February 04, 2020 7 min read

By Alexa Peters

In 2018, the cannabis industry edged its way into the cultural and financial mainstream, suggesting a strong 2019 on the horizon. Unfortunately, 2019 was more a mixed bag than a banner year for cannabis. 

Marijuana stocks—though now on the upswing—have beendisappointing overall, and thevaping controversy, which sickened more than2,200 people this year, did not do much to combat persisting anti-cannabis attitudes. 

At the same time, 2019 was a historic year for pro-cannabis policy. This year the House Judiciary Committee became the first congressional panel to approve a bill to end federal cannabis prohibition, and a cannabis banking bill, which would give cannabis companies access to FDIC-insured banking institutions, wasapproved by the House in September.

In this way, 2019 was a necessary stepping stone to a prosperous 2020—which offers much to look forward to and consider. On that note, here are the top cannabis stats and major business trends for 2020.

2020 will Bring an Even More Educated Consumer

Either spurred by concerns aboutunregulated CBD, or by plain curiosity about the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids and terpenes, the mainstream consumer got much more interested in learning about cannabis in 2019—and that should continue tenfold in 2020.

According to Sara Rose Kennedy, a veteran of the industry who previously ran a marketing agency that worked with over fifty cannabis brands, and recently co-founded PuraPhy.com, a cannabis information website: “I think there’s going to be a more sophisticated consumer, both on the cannabis and the hemp side of the business. I think, you know, consumers are learning about the different cannabinoids, like CBN and CBGs, so there’s a lot more university research and clinical research that’s starting to happen.”

Hannah Brand, co-owner of Autumn Brands Farm found something similar. 

“I think more people are educating themselves on terpenes and terpene profiles, which are the correlation to how it’s going to make you feel and what health benefits it’s going to have,” she said. 

Sure enough, 2019 saw a lot of ground-breaking cannabis research published that met curious consumers halfway. In August 2019, a study from the University of New Mexico found strong evidence that cannabis can “significantly alleviate pain,” and in November 2019, another study from New York University found that states with more liberal cannabis policy saw adecrease in problematic cannabis use by adults and teens. 

Plus, it’s looking like these strides in research and consumer understanding will continue into 2020—the U.S. government is slated tospend $3 million to “fill gaps in cannabis research,” especially when it comes to CBD. 

Major Markets Will Continue to Grow, New Legal Markets will be Born

Image Source: Getty Images

Cannabis is projected to be one of the fastest growing industries of the next decade, especially in North America. According toThe Motley Fool, “Worldwide weed sales have more than tripled, from $3.4 billion to $10.9 billion between 2014 and 2018, and Wall Street has forecast that sales will grow to between $50 billion and $200 billion by 2030.” 

Five legal states in particular are to hit the $1 billion sales mark by the end of the year—California, Colorado, Washington, Florida (medical only), and Michigan (medical only)—and these states are projected to continue to boom big-time in 2020. 

As well, 2020 will see the birth of new legal markets, helping move the industry and the bid for federal legalization forward. 

New Jersey residents will have the chance to vote for cannabis legalization in their state in 2020, and on Jan. 1st Illinois will officially have an adult-use cannabis program—which they decided on without a ballot initiative. Michigan is another state worth watching in 2020, as they kick-off their adult-use program too.

Already, according to The State of the Legal Cannabis Markets report from Arcview Market Research and BDS Analytics, Illinois is projected to make $1.14 billion in annual sales by 2024. Michigan, too, isprojected to be a billion-dollar top-ten market by 2024.

For Mainstream Consumers, Low-dose Products with Therapeutic Application will be Most Popular

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Cannabis business experts are already seeing apivot in the mainstream market towards non-combustible products with a wellness component, and they anticipate that will continue in 2020. This is largely because smoking still carries a lot of stigma and mainstream consumers want to avoid getting uncomfortably high.

“Consumers that are more mainstream that [aren’t] traditional smokers will feel a lot more comfortable having a gummy or an edible than they would be lighting up something, just because a lot of people, from my interactions...have a hard time seeing that as medicine,” said Kennedy.

“But, being able to take something that, you know, you can walk into a CVS or a Walgreens and...get...in a gummy form is a lot easier for mainstream consumers to accept.”

Many mainstream consumers are more interested in treating back pain than getting intoxicated, and still associate joints with the overwhelming stuff they used to smoke under the high school bleachers.

With edibles and other non-combustibles, though, consumers feel they have more control over dose, according to Hannah Brand, of cultivators Autumn Brands.

