If you have ever had a pot brownie (and we’re not saying you have), more likely than not you don’t remember it as an especially pleasant ingestion experience. The brownie probably tasted bad, was from dubious sources, and might have even been given to you by an unwashed person at a house/frat party.
But today the edibles game has completely changed. Thanks to legalization and technological advances, edibles now come in a huge variety; users can choose not only how they want to ingest their weed, but also its strain and strength. And their popularity is exploding.
According to Arcview Market Research via Forbes, consumers in California purchased $180 million worth of cannabis-infused food and drinks last year, which amounted to 10% of the state’s total marijuana sales. Per BDS Analytics and Green Market report, that percentage rose to 18% in February 2018. And there doesn’t seem to be any sign of slowing.
Edibles are becoming commonplace and democratized. They are no longer a means to an end; consumers want to enjoy the consumption experience itself, not just the resulting high. They also have a wider appeal than smoking marijuana, since they’re less conspicuous to consume and don’t have the same harmful effects on your lungs.
Advances in technology enable edible makers to tweak things like the concentration of THC (the psychoactive element in cannabis) and CBD (the relaxing element) in their goods to produce the desired effect. Cannapreneurs (trademark The Spoon) can now also infuse a really wide variety of goods with marijuana, from gourmet sweets like gummy bears and truffles to stouts and IPAs. There are even marijuana-infused sodas and lattes with cannabis (think of the latte art possibilities!).
Edibles’ growing appeal is, obviously, a direct result of marijuana’s march towards legalization. So far, nine states plus Washington D.C. have legalized recreational weed for those 21+. This means more open access to cannabis, so producers can not only openly source marijuana, but also select the exact strain they want. As marijuana’s legalization spreads, the stigma that surrounds it is starting to decrease. It’s no longer a drug of hippies or high school dropouts; in fact, millennials increasingly view marijuana as a safer form of relaxation than alcohol.
Of course, there are still some very real obstacles standing in the way of the marijuana industry. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has openly said that he wants to exert federal law that criminalizes marijuana, superseding individual state laws which have legalized the drug. If he goes forward with this, it would have a huge impact on the marijuana — and, hence, the edibles — market. There are different opinions on whether or not this news has affected investments in cannabis/cannabinoids: some sources say investors aren’t spooked, others disagree. We’ll have to wait and see if lawmakers will go the way of former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, whose thinking on marijuana has “evolved.”
While these challenges might make things difficult or unsteady for the marijuana industry going forward, within the industry the edibles market is still booming. The Specialty Food Association named cannabis edibles as one of the top 10 food trends of 2018. In Colorado, BDS Analytics reported that edible sales jumped 67% between February 2016 and February 2017.
Venture Capitalists and Big Food are noticing the growth in this sector and starting to invest in cannabis tech and edibles. Just last week Palo Alto-based marijuana edibles company Plus Products closed a roughly $6 million Series B funding round. The round was led by Serruya Private Equity and Navy Capital, only the latter of which identifies itself as a specific cannabis investment fund.
The edibles market may be in a precarious situation until marijuana is legalized on a federal level, but for now its popularity is riding high.