends in order to utilize the whole plant.”
8. Melek Dexter, Founder and CEO of ReUP
“The rise in legal cannabis is increasing in appeal as the demand for the plant shifts from illicit and illegal to promising and profitable. Wherever the investment in cannabis will lead there is one thing for certain, big growth lies ahead. As an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry the future ofcannabis centers around equity. Criminalization of marijuana has left lasting adverse effects on people, families and entire communities of color. As the positive momentum around marijuana continues, enterprises, corporations, venture capitalists, and local, state and federal governments now possess the opportunity to remedy the historic harm created by establishing inclusive pathways to ownership. The future of cannabis includes removing barriers to access and control so that everyone can benefit.”
9. Neil Yorio, VP of Research at BIOS Lighting
“We are currently seeing and will continue to see the consolidation of the cannabis industry. As the industry matures, larger businesses are buying up smaller ones in order to increase operational efficiency and profitability. The evolution of the grower from the clandestine operations during prohibition to a legalized market today garners the influx of science and technology experienced growers from more traditional horticultural or farming backgrounds. This experience base makes for good business practices and improvements in production and quality that will continue to push this industry forward. The market will continue to push forward sustainable practices, making more with less, and focus on profitability. The good growers are getting better as a result of their interest in adopting new technology and legacy growers are soon finding themselves on the outside looking in.”
10. Jonathan Miller, Attorney at Frost Brown Todd
“The most exciting developments for cannabis will be coming from the traditionally least exciting variety: hemp. Marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin was once popular for rope and fabrics, but hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) has captured the national zeitgeist, and hemp’s federal legalization in the 2018 Farm Bill has opened the crop to thousands of new farmers and millions of new consumers. The long-term future of hemp is even brighter, as the US will soon follow Europe’s lead and process hemp into environmentally-friendly plastics, biofuels and manufacturing materials.”
11. Sam Morrison, Cannabis Researcher for Glacier Wellness
“Cannabis may exist in a legal grey area, but that hasn't stopped the cannabis boom from taking America by storm. Because cannabinoids offer such a diverse range of health benefits, it's no surprise to find an equally diverse spectrum of products. You can now find it in practically everything from beard oil and gummy candies to lip balms and tampons. At the end of the day, consumer-friendly cannabis isn't just about getting stoned, it's about reaping the benefits of the cannabis plant.”
12. Serge Chistov, Financial Partner at Honest Marijuana Company
“Branded products and repeatable consumer experience will be major industry focuses. The industry is maturing and American consumers now demand quality, innovation, ease of use..anything that has to do with buying your product from Amazon. More and more Americans would vote today for the federal legalization. There will be new products and the same rules will apply to cannabis as they would for other products. I also think that the hemp extract and some of the other cannabinoids will play an important role in dietary supplements and the overall consumption will be greatly extended with the new generation of products.”
13. Afzal Hasan, President of Origin House
“We're still early in the stages of understanding the full potential of cannabinoid use in society. Normalization is the future, and not knowing exactly what that will look like is a large part of what makes this industry so exciting.”
14. Jennifer Romolini, Editor in Chief at cannabisMD
“The most immediate future of cannabis is regulation and legislation needs to catch up with consumer interest, acceptance, and demand. For example, curiosity surrounding CBD is enormous — there are more online searches for CBD than there are for the Kardashians — but we have yet to see proper regulations on CBD products. In 2018, consumers spent more than $11 billion on cannabis products — and they're projected to spend $23 billion by 2022 — but as of today, only 33 states have legalized it for medical cannabis and 10 states and D.C. for recreational use. More institutions across the country need access to study the plant, which they're currently missing.”
15. Mike Sassano, Founder of Solaris Farms
“Cannabis will be the most readily available and widely used herb in the world
from the mild effects of CBD to specialized cannabinoids like CBN-N and ones we don’t even know all the way to the well-known THC.”
16. Chris Gooch, Lawyer for Fennemore Craig, P.C. with a specialty in Cannabis law
“There has been movement in Congress to create some sort of banking allowance for the industry. This will serve as the proverbial camel's nose under the tent and should serve to soften the path toward decriminalization at the federal level. Once that occurs, there will be another major industry shift as interstate transport will become viable. At this point, one would expect the large multinationals to enter the market looking for large, well-run operations to acquire and grow. At this point, one might expect to see branding become more important to the extent cultivators can create a consistent product. One could foresee a market similar to the beer industry, with several major brands and many micro-brews with regional or local styles.”
17. Jim Pakulis, CEO of Transcanna
“The industry will eventually, over the next 3-5 years, evolve into a conventional consumer packaged goods industry. This assumes the federal government during that time period, or earlier, will either exempt cannabis, or re-schedule it. It will continue to grow at a clip greater than 20% per annum for the next 3-5 years since there will be waves of the population that will begin to experiment with cannabis to alleviate physical and mental pain and anguish caused from various ailments. In conjunction billions of investment capital dollars will enter the marketplace that are currently prohibited due to federal laws.”
