After decades of strong legal prohibition, Cannabis is quickly becoming decriminalized and legalized across Europe and the United States. Many experts speculate that by the middle of the next decade, it will be fully legal across the Atlantic world and even beyond. But what lies in store for “Cannabusiness,” as the industry is quickly becoming known? Anytime such a large change in habits and law takes place, the potential is there for some amazing improvements and advances, but these will not come without some potential risks, too. Given the immense possibility of this new industry and the variety of Cannabusiness related talks at SXSW 2019, we thought we’d take a look.
Unforeseen Advances in Agriculture
As Cannabis becomes legal, it will be the first new large-scale cash crop integrated into global agriculture in decades. This means it will be able to take advantage of techniques that have been in development for other plants for a long time, and, given how different a plant it is from most other cash crops, it will provide a test case for lots of new ideas and technologies in agriculture itself. From automated soil and hydroponic testing, to drone monitoring, to cultivar management. When thinking of ways that a new product will change the market and society, it’s often helpful to think of adjacent products and technologies! Be broad in your ideas!
Integration with Cuisine and Food Service
Cannabis, and the chemical that gives it its characteristic effects, THC, are edible, and have a distinct flavor profile and experience. Already, many companies in US states like California, Oregon and Colorado, have been producing and selling candies and other treats made with Cannabis extract, and in other places, like New York City, adding CBD oil to coffees and teas has become popular. The real changes, though, will come when professional cuisine takes up the challenge of integrating cannabis into mainstream restaurants, and even mass-market food products. Who knows? Maybe in a decade or two, people will be able to talk about the provenance and special characteristics of individual kinds of cannabis the way they now talk about wines. What a change that would be.
Increase in smoking-related illnesses and disease
For decades, we’ve known and experienced the negative effects of cigarette smoking, and their consequences on public health more generally. Lung cancer, heart disease, and other problems. But the good news has been that smoking rates have been going way down in Europe and the US over the last few decades, with benefits to society. With the legalization of cannabis - which is, after all, smoked - the possibility exists of an increase in smoking rates. Here the issue is simply the health effects of smoking itself, and not even connected to Cannabis, but those effects are real nonetheless. And while people who smoke Cannabis tend not to smoke as much as cigarette smokers, the practice remains dangerous to health. This may become something public officials begin to worry about in the near future.
Obviously, this is a fast-changing industry, and a lot remains uncertain. It’s possible that the early experiments in legalization could sputter out, and gains put into reverse. It’s also worth remembering that as Europe and the US have been loosening Cannabis regulations, they’ve been tightened in much of the rest of the world.
Written by Magali De Reu