What trends are shaping the cannabis industry in 2019? 25 experts weigh in

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Considering the topic of this article, you'd be forgiven for wondering whether it's 4/20 yet. It's not, but the booming cannabis industry is a 24/7/365 business, and there are plenty of cannabis-related topics to cover and real-world issues to settle. There is still some stigma around cannabis, and legislation reflects this. But at the same time, innovative trends continue to shape what the future of the cannabis industry will look like.

These industry insiders share their view on the trends shaping the future of cannabis:

1. Gunhee Park, Founder of Populum

Gunhee Park“With CBD taking off in the wellness category, it is continuing to be infused in all sorts of different beauty, food, and health applications. You can now find CBD in beauty products, such as your lotion and facemask. It's now also being added to your sparkling water or coffee. There's apparently even a CBD toothpick.”


2. Allison Margolin, Attorney at Margolin and Lawrence and Medical Marijuana Advocate 

Allison Margolin“There is a growing societal acceptance of Cannabis and the stigma is finally being erased. One trend we have noticed in 2019 is the inception of legal social consumption. Consumers have always used cannabis socially, but social consumption has not always been legal. Historically, cannabis consumers have been forced to gather in private locations such as the living rooms of their own homes to use cannabis with friends and family members. As legislation evolves at federal and state levels to accept cannabis use, there is a growing market for legal social consumption of cannabis at public venues. In recent months, hundreds of cannabis lounges have emerged in states where marijuana is legal.”


3. Richard Harrington, Founder and CEO of Vaital Organics

Richard Harrington“Health and wellness is the fastest growing market in the united states. More and more people are looking to replace pharmaceutical drugs with alternative medicines. We are going back to the future in the western world. We are starting to treat the cause of disease, not the symptoms. Cannabis and its hundreds of individual cannabinoids, will become the global source for new medicines, that replace most pharmaceutical drugs. We believe that with the steady rise in popularity, cannabis will be a powerful catalyst to introduce people to the healing power of the plethora of other plant medicines used around the world.”


4. Jennifer Romolini, Editor in Chief at cannabisMD

Jen Romolini“We've still only scratched the surface of what cannabis will mean to the beauty and skincare industries – it seems like hundreds of new products appear each month (we've just published stories on CBD bath bombs, and a new cannabis mascara). We're also seeing more and more interplay with cannabis and food – from intricately-made gourmet edibles to high-end cannabis restaurants.”


5. Jeremy Szafron, Journalist and Host of The Green Scene podcast

“In Canada, edibles and concentrates will become a massive player. International expansion and education has also been significant and I don’t see it slowing down. The US is on the brink and Europe is already loving the opportunity— cannabis is just getting its moment. The best is yet to come.”


6. Jim Pakulis, CEO of Transcanna

Jim Pakulis“We’re seeing the infusion of CBD into almost everything including drinks, foods and snacks. It’s amazing to see the various products in the marketplace. There’s also a trend of higher quality biomass which is obviously critical in order to create the safety element around each of the products.”


7. WIll Stewart, Senior VP, Corporate & Public Affairs at Harvest One 

“As I wrote in Canada’s national newspaper the Globe & Mail in January 0f 2019, this will be the year that Canada loses its head start.  With the passage of the Farm Bill in the US, this is the year of packaged goods, potentially in major retailers, in the United States allowing massive exposure and markets.  In Europe, we already see CBD taking hold, while Canada currently remains committed to plain packaging, restricted access to consumers, and THC warning labels on products even though they may not have any CBD in them.  Canada risks being left behind by the global CBD trend.”


8. Chris Gooch, Lawyer for Fennemore Craig, P.C. with a specialty in Cannabis law

Chris Gooch“In 2019 at the state level, we are seeing a consolidation among operators. Well run operations are deploying capital or raising money in order to acquire additional licenses and expand their operations. More of the mom and pop operators are finding opportunities to cash out on their original investment. The consolidation is leading to local brand identification in what may be a foreshadowing of what will eventually occur on a national level.”