“The more and more people that have been talking to me about micro-dosing with mints or just low-dosing pre-rolls. Stuff where you can smoke or take an edible and know that you’re not going to get, you know, people say too high or anxious,” Brand said.

“A lot of people are turning to these lower dose solutions for helping with headaches or using, you know, in the middle of the day and knowing you can keep going on your day and being sharp and focused at work, but you don’t have that migraine or that back pain.”

More Women Will Filter into the Industry and as Consumers and Entrepreneurs

A large reason why low-dose wellness products are growing in popularity is because women are the fastest growing demographic of cannabis consumers, according toCFN Media, and they care about cannabis’ applications for health and wellness.

According toThe Global Wellness Institute, women control 85% of the $4.2 trillion Health and Wellness market. What’s more,women now use cannabis more than men, with 53 percent having tried it compared to just 42 percent of men, The Cannabis Consumers Coalition (CCC) reports. 

“A lot more women are getting into using cannabis for their own health and wellness. And I think because it’s become more socially acceptable and then also more easily accessible and convenient,” said Brand.

“More and more women are using it to help with anxiety or insomnia, nausea, and [more.] Instead of taking a pill, you can take a little hit from a vape pen or pre-roll or a tincture.”

As a result of discovering cannabis’ application for issues specific to women’s health, women are not only consuming cannabis but entering cannabis industry as entrepreneurs.

For instance, Leslie Apgar, who is a licensed OBGYN, designed the first line of women-oriented cannabis products called Blissiva, with her friend Gina Dubbé. The two also have their own medical dispensary called Greenhouse Wellness.

Since the dispensary opened and Blissiva hit shelves, it’s been a “rip roaring success,” according to Apgar.

“I’ve been taking care of women for over 20 years. I know what they want and what they’re complaining about. So, we found a really amazing opportunity to step into this cannabis space and create a line of products for women that were attractive,” said Apgar.

“A [Blissiva pen] is pretty, feels good in your hand, it is easy to use, smells amazing, tastes amazing, and it’s very light—doesn’t put you down. It’s like a glass of chardonnay with no calories.”

Still, the cannabis industry is male-dominated, and the two encountered a lot of raised eyebrows and mansplaining as they endeavored to join the green rush. This is something that Sara Rose Kennedy hopes will start to change in 2020, especially as growth presents more job opportunities in the sector.

“I would love to see more minorities as entrepreneurs and more women, for instance, in some of the more technical traditional male roles, either as, you know, a cultivator or you know [processing] side,” she said.

Vaping will decline in popularity

2019 was an exceptionally bad year for all e-cigarette and vaping companies—and for valid reason. As of December 10, 2019, a total of 2,409 people in the U.S. have been hospitalized from vaping disease, dubbed “EVALI.”

Photo by Isabella Mendes from Pexels

The CDC still doesn’t have a complete understanding of what causes this sickness, and thus hasdiscouraged the use of any and all vapes. 

As a result, the entire vaping market has taken a major hit—even if their products have never made anyone sick. Consumers are shying away from the area, and officials at the state and federal levels are cracking down on “anything that looks like a vape,” said Matt Harrigan, founder KININ, a brand of aromatherapy wellness pens with CBD.

KININ wellness pens do not contain any tobacco or vitamin E acetate, one ingredient linked to EVALI cases by CDC labs.

According to Harrigan, KININ formulated their pods with blends of essential oils and CBD, and they have been third-party tested for safety. Still, because of the fear of vaping sickness and new restrictive vaping laws, KININ no longer has a leg to stand on.

“The reason we may not exist within thirty days is because the state of California, which is the single largest consumer of consumer goods in America, has decided we are a tobacco product,” he said.

“[And] both [KININ and our competitor, MONQ] were set up to do e-commerce-based advertising through Amazon, Facebook and Google, and third-party channels, but most of those are gone now because Facebook recently decided that personal aromatherapy is a vape. To them, that word means ‘bad,’” Harrigan said. 

Kennedy saw a similar trend towards wide-scale elimination of vaping businesses at this year’sMJ Biz Con 2019.  She sees this as an overall industry pivot for 2020, especially as consumers become more educated.

“About 40% of the brands from last year to this year went out of business or were heavily hit and you know, with numbers like that, I think, the industry has to evolve into a different direction,” said Kennedy.

“I think that you know, between cheap hardware and poor extractions, consumers are definitely going to be [wary.] The consumer is just going to demand better products.”

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