26 April 2022 |
3 Key Changes Our Industry Must Make Now
By Kaitlin Domangue
Cannabis professionals are filled with ideas to improve this industry. Here are 3 of them.
133 people liked my tweet asking what needs to be improved in cannabis.
38 retweeted it, and it reached 115 total replies.
I only have about 600 followers on Twitter (I just joined in January, follow me @KaitlinDomangue and get me to 1k!), so the engagement on this tweet was amazing and reached far beyond my followers.
Safe to say, the cannabis industry is an opinionated bunch and we aren’t afraid to show it.
Sharing our opinions loudly & proudly about the way we want to run things is the only way our voice can be heard – because nobody is reaching out to ask us what we think before writing or passing legislation.
That means our industry relies on internal decision-making and creating standards from within to see meaningful change.
As a community and industry, we have a lot more power and control than other established industries that have already defined the status quo. The cannabis industry is still moldable.
Going back to my question on Twitter, most of my followers and general Twittersphere are in the U.S., so many of the replies I received reflect the U.S. market. But, a lot of these takes can be applied to the Canadian market and even outside North America, as well.
According to my Twitter, and actually, pretty much anything I’ve ever read about this topic, here are some of the most-mentioned & most important issues in our industry, in all verticals.
(P.S. – I got SO many great responses, but could only include 3. I will be continuing to highlight these problems & your opinions, though):
1. Make Cannabis Entrepreneurship Accessible
If you’re a license holder, you either have money or you have people give you money. And that’s just the truth.
It’s incredibly expensive to be a license holder, costing up to tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. This makes cannabis entrepreneurship virtually impossible for most people who want to be license holders.
And, those who can afford it often don’t care or know much about cannabis. They’re usually just business people and they want to make a profit. They might be consumers, but they aren’t privy to the intricacies of growing cannabis and bringing it to market.
This creates poor operating procedures and a lackluster, yet expensive product consumers stay away from. They might as well continue going to the same dealer they’ve been visiting for the last decade. It’s cheaper and oftentimes the final product is better.
The cost to obtain a license depends on the state you live in, the vertical where you’re applying for licensure (cultivation, manufacturing, or retail), and whether or not the market is adult-use or medical.
There’s also the chance applicants won’t win a license at all. Especially in medical-only markets like Missouri, there can be limits to the number of licenses allowed in each geographical region. Tens of thousands of applications can apply and pay their fee, but only a handful make the cut.
The retail cannabis license fee in Illinois is $60,000. Yes, $60,000. It costs $60,000 to hold a two-year cannabis retail license in Illinois.
This doesn’t even include the $5,000 fee to apply for a license, which is of course non-refundable, so if your application isn’t approved: sorry. You just lost $5,000.
2. Greater Sustainability Efforts
Cannabis professionals are HUGELY passionate about sustainability, and why wouldn’t we be? We are an industry made possible because of a plant. It would only make sense that we are good to the earth.
We are also an industry made of plastic. At least for now.
As much as 70 grams of plastic can be found on one-gram cannabis products in Canada, and of course, the United States is not much better.
One analysis of the U.S. market found the plastic packaging in some cannabis products weighed four to 30x the package’s contents.
Biodegradeable packaging and better yet, hemp packaging are the perfect solutions to our plastic problem in cannabis. But, we know it’s not that simple to transition an entire industry off plastic.
Plus, hemp plastic is still too expensive for many cannabis businesses to justify the cost. Petroleum-based plastics fluctuated between $1.00 to $1.15 per pound in 2018, while hemp plastic cost $2.35 per pound on average in the same year.
Energy consumption is another area the cannabis industry could improve, however, this problem is tricky to tackle.
The average electricity consumption for a 5,000-square-foot indoor facility in Boulder County was 41,808 kilowatt-hours per month. The average household in Boulder County used just 630-kilowatt hours, for comparison.
Indoor grows are popular in the Midwest and other regions because outdoor growing isn’t suitable year-round. Greenhouses are an option, but indoor environments offer more control than greenhouses.
3. Better Education About Cannabis And Its Effects
Cannabis is one of the least harmful substances out there, and we know that.
But to say it comes risk-free is irresponsible. There are side effects to watch out for as a cannabis consumer, beyond your traditional paranoia and dry mouth. Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is one of them.
CHS is classified as intense nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain after consuming cannabis. It typically subsides in a hot shower or with capsaicin cream.
We don’t know what causes CHS, but there are numerous theories. One theory we think might hold some weight is the idea that CB1 receptors can get “burnt out” and overworked, producing this response.
CHS is typically only seen in daily cannabis consumers who use high levels of THC. The only treatment method we know of is to quit consuming cannabinoids altogether, some people even have to refrain from CBD.
There’s also a need for general consumer education, especially in the medical markets where patients are living with chronic conditions.
Budtenders aren’t medical doctors, nor should we be treating them as such. But, there are plenty of uneducated consumers whose only human touchpoint is the budtender.
Budtenders should be able to answer questions about the products they carry, including the potential effects, the terpenes, and any customer feedback. The responsibility to educate budtenders comes from the top down.
Oftentimes, the budtender’s recommendation isn’t about what the consumer or patient needs, but what the dispensary needs to sell. That’s what needs to change.
A high level of THC doesn’t sell the weed, but that’s how many budtenders and consumers approach it.
We can solve these issues by unifying as one industry. The need for self-unification is so important, especially in the U.S. market where federal regulations don’t exist. Each state is doing its own thing.
This will take compromise in many scenarios because cannabis operators come from different walks of life with different opinions. One operator’s opinion about a certain issue might vary wildly from the operator next door.
From what we’ve gathered, cannabis professionals are longing for an industry that is:
- Accessible to Enter
- Continuing to Seek Education
Beyond just getting on the same page and agreeing to take action in one direction, there are logistical challenges that come with implementing these changes.
Let’s take plastic packaging, for example. It’s easy to say “replace all plastic with glass!”, but we have to take all consumers and patients into consideration. A patient with Parkinson’s disease might prefer plastic packaging because they could break a glass jar.
When it comes to bettering budtenders’ education, we also have to address the average budtender’s pay. The average salary for a U.S. budtender is $14.59 per hour. That’s not nearly enough money to keep up with rotating products, consumer preferences, and which medical conditions benefit from what product.
In our opinion, there has to be an aggressive, multi-faceted approach to solving these issues in a reasonable amount of time.
Until then, all we can do is continue taking steps towards the results we want to see.