9. Kim Rael, President and CEO of Azuca

Kim Rael“Consolidation. It's getting more and more expensive and complicated to start and succeed in cannabis these days, a sign that the industry is continuing to mature. As a result, an increasing number of early pioneers and entrepreneurs are finding it is time to cash out because they can't compete, or they choose to consolidate by joining a bigger team in order to access critical money, marketing prowess and other resources.”


10. Edward Fields, CEO of DionyMed Brands

Edward Fields“This year has already been a banner year for cannabis. We expect to see a lot of growing acceptance of the industry in the remaining half of 2019 as legalization continues to expand across the U.S. and consolidation between markets accelerates. Just recently, recreational marijuana use was approved in Illinois through a legislative process addressing issues of social justice and equity. As legalization continues, we’re seeing involvement from other industry leaders, such as Constellation Brands, a beverage company, investing in Canopy Growth and tobacco company Altria taking stake in Cronos Group. We expect that this type of investment will result in normalizing U.S. banking and tax treatment for cannabis, unlocking billions of dollars in institutional capital that’s currently on the sidelines.”


11. Charlie Finnie, Chief Strategy Officer at MariMed Inc. 

Charlie Finnie“With the passage of the Farm Bill in 2018 which legalized low-THC industrial hemp and its derivatives, we are seeing the proliferation of hemp-based CBD products enter retail outlets of all kinds.  While reliable standards and truth in advertising are still developing,  scientific research to verify CBD health benefits has grown significantly.  We anticipate a growing body of inquiry substantiating many of the benefits of both cannabis, CBD and other compounds from this plant in the near to medium term.

The second trend for 2019 is diversity.  There is much greater awareness of the disproportionate damage done to minority communities by the “war on drugs” and growing efforts to right those wrongs by ensuring these communities have the opportunity to secure cannabis licenses, expunge past minor conviction records and open cannabis employment opportunities to those who may have had prior non-violent cannabis convictions.  We see broad and bi-partisan efforts to help rectify misguided past policies.”


12. Andrew Glashow, President, COO, & Director of Cannabis Life Sciences

Andrew Glashow“The trends are pointing away from flower, although still a very big component of
the marketing, (60-70% of the market) the fastest growing segments of the market are oils and edibles, which will continue to grow very quickly. If you take a look at the marketplace, you see less “stoner-type branded products.” The cannabis industry is headed into a branded, functional product direction with edibles and oils.”


13. David Chadwick, Founder and CEO of Leading Edge Pharms

David Chadwick“One of the most important cannabis trends for 2019 that will also shape the industry long term is the rising use by baby boomers of CBD to treat medical conditions such as chronic pain. 55-to-74-year-olds already use CBD for medical conditions more so than younger populations. The legalization of hemp will provide more options for boomers as CBD begins to be distributed in pharmacies and clinics. As a result, we should expect CBD pain products to significantly outpace the growth of “novelty” CBD products that are currently flooding the market.”


14. Ashley Grace, Chief Marketing Officer at HempFusion

Ashley Grace“While “CBD” has been the media’s darling, consumers in 2019 will begin realizing that in terms of good health, it’s about more than CBD. Research is confirming the reality of “Entourage Effect” advantages which result from more whole plant nutrients being present versus CBD alone. Given this, manufacturers and consumers will both begin expanding the “full-spectrum” conversation to include other cannabinoids along with additional terpenes and omegas for maximum endocannabinoid system support. The brands which can most credibly manage this transition in the CBD conversation will emerge as the future winners in the CBD category.”


15. Mike Sassano, Founder of Solaris Farms

Mike Sassano“Asia and Europe turned out to be one of the biggest eye openers to the acceptance e of Cannabis in the world. The ease of distribution through existing networks of pharmacies will be a theme that will extend through the year.”


16. Neil Yorio, VP of Research at BIOS Lighting

“The movement towards greenhouse production in the geographical areas that make sense to do that type of production, and the adoption and development of vertical (multi-tiered) farms to maximize the volume efficiency of an indoor grow facility is a big trend in 2019.”


