Kristina Etter   |   June 21, 2019

Editor’s Choice: The Week in Cannabis & Hemp

The cannabis industry is evolving and so are its consumers. California starts campaign to boost legal sales, BDS Analytics releases "State of the Cannabis Industry," and MJ Freeway goes public.
Kristina Etter spent 20 years in corporate IT with a niche in mobile technology and IoT in agriculture. Today, she combines her love of technology with a passion for cannabis as the Editorial Director for Cannabis Tech.

Several months ago, I interviewed Tom Zuber of Zuber Lawler, a legal firm representing cannabis businesses, and he provided a little insight which gave me a whole new perspective on cannabis prohibition. As I complained about how long we’ve been denied access to the herb, he reminded me that had it not been for prohibition, cannabis would’ve always been a part of the pharmaceutical industry. Thus, our beloved cannabis industry never would’ve had the opportunity to prosper and grow through the underground channels it did, and ultimately create the entrepreneurial opportunities which abound in legal cannabis today.

The Evolution of Awareness

While I have always been a cannabis consumer, becoming a journalist in the industry has provided many opportunities like these – moments where I gain a deeper understanding and appreciation, not only of the plant but of the industry itself. As I’ve taken the time to read, research, and interview some of the top companies and names in the industry, I, too, have grown and evolved as a cannabis writer and advocate.

Not so long ago, most of us didn’t know the difference between an indica or a sativa strain; we simply bought whatever was available. We also didn’t know to ask about potency or cannabinoid content, and we certainly didn’t think twice about whether or not our products contained contaminants or toxins. However, through education and experience, we’ve slowly started to learn to become more discerning consumers.

California is now making an effort to help its consumers evolve with the industry, as well. The California recreational market got off to a slow start after legalization, mostly impart to the high taxes and a prolific black market. By creating the perfect storm of expensive legal products, blended with easily accessible unregulated products, many California consumers opt for the latter. In an effort to combat the problem and encourage participation in the legal market, the Golden State launched a campaign this week reminding consumers of the hidden dangers which may lurk in untested products.

Encouraging consumers to purchase from the legal market, one ad reads, “What’s in your weed shouldn’t be a mystery. Shop licensed cannabis retailers only.”

Although some advocates will argue that all marijuana is natural because it’s a plant which has been consumed safely for thousands of years, we mustn’t forget the number of pollutants and contaminants we, as humans, have introduced into the environment. From industrial waste and farming runoff to landfills, mining, and vehicle emissions, our present-day situation is nothing like it was even 100 years ago, let alone thousands.

The Evolution of an Industry

Yesterday, I attended BDS Analytics “State of the Cannabis Industry” webinar discussing their 7th Edition of the report and it’s clear the industry shows no signs of slowing down, not only in North America but across the world. Ironically, the panelists laughed as they noted 20% annual growth from 2017 to 2018 in any other industry would be a banner year, but in the cannabis industry, it is considered a “slow year,” as previous years had significantly higher growth numbers.

Despite the apparent slowdown, according to the analysts at BDS, the industry is expecting a 24.8% compounded annual growth rate every year for the next five years with an estimated global market value of more than $40 billion by 2024. Highlighting the new adult-use market in Illinois, the data firm estimates the state to see nearly $1 billion in annual sales by 2024. Additionally, the experts warned that “how” programs are implemented ultimately lend to the overall success of legal cannabis implementation, noting that more restrictive plans reap significantly fewer rewards.

New Industry, New Firsts

MJ Freeway, a cannabis industry software company, made national headlines this week as the first cannabis technology company to be listed on Nasdaq. Under a merger with MTech Acquisitions, Jessica Billingsley, CEO of MJ Freeway, laid the foundation for forming Akerna Corp, which began trading Tuesday under the stock symbol, KERN on the Nasdaq Capital Market.

In an interview with MarketWatch, Billingsley said, “MJ Freeway was born 9½ years ago — we invented the concept of seed-to-sale tracking. It didn’t exist outside of cannabis. There were other models that had pieces of it, but nothing that pulled together all those pieces. It did have to be built from the ground up … we also built in compliance across the entire supply chain in every legal jurisdiction.”

Change is the Only Constant

Before coming to the cannabis industry, my niche was in mobile technology, and I used to joke that I chose that industry because the technology changed so fast, I stood no chance of ever getting bored. As this industry continues to flourish across the United States and the rest of the world, the one thing we can only be sure of is that it will change and evolve with lightning speed and those who are willing and able to adapt will come out on top.



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