The cannabis industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and that means new companies are entering the space seemingly every day.
In fact, a 2017 report from Statista suggests there arenearly 30,000 cannabis-related businesses in the United States alone — and that number is only expected to increase.
As the industry grows, cannabis companies find themselves needing to innovate in order to stand out from the pack. While some companies may be rolled under by the surging industry, others are out in front thanks to cutting-edge ideas, products, or services.
Case in point? Here are 10 innovative cannabis businesses to keep an eye on as the industry grows by leaps and bounds.
No matter whether you’re looking for inspiration for your own cannabis company or you’re simply interested in trends that are happening in the space, these businesses represent some of the remarkable diversity and innovation that’s characteristic of today’s cannabis industry.
These days, it seems like a ton of industries are developing their own “Uber” equivalent, from on-demand food delivery apps to healthcare delivery services and everything in between. So it was only a matter of time before someone developed the “Uber of cannabis”.
While it’s not the only marijuana delivery service on the market, it is arguably the most well-known. When Keith McCarty firststarted Eaze in 2014, he and just a few employees ran the business out of an apartment. Today, the company offers compliant, on-demand cannabis delivery in dozens of cities throughout California and Oregan, including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Oakland.
Safety is baked into the entire Eaze delivery process: Customers are required to provide valid proof of ID when ordering through Eaze’s platform, and background-checked drivers (who are employed by licensed cannabis retailers) verify customers’ identification at the point of delivery.
The “Wow” Factor
Successfully developing the “Uber of weed” is reason enough to land on this list. But Eaze is also much more than a delivery company.
In addition to its delivery services, the company produces Eaze Insights, which publishes info about cannabis consumer demographics, economic data about the legal cannabis market, and more in an effort to inform public policy.
The company has also created an online marketplace that connects retailers and customers and provides customers with a seamless online shopping experience. And it produces educational materials to help consumers navigate product selection and promote safe consumption.
The company also stands out for placing a strong emphasis on social impact. It works to address various harms caused by the War on Drugs by, for example,helping to clear hundreds of thousands of criminal records, advocating for compassionate care, and developing a cannabis company accelerator.
That business accelerator, dubbed Momentum, offers $50,000 equity-free grants and 10 weeks of industry-specific training to underrepresented founders. Participants who complete the program have a chance to pitch to industry investors and are also considered for inclusion in Eaze’s marketplace.
All these efforts have added up. To date, Eaze has recruited around 600,000 registered users and is responsible for more than five million legal deliveries. The company has worked with more than 100 licensed brands and 42 partners. In the process, it’s helped spur the creation of 1,200 jobs. Talk about innovating for impact!
This combo hardware-and-software retail management platform helps cannabis companies manage every stage of their retail operations.
FlowHub’s tools allow retail cannabis companies to manage their inventory, maintain compliance with state laws, handle retail sales, create a smooth and efficient customer experience, and generally streamline every stage of their operations. It also provides comprehensive reports to help users track their evolution over time.
The “Wow” Factor
While traditional point-of-sale (POS) systems are sometimes wary of supporting cannabis businesses, Flowhub has devoted itself to the industry.
In the process, the company has provided marijuana dispensaries with essential and industry-specific tools for tracking company data, maintaining compliance, minimizing losses, sustaining organization at all points of operation, and identifying opportunities for scaling those operations.
As of this writing, the platform processes more than $1 billion in cannabis sales annually for boutique, enterprise, and franchise cannabis retailers. With $3.8 million in funding,Flowhub is poised to continue serving both its hundreds of existing customers and the up-and-coming crop of cannabis retailers. Without platforms like FlowHub, the cannabis retail space would not be nearly as equipped to successfully grow and scale.
Higher Ground is a marketing and PR agency that’s exclusively devoted to working with companies in the cannabis industry.
To that end, the agency offers a comprehensive suite of marketing- and PR-related tools, from brand design to media training, crisis communications, web design, social media content strategy and development, web marketing, and advertising.
The eclectic team of branding, PR, and web experts also produces a blog that’s jam-packed with useful education for cannabis companies looking to make a name for themselves in a unique industry landscape.
The “Wow” Factor
At a time when cannabis use is still widely stigmatized (and, in many places, illegal), Higher Ground is helping to normalize the industry by providing the same marketing and PR tools that are standard in… pretty much every other industry.
By helping cannabis companies effectively brand and market themselves, Higher Ground empowers industry players to broaden their reach — and normalize the industry’s existence in the process.
The company accomplishes those aims via a variety of strategies, from helping cannabis companies define their brand identity, mission, vision, values, and so on; to building custom website for cannabis companies; developing ecommerce solutions or landing pages; developing social marketing campaigns; boosting SEO and SEM; developing market research through analytics, tracking, and reporting; and developing a variety of advertising collateral including print ads, digital banners, web videos, and email campaigns.
These resources might be commonplace in other industries, but some PR agencies are still wary of working with cannabis companies. Higher Ground flips that dynamic on its head by going all-in on cannabis.
