The Bright Horizon
For the last several posts, I have pounded on about the difficulties most of us working in cannabis currently face. We have to take care of our own. Nevertheless, this too will pass. For many, the only real incentive to continue is their love of the plant and their dedication to its physical and spiritual healing qualities. From a business perspective, perhaps, the bright horizon is to be one of the few old timers (2 to 5%?) who survive the current extinction event. Those entrepreneurs who do make it will need to serve a rapidly expanding market with an ever-increasing appetite for quality and variety as well as a new desire for pesticide-free, organic, sungrown craft cannabis flower and the healing products made from it.
To get some insight on the energetic new world of corporate cannabis impacting old school pioneers like a tornado in Kansas, Nikki and I attended last week’s National Cannabis Industry Association’s Cannabiz Conference in San Jose. We were a bit overwhelmed by our days’ agenda which included 400+ commercial booths, 7,500 attendees, as well as the keynote speakers and four tracks of serious panel discussions.
We still relate to the cannabis world of local farmers up on our hill in the heart of the Emerald Triangle as well as our friends at the dispensaries and everywhere else in the City, in Oakland and around the Bay. In our minds, these folks constitute the “old time cannabis community.” We still remember hand-watering 25 or 99 plant crops swathed in full sun, their buds manicured and packaged by hand at our ranch. Not too long ago, this was the pre-industrial cottage industry of the underground free marketplace.
Most everything at the San Jose show was about corporations producing at expansive scale thanks to mechanization and automation. We saw numerous stainless steel trimming, sorting, bottling and packaging machines. There were elaborate booths presenting shelving and rack systems, lighting systems, air and water filtration and conditioning systems, indoor grow systems, digital monitoring systems for cultivation, inventory, distribution and point-of-sale. Alongside turn key green houses sales reps sat legal and compliance consultants, insurance agents and even HR specialists. Times have changed since the days of hand watering, it is clear.
Always positive, Nikki had a great insight. What do all the geeks and nerds, gear heads and business whizzes do when they get really stoned? Just like artists, musicians, designers, writers, chefs and dancers, they invent things. They create mind boggling applications. They build machinery to take on tasks. They build new businesses and create brands. They find innovative ways to deliver new forms of cannabis for human benefit. For all of these genius types, automating cannabis mass production presents a glorious new frontier. And for sales staff, these evolutions open up an entirely new market looking to procure expanded product lines.
We stand at the brink of a Golden Age of cannabis awareness. Ultimately, I see the market developing in myriad directions. For the inspirational use of cannabis, the range and variety of products will continue to expand as will the mass market interested in vapes and pre-rolls. For the connoisseur, artisanal sungrown hand-trimmed cannabis will always be preferred. Sooner than we might think, a legal global market will mean we’ll be able to obtain Afghani charas, Nepali Temple Balls, Lebanese hash, Moroccan kief, Parvati Valley malai, as well as the finest cannabis flowers from the Emerald Triangle, at specialty shops in any city around the world.
Meanwhile, the medical world is thrilled to explore a whole new (actually, quite ancient) plant pharmacology. It also has a recently discovered endocannabinoid system present in mammals, fish, birds and reptiles to investigate. Once universities and pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. take on cannabis research, the therapeutic, medicinal and palliative uses will dramatically increase. Through research on cannabinoid ratios and terpene profiles, precise combinations and dosages for using flowers, concentrates, edibles, oils and more for specific conditions will be established. Other cultivars will aim toward enlivening social situations, easing anxiety, increasing concentration or helping with eating disorders and overcoming various addictions. At last, patients in every state will be able to obtain the flowers and preparations that bring them relief.
Blending with other herbs, as Indian Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese medicine already do, will greatly expand pin-pointed usefulness of cannabis preparations. Certainly, the old underground herbalists who have brought us all the wonderful cannabis healing products currently in use, will continue to create new preparations, recipes and methods of using the sacred plant in their kitchens.
Not to be left behind, the horticultural scientists are jumping in with genetic analysis, tissue culture and soil fertility experiments. Through breeding, cloning and tissue culture work, diverse varietals will be developed which target specific diseases in certain populations. Studies will be undertaken to determine which nutrient formulas will constantly produce the same terpene ensemble.
Cannabis cultivators are already on board with regenerative agriculture. As our knowledge of living soil grows and cultivation moves toward sustainability, it will have positive impact on mainstream agriculture. Track-and-trace programs will provide data on which strains grow best in which environments with which nutrients in order to produce the most interesting or efficacious terpene and flavonoid profiles. The development of Appellations of Origin guidelines will aid the small heritage cultivator in specific regions known to be excellent cannabis cultivation environments and help bring their products to market and world wide connoisseurs to their terroir.
From my perspective, however, the most exciting development is the growth of the awareness that the real power of the plant comes from its spiritual dimension. During the decades that cannabis cultivation and manufacture were relegated to the underground, many of us developed an acute awareness of the sacredness of the herb, and how she protects us. We all came to know of the divine herb’s ability to heighten our senses, stimulate our awareness, inspire creativity, open our hearts and minds to higher consciousness and compassion. But this too, had to remain hidden to those outside the cannabis community. Now in the U.S., cannabis churches are being founded, rituals developed, and acknowledgement of the Sacred Herb’s divine power can be celebrated in public.
Finally, two very important principles have been established. Cannabis is legal for either medicinal or inspirational use. This gives anyone over age 21 in California the right to grow up to 100 square feet of canopy for their own use. Secondly, being legal there is no longer a rational for keeping people in jail for possession or consumption of the herb, so arrests are down, prisoners are being let out of jail and records expunged.
Yes, there is a whole new world of cannabis out there. It is going to be populated by different people than those who were practicing the art in the past. The elders move on and a new generation brings change. Already we see a growing percentage of women taking leadership roles. It is amazing that, in our highly polarized political environment, about the only thing at least 60% of the populace can agree on is accessibility to medicinal cannabis. It cuts across all boundaries: gender, race, religion, class, sexual orientation and age. Ultimately, a sense of community will prevail. The magic of the plant will enthuse those who benefit from her bounty.