The Future of Cannabis: Trends to Watch Out For

Five trends to keep an eye on in the new year.
The Future of Cannabis: Trends to Watch Out For

The value (and fun) in data analysis is its capacity to help divine the future and ascertain where best to invest time, energy and money. A new year hints at what’s coming—giving a clearer view of things ahead.

For a decade, overall rates of cannabis use in the United States have significantly increased. Since 2009, the reported past-month usage of adults 18 years and older increased 38 percent, from 6.6 to 9.1 percent, representing 7.45 million more Americans regularly partaking. With nearly two-thirds of Americans supporting some form of legal cannabis, expect to see increased acceptance across all demographic groups. Those with the traditionally highest consumption rates (e.g., males, college students, the unemployed) will maintain them, but those with lower rates (females, Asians, full-time workers) will pick up some of the slack.

Nevertheless, certain trends bear closer examination. Men use at nearly twice the rate as women (11.7 percent versus 6.7 percent), but since 2009 women’s usage rates have risen faster, whether due to female-focused products, services and marketing, or growing science about cannabis’s efficacy for women’s medical conditions. Meanwhile, use among full-time workers reflects broader cultural acceptance along with changes in workplace policies (such as phasing out pre-employment drug screenings). Among things to expect:

Increased Accessibility

A bevy of businesses are striving to become the (already clichéd) “Amazon of cannabis,” and they are certainly assisting cannabis delivery and consumption. Whether it’s Dosist developing a dosing pen for various predefined purposes (e.g., with its “calm,” “bliss” and pain “relief” formulas), or MyDx offering a handheld chemical analyzer designed to instantly identify and measure chemicals and potency in a given sample, users are becoming better informed. Other companies are refining cannabis oils, tinctures, edibles and other products, and better crowdsourcing and databases will help identify and express cannabinoid effects to aid repeat and future customers in their decisions.

New Frontier

More Health and Wellness Applications

The total number of US medical-cannabis patients who are treating serious conditions has surpassed two million, and that’s projected to grow as states with recently legalized medical programs begin sales. Florida and Michigan, particularly, are set for strong medical-market growth, while California and Massachusetts will see the largest annual growth rates through 2025.

Meanwhile, the US opioid epidemic remains a national crisis. Nearly 2.5 million Americans struggle with opioid addiction, and (though significant additional research is needed) growing evidence suggests cannabis’s potential to mitigate dependence and prevent overdoses. There is also support to expand access for at-risk patients, particularly those with chronic or severe pain.

Wellness brands across all major categories—food, beverage, beauty and more—are embracing cannabis. While more research is needed, cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are used to treat mood disorders, inflammation, chronic pain and other medical conditions. According to Hemp Business Journal, a division of New Frontier Data, total 2017 sales for the US hemp industry alone were $820 million. Among those sales, $190 million went for hemp-derived CBD products, $181 million for personal-care products and $137 million for food products. As consumer education spreads, HBJ estimates that the US hemp market will be worth $2.6 billion by 2022.

Popularity With Women

Women have been catching up to men in terms of consumption. In 2017, the Cannabis Consumer Coalition conducted a survey that showed how 40 percent of female respondents used it to help manage menstruation, menopause or mental-health concerns, and 39 percent used cannabis to relieve premenstrual pain and cramps. Additionally, 35 percent of menopausal respondents preferred pot as a sleep aid, and 27 percent found that it enhanced their sex life.

Political Appeal

With the 2018 midterm elections finally over, policymakers are now focusing on the 2020 election season. New Frontier Data projects that within two years states with either adult-use or medical programs will number 40 or more. Public support for cannabis legalization keeps growing in the United States, as it will with expanding markets and greater social acceptance. Those are expected to gain even more as Canada’s nationwide legalized market matures across the world’s longest internationally shared border.

Jobs With Juice

With medical cannabis legal throughout more than half of the United States and adult-use markets opening in an increasing number of states, cannabis companies are expecting to employ an estimated 340,000 people nationwide by 2020, according to the 1,500-member National Cannabis Industry Association trade group. These new jobs offer employment opportunities for botanists, marketing and branding experts, finance managers, HR professionals and many others. 

This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue. Click here to get a subscription!

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