Honest Marijuana Co. is a young cannabis startup nestled in the Rocky Mountains south of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While its distribution is currently small, the company aims to expand — and drive big changes in cannabis industry practices in the process.
Most notably? The company strives to model eco-friendly approaches to growing and selling cannabis. To that end, the team uses organic growing methodologies and is devoted to achieving Zero Waste.
The company is also developing a variety of new marijuana consumption methods and pioneering the science of marijuana preservation — all while educating consumers about the value of these techniques.
In the process, they hope to prove that it’s possible to “green” the industryandproduce outstanding products.
The “Wow” Factor
Honest Marijuana’s unique approach to cannabis growth, preservation, and consumption is evident in all of its products and growing practices. They’re approaching these processes in ways that are decidedly different from the industry status quo.
To wit? The company’s practices for growing cannabis are 100% pesticide-free, and plants are grown in organic soil and hand-trimmed. (The brand says it’s exceeded EPA and USDA standards.) The brand further minimizes its eco-footprint by working toward Zero Waste. It achieves this via a variety of strategies including efficient LEC lighting, reducing water waste through a process called “top feeding,” composting used soil, using a low-electricity climate control system, and more.
Meanwhile, the company is pioneering new ways of consuming marijuana. It created Honest Blunts, the first blunts in the world to be hemp-wrapped, whole-flower, and machine-rolled. It’s also developed “Honest Wax,” a line of “whole plant” concentrates.
The company preserves these and other products using a nitrogen preservation process that should help maintain a product’s entourage effect (or the ability of various terpenes, cannabinoids, and so on to work synergistically) over the long term. This process is unique in the industry, and it’s helping to spur innovation on the preservation front.
As these practices gain traction, consumers might come to expect eco-friendly cannabis that stays fresh for longer.
Since 2010, Leafly has been making a name for itself as a platform for discovering and learning more about a cornucopia of cannabis strains, dispensaries, CBD products, at-home growing strategies, and so much more. Name an indica, sativa, or hybrid strain, and Leafly can probably tell you a lot about its possible effects, benefits, and downsides.
With more than15 million monthly visitors,Leafly has become the go-to site for cannabis education around the world. It incorporates feedback from those visitors in the form of strain and dispensary reviews, so visitors to the site can enjoy crowdsourced information from other cannabis enthusiasts.
The “Wow” Factor
In keeping with its role as a robust info hub for all things cannabis, Leafly’s news wing consistently delivers thoughtful, breaking, and industry-changing insights. And it’s this work that really sets Leafly ahead of the pack.
The news team covers a huge variety of pressing and cutting-edge issues ranging from new cannabis science to legalization guides for newly legalized states, whether landlords can ban cannabis use in legal states, protecting legacy cannabis strains from Big Ag, and much more.
Leafly’s news team really earned its keep during the “vaping crisis” of 2019, during which the team (most notably David Downs) undertook intensive investigative reporting to help blow the lid off discoveries that weren’t yet being covered by larger media outlets. They were at the forefront of uncovering the shady practices and additives that contributed to the national health scare.
For its news team alone, Leafly stands out as an innovative cannabis business to watch. The rest of the company’s offerings are a big slather of icing on top of the cake.
Leafly Headquarters (Seattle, WA)
Medical Genomics combines multiple innovative technologies — including unique testing processes and the blockchain — to develop testing technologies that assist growers, dispensaries, and other testing labs.
This work helps industry businesses and organizations develop quality products, and it helps give patients and consumers peace of mind that the products they’re consuming are safe.
Meanwhile, the company’s strain identification and registration program helps growers protect their strains from corporations and competitors in an industry that generally lacks such protections.
The “Wow” Factor
Medical Genomics has pioneered a number of unique testing processes for cannabis, including microbial testing and point-of-grow screening.
The PathoSEEK®Microbial Safety Testing Platform is (according to the brand) the only microbial testing method designed specifically for cannabis flower, extracts, and infused products. The testing platform draws on qPCR technology, a safety testing method that’s already established in medicine and the food industry. When it comes to testing cannabis, the brand has customized this test to provide results in mere hours.
Meanwhile, the StrainSEEK® Strain Identification and Registration Service provides comprehensive genetic sequencing data for cannabis strains by sequencing millions of data points pertaining to cannabinoids, terpenes, sex determinants, seed production, and so on. This tool allows growers to map the genetics of a huge variety of strains.
Finally, the youPCR® Plant Screening Platform allows both cannabis and hemp growers to screen seedlings for sex, genetic traits, pathogens, and so on. These early screenings can help growers preempt growing issues and save costs in the process.
Bottom line? Medical Genomics’ testing methodologies are contributing to a more informed, more efficient, and safer cannabis industry.
For nearly a decade, MJ Freeway has been developing seed-to-sale cannabis tracking software that helps cannabis companies manage their inventory, maintain compliance, and streamline operations at each point on their supply chain.
In 2016, the company launched its second-generation product: MJ Platform, a cannabis-specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. The software has grown along with the company’s clients’ needs (over 1,500 clients and counting!) to account for a variety of industry shifts around licensing, production capacities, legalization, and more.
