The cannabis industry is booming. People buy and use cannabis products in increasing numbers, and the country largely has accepted the substance. The future looks bright, but there are a few challenges, including image, product quality, consistency, and transparency.
Cannabis products should be straightforward, relatable and, most importantly, safe. Only then will people bring cannabis into their everyday lives. That may sound obvious but, unfortunately, not all cannabis entrepreneurs set out to create products every consumer wants. Many don’t start by asking, “Why aren’t cannabis brands as highly perceived and regarded as established consumer brands?” To answer that question—and push cannabis mainstream—the industry must address its challenges, develop products that evolve attitudes, and engage a more expansive and receptive audience.
The industry has one common goal: respectability. All the players must face challenges together, starting with these six.
Typical conversation around cannabis isn’t about different strains. Instead, it’s about the effects: This one helps me sleep, this one helps me recover from a workout, etc. Yet, thousands of strain names exist in the market, which can make the shopping experience difficult.
Regular smokers are accustomed to strain names like OG Kush, GSC (or its original name, Girl Scout Cookies), and Blue Dream. Names can be fun, but they’re also confusing and say nothing about effects. Obscure names also are meaningless to newcomers, who hold the keys to normalizing cannabis consumption. Companies should consider naming products by their effect, and then pair effects with consumers’ everyday activities.
Cannabis products should be straightforward, relatable and, most importantly, safe.
The cannabis industry has a rampant quality control issue. Black market players are messing up the industry for everyone. We need to bring together the art of cultivation with the science of cannabis to provide consumers with products they can depend on and trust.
Companies should test and track every batch to know exactly what’s in their products. Indoor cultivation centers should be cleanroom environments where science meets nature for the rigorous care of plants. Ideally, that means centers should be developed by agricultural engineers and feature the best technology: low-energy lighting, unique HVAC systems, and precision practices throughout. This produces products of guaranteed quality at reliability levels on which consumers can depend, in direct contrast to black market products where variables are uncontrolled.
Diverse cultivation processes make it difficult for consumers to replicate an experience. Each cannabis product should be designed to deliver a specific, consistent effect. Companies need to identify genetic markers and take DNA from different species to deliver consistent sensations and the desired effects consumers search for to deal with pain, sleep, and other issues.
Even with the most advanced and recent biodynamic techniques, producing consistent effects could take years. Cannabis companies should start intense research now. Cannabis cultivators must invest in the future if the industry plans to normalize its products for mainstream consumption. The goal is not only to reproduce a high but to be able to control it. That’s the holy grail.
There isn’t a single consumer-facing industry whose economics are not directly tied to brand perception, and the cannabis market is no different. Cannabis brands are handicapped by the stigma of selling a product that isn’t legal everywhere in the country. One hundred years of prohibition messaging won’t go away overnight.
But an effective brand has the power to shape an industry. As the cannabis landscape grows globally, brands that rise to the top will invoke consumer trust, establish loyalty, and demonstrate authentic and translatable brand values.
Cannabis companies must overcome past perception and show consumers their brands can be as stylish and sophisticated as designer clothes or any other high-end product. Further, cannabis products must be approachable for aficionado and novice alike.
When Michigan-based cannabis company Six Labs was founded in 2019, much of the cannabis in the state tested positive for pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins. So, the company decided to cultivate cannabis to eliminate this problem, and that meant implementing the most stringent testing protocols.
Currently, the industry lacks sufficient research to comprehend the negative effects of cannabis when combined with different impurities. States that legalized cannabis need to do more research and establish firm, universal testing protocols. Until that happens, it’s up to consumers to do their own fact-finding, and that is not ideal for companies or consumers.
Lack of transparency in the industry means consumers don’t know where their cannabis comes from or what went into the products they use. That is unacceptable. Customers who purchase cannabis legally never should have the same concerns as those who buy on the black market. They should not have to worry about dangerous chemicals, additives, mold, solvents, heavy metals, or other contaminants. The industry needs full transparency about all cultivation and extraction processes so consumers can eliminate any uncertainty when they buy products.
As new challenges emerge in the rapidly expanding cannabis market, the savviest businesses will devise practical solutions. The important thing for cannabis companies is to be aware of these six challenges. Then, they can take steps to avoid the pitfalls that plagued so many of the industry’s pioneers.
Joe Ori has been a trial attorney for more than twenty years and was named an Illinois Super Lawyer for seven consecutive years. He founded what is now Angelini, Ori + Abate Law right out of law school, representing clients with catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death cases. In 2019, Ori turned his passion and advocacy for cannabis into a business, Michigan-based Six Labs.