17. Avis Bulbulyan,  CEO of Siva Enterprises

avis bulbulyan“Consolidation is a big trend this year but as the industry matures, this will be a trend we’re going to see for a relatively long time as these businesses mature and expand.  Aside from consolidation, there is a tremendous amount of reform effort happening as more stakeholders start understanding the opportunities in front of them to get involved, but also because of all the momentum that’s been built up over the past several years to a point where we’re probably not that far away from major reform like banking.

Something that’s more of a realization than a trend is that a lot of folks are slowly starting to understand that this is not a get rich quick industry and they’re not going to be overnight millionaires.”


18. Jamie Shaw, Partner at Groundwork Consulting, Cannabis Advisor and Lobbyist

Jamie Shaw“I think the markets are too volatile and bound by politics and regulation for there to be any sweeping trends. Canada and California are both struggling to get existing markets legal and CBD is sweeping Europe in a big way. Nano-emulsion I think is probably one that may be under the radar of a lot of people still, but I don’t expect it will be for long.”


19. Jorge Cervantes, Publisher at Van Patten Publishing and MarijuanaGrowing.com

Jorge Cervantes“USA will grow the biggest CBD-rich hemp crop ever. THC-rich production will continue to grow. Cannabis concentrate market sector will grow and flowers will diminish. Cannabis laws will loosen more. Medical cannabis concentrate will start exporting from  Colombia.”

 


20. Mark Siebert, President & CEO, iFranchise Group

Mark Siebert“Yahoo finance recently predicted that cannabis might be retailing’s biggest trend in 2019. With every business news outlet talking about the cannabis/CBD industry, it was only a matter of time before cannabis and CBD business owners looked to franchising as a viable option to growing their business, along with their product.

However, as legal landscapes continue to evolve, new business regulations, laws, and policies are surfacing that require detailed understanding and navigation. These challenges include differentiating product offering between cannabis and CBD, which are subject to very different regulations; issues with applying for product trademark; and how to legally bank your money through the FDIC-insured banking system.”


21. Sam Morrison, Cannabis Researcher for Glacier Wellness

Sam Morrison“As more and more businesses are incorporating cannabis into their everyday products, the market is filled with companies looking to target more specific niches in order to develop their brand. One of the fastest growing niches is the health and beauty products category for the modern woman. Interestingly, most of these companies are promoting their products as luxury boutique items offering effective natural care. Moreover, most of these brands shy away from any association with marijuana, hoping to be viewed as more family-friendly and less controversial.”


22. Serge Chistov, Financial Partner at Honest Marijuana Company

Serge Chistov“I think bud smoking will stay with us but be reduced by the innovations and new technologies that deliver cannabis, like properly designed edibles and dissolving pills. Seniors and soccer moms will also become bigger consumer groups in the cannabis industry. Older people who had a stigma are slowly but surly catching on with cannabis, with the societal changes that are changing that stigma. With soccer moms, right now there is a big conversation about more delivery services in the industry, which may take away the stigma of going into the pot shop and associating with the unknown element.”


23. Brad Nattrass, CEO of urban-gro

Brad Nattrass“Cannabis is becoming the leader of innovation in agricultural technology mostly due to its status as the most valuable plant on the face of the earth. As countries all over the world open their doors to legal medical and recreational marijuana, the demand for crop is rising quickly”


24. Afzal Hasan, President of Origin House 

Afzal Hasan“Consolidation and multi-jurisdictional expansion of brands are key trends that have already shaped 2019. I'd expect more of the same through
this year.”

 


25. Vadim Fedorovsky, Founder of CBD School

vadim federosky“The trends of 2019 are CBD in everything, cannabis-infused food, and good quality ‘clean cannabis'.

Clean cannabis is the trend that products should be regulated and tested for quality and potency. As the industry grows, brands and manufacturers are “cleaning up their act” and ensuring that customers get clean and well-tested products to choose from.

The wild west of cannabis is getting tamed and that's a good thing.”

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