The “Wow” Factor
The MJ Platform is an all-in-one system that claims to have been the first-of-its-kind technology to cover the entire cannabis supply chain. It’s been leading the way with industry-specific software for longer than many cannabis companies have been in business.
But the company isn’t one to rest on its laurels. The platform’s tools have evolved to allow for effective tracking across the supply chain, including:
Also worth noting: In an industry that’s often male-dominated, MJ Freeway was co-founded by a woman, Jessica Billingsley.
Otherwise known as MoneyTrac Technology, MTrac provides payment processing solutions for companies operating in high-risk industries and/or processing high-volume cash payments, two qualities that often apply to businesses in the cannabis industry.
The company has developed a secure and compliant payment processing platform that offers customized reporting and allows cannabis companies to effectively manage their money while respecting regulations.
The “Wow” Factor
These days, many banks and payment processing services are skittish about cannabis companies, whether medical or otherwise (if not downright opposed to working with them). But MTrac has developed services exclusively for companies working in high-risk industries such as cannabis.
To do that, it’s leveraging innovative technologies (in the form of a permissioned blockchain) and developing unique payment processing solutions.
For instance? MTrac has created a credit and debit card payments platform that offers compliant card processing and allows consumers to slide a card just as they would for any other type of purchase. Its Virtual Wallet software serves as the “middleman” between these consumer funds and companies’ coffers. Funds that back the Merchant Wallets are held in FDIC-insured U.S. bank accounts. Meanwhile, record keeping is conducted on blockchain technology.
It’s a unique way to help cannabis companies safely manage their money by leveraging cutting-edge tools and technologies. Without this service and others like it, the industry would be less equipped to handle its funds.
AsPCMagso effectively puts it: Think of PotBotics as a cross between Leafly and WebMD, for both cannabis users and retailers.
The PotBot app helps folks identify cannabis strains that might be best suited to their specific ailment(s) or needs. The company’s SaaS platform, PotBotMD, is a HIPAA-compliant platform that enables doctors and patients to tailor cannabis treatments toward their desired outcomes.
The company also works with dispensaries to help budtenders swiftly and easily deliver personalized recommendations to the patients and customers who come through their doors.
The “Wow” Factor
PotBot is helping to normalize cannabis as a medicinal product. And it’s doing that via a variety of unique tools and services.
Its PotBotMD platform unites doctors and patients around achieving desirable health outcomes by providing a patient portal complete with secure medical records, medical cannabis recommendations, and tracking for patients’ responses to different cannabis strains and products. The portal also allows patients to make appointments, access scientific research about cannabis, and participate in consultations from the comfort of their homes.
Folks who aren’t comfortable working with a cannabis doctor can still benefit from the PotBot App, which allows users to select symptoms or conditions and identify strains and cannabinoid levels that might help them find relief. The app will even recommend local dispensaries that carry those suggested products.
All told, the service helps demystify cannabis and make it more accessible to folks who are interested in cannabis as a medical tool.
Seedo Lab is the mastermind behind Seedo, a self-contained, hydroponic, and fully automated grow box that can be used to cultivate not only cannabis but also a variety of fresh herbs, vegetables, flowers, and more.
The space-minimizing design is meant to produce maximum yields in a small area. To do that, it utilizes a patent-pending lighting system that adjusts itself to suit the plant’s growing stage. (It utilizes LED lights to cut down on energy usage.) And because it’s an enclosed system, it’s temperature- and humidity-controlled.
The “Wow” Factor
Cannabis is notoriously challenging to grow, but Seedo makes home-grown cannabis more accessible and cost-effective by taking the guesswork out of the growing process.
The grow system features several benefits that won’t be found from a more conventional DIY grow setup: It’s hermetically sealed, so odors don’t leak out. (It has built-in cartridges for releasing CO2.) It doesn’t use any pesticides, so it’s safer and more eco-friendly. And it incorporates EC and pH sensors, so users know exactly when to add additional minerals.
The system also integrates with the Seedo App, which makes it easy to monitor plants’ progress. The app includes HD live streaming from the growing pod’s internal camera, notifications about the growing process, and lock/unlock functionality.
This one-of-a-kind product has the potential to revolutionize home growing and make cannabis more accessible to folks who may be wary of (or financially unable to access) retail cannabis.
As this roundup of innovative cannabis businesses demonstrates, the cannabis industry contains a huge variety of companies tackling different pain points, challenges, and opportunities from a variety of angles.
These innovations range from providing legal weed delivery to helping cannabis companies develop effective PR strategies, empowering medical cannabis users, making it easier for everyday citizens to grow their own cannabis, developing more eco-friendly cannabis growing practices, delivering heavy-hitting news, developing advanced testing processes, providing dispensaries with user-friendly point-of-sale systems or seed-to-sale tracking software, and more.
All told? Innovation is a hallmark of the cannabis industry. While the companies featured here have distinguished themselves amidst a sea of tens of thousands of cannabis-related companies, there will undoubtedly be more waves of businesses looking to shake up the industry.
It’s an exciting industry to watch, so keep an eye on these and other standout innovators!
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