18. Gunhee Park, Founder of Populum
“As cannabis [becomes] more [widely] legalized and common, I believe the non-psychoactive side of cannabis, CBD, will actually become bigger than THC. The trend shows that ever since hemp-derived CBD got legalized through the Farm Bill of 2014, its commercial growth is actually outpacing that of marijuana. That's because a lot of consumers are interested in the benefits of cannabis, but aren't necessarily looking to get high. Hemp-derived CBD offers that benefit. I believe that CBD will eventually become a staple daily supplement that everyone takes to support his/her endocannabinoid system.”
19. Avis Bulbulyan, CEO of Siva Enterprises
“Depending on the lens you’re looking through, the future of cannabis is broad and vast. We talk about technology disrupting industries, or one industry having an impact on another. With cannabis, it has the potential of disrupting many different industries and sectors such as textile, consumer goods, medicine, as well as “updating” certain industries like alcohol distribution where it hasn’t changed since it started going back decades.
When you look at just manufacturing, for example, practically anything that you can consume, you can infuse, now go figure out what your customer wants. When you think about a sector like that, the possibilities become endless and that’s just one sector — imagine breaking down the entire supply chain.”
20. Jamie Shaw, Partner at Groundwork Consulting, Cannabis Advisor and Lobbyist
“The future of cannabis is hard to hype too much. While the focus is currently moving from THC to CBD, there are still a lot of cannabinoids we don’t know very much about. Then there are the terpenes, which may be more responsible for the effects anyway. Even without getting into all of that, it can fill as many niches as corn, which between corn starch, corn flour, and corn syrup alone are already ubiquitous.”
21. Jorge Cervantes, Publisher at Van Patten Publishing and MarijuanaGrowing.com
“The price of cannabis is dropping and will continue to drop. Large-scale cannabis farms will concentrate the cannabinoids. Gives standardization. Pharmaceutical cannabis will open a new realm of drugs. Much more cultivation in Latin America, Africa, Asia, too.”
22. Dr. Herve Damas, Founder of Grassroots Medicine and Wellness
“As a former athlete, I focus my research on CB and it's ability to help athletes (both current and retired) . I see more and more acceptance of CBD/ hemp derived products in sports- since they are completely legal and offer an number of therapeutic benefits without the psychoactive effects. CBD has great anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Given the demands placed on the body by sport and the side effect profiles of many of the current treatment options (namely opiods), CBD is becoming more accepted as a safer and viable alternative. CBD was removed from the World Anti Doping Association list of banned substances last year, and several smaller sports leagues (Big3 being the most notably) have policy positions that explicitly support of the use of CBD.”
23. Tommy Joyce, Co-Founder of Key to Cannabis
“- Lower dosed edibles: Edibles are being produced in smaller dosages for easier control of effects and the ability to ‘microdose'.
– More terpenes: Both cannabis-derived and food-grade terpenes are finding their way into more and more consumable goods.
– Cannabis in spas: You’ll begin to see more hemp-derived CBD products in spas and other beauty applications.
– Social consumption: This will likely be the year that social
consumption becomes more widely accepted, we’ve already seen measures hit the ballots.”
24. Andrew Glashow, President, COO, & Director of Cannabis Life Sciences
“The future of cannabis is niche-branding, specifically branded products. I predict people will look for brands because they travel and will be seeking out well-known labels created by multistate operators. Our brand City Trees in Las Vegas, NV was introduced there because 45 million people a year travel to the city. Most are from across the US, so we felt that if we could have them taste and try our branded product, then we could offer that same product to them as we expand to other states.”
25. Sabas Carrillo, CEO of Adnant
“I would say this, if we go back 3 years ago it was about the developing legal frameworks for the newly legalized recreational markets (and to a lesser extent the medicinal markets). In 2017 it was about the creation of big retail through consolidation. 2018 was about major land grabs and the creation of the MSO’s and 2019 is shaping up to be about megamergers, the second wave of investors coming into the industry accelerating the pace of industry growth.
2020 will be about branding competing directly with Big Retail (the “King Makers”) by building direct-to-consumer channels, large non-cannabis companies finally coming into the industry and we’ll see the multi-billion-dollar acquisitions. 2020 will also see Big Research coming into the cannabis industry. Full Spectrum research
around the plant.”
26. Charlie Finnie, Chief Strategy Officer at MariMed Inc.
“Markets are evolving rapidly with millions of new consumers looking to cannabis and hemp-based compounds for their natural and safe applications to treat a wide range of health conditions. As a result, we believe that edibles, concentrates and topicals will be major product growth areas. More specifically, we also anticipate massive growth for CBD products with low or no THC that are available in discreet, easy to carry and use mediums.”
27. Jeremy Szafron, Journalist and Host of The Green Scene podcast
“I believe the future of cannabis is bright. With Canada having an opportunity to really research this now legal plant, the opportunities to help improve peoples way of life is huge. We will start to see the market mature and products will become better and more consistent.”
28. WIll Stewart, Senior VP, Corporate & Public Affairs at Harvest One
“To me, the future of cannabis is when cannabis moves from a product in itself to an ingredient. While there will always be recreational and medical consumers who like to smoke raw flower, the future of the industry will be in brands, products, and formats that people already consume offering infused versions of those same brands, formats, and products. People already know how to drink a beverage, eat food, swallow pills, and use skin and beauty products. It is quite a bit easier for people to move into consuming cannabinoids if they are not forced to take up behaviors that they do not already have.”
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