[Canniseur: Using cryptocurrency for cannabis transactions is a great stop-gap solution, or perhaps a permanent solution, for cash banking concerns. This really is the 21st-century solution for our industry.]
Two city councilmembers in California became the first elected officials to use cryptocurrency to purchase marijuana from a dispensary—at least publicly—on Tuesday.
Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett and Emeryville City Councilmember Dianne Martinez visited the Ohana Cannabis shop in Emeryville to demonstrate how the technology can reduce transaction fees and improve financial transparency.
The technology they used, called stablecoin, is a form of digital currency that has “price stable characteristics” linked to the U.S. dollar, meaning the sale and tax proceeds were settled in a way that’s consistent with cash.
Blockchain Advocacy Coalition, which is backing the technology, is advocating for legislation that would enable local jurisdictions in California to “determine and implement a method by which a licensee under [the state’s legal cannabis program] may remit any city or county cannabis license tax amounts due by payment using stablecoins.”
“By providing a cash-free method of cannabis tax collections, AB 953 can reduce costs and safety risks for cities and businesses,” Bartlett said in a press release. He added that the marijuana industry is “a 21st-century industry” that “deserves 21st-century legislation.”
“Tax collections leveraging stablecoin technology will help bring this new industry into the light.”
In a photo taken at the dispensary, Bartlett is holding up a pamphlet for VetCBD, a low-THC, high-CBD tincture that’s used to treat conditions such as anxiety and pain in pets. It’s not clear what Martinez purchased from the shop.
The bill to provide for alternative payment options at marijuana businesses is timely given that federal prohibition has made banks skittish of servicing such companies and results in many firms operating on a largely cash-only basis—an issue that has captured the attention of federal regulators and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Congress.
In California, legislation that would allow credit unions to accept cannabis business clients was pulled by its sponsor on Tuesday. Sen. Bob Herzberg (D) said he plans to reintroduce the bill next year.
“We are thrilled to build technology that solves real problems for customers, merchants, and politicians which will help usher in the next 100 million users of crypto,” said Dan Schatt, co-founder of Cred and the Universal Protocol Alliance, which developed the stablecoin technology, said.
“Not only does crypto result in significant cost reduction for consumers and merchants, but it also enables highly productive tax collection, transparency, and predictability for city and state governments,” he said.
[Canniseur: All dispensaries should follow suit. We, as a people, need to step up and reduce our carbon footprint. So glad someone is leading the way. Let’s all do our part to take Maryam Mirnateghi’s recycling program to our own local dispensary.]
Whenever anyone buys legal weed at a licensed pot shop, their products are packaged in plastic. Whether it’s bottles, boxes, syringes, vape carts, or products wrapped in plastic, these packages ultimately end up in landfills, which contribute to a whole host of environmental problems.
Now, a dispensary owner in Washington State, who manages Canna West Seattle and Canna Culture Shop, believes she has a solution: Start a recycling program for weed packaging, where consumers can return their plastic waste at the very same place they purchased it.
“It is estimated that by the year 2020, there will be over one billion pieces of cannabis packaging created in the cannabis industry every year,” said Maryam Mirnateghi, the owner of the two aforementioned dispensaries, to a localNBC News affiliate.
“Sometimes it’s hard to know which items can go in which categories, so we just wanted to make it really easy for people,” she continued. “We are really hoping to create a better connection between the cannabis industry and the environment in general.”
Currently, the world produces 300 million tons of plastic per year, according to Plastic Oceans International. Half of that plastic waste comes from single-use products, like empty vape pen cartridges or those nearly-impossible-to-open child-proof edibles boxes. And with America’s legal weed industry selling $9 billion worth of product in 2018 alone, those plastic waste numbers are only on the incline.
[Canniseur: Over time, market prices go up and down and this fluctuation is normal. The legal cannabis market is still too new to give a lot of credence to market ups and downs because, as regulators are trying to find their way, many bad decisions have been made. The regulators should look to the alcoholic beverage markets for guidance. They’ve been around a lot longer. Eventually, the cannabis market will operate just like any other market.]
The wholesale market for legal cannabis is marked by great regional variation, but the oversupply that has sent prices plummeting in Oregon and other Western states has not been able to dampen the general upswing on the national level.
Amid stratospheric hopes for the industry’s growth, there have been growing fears of a market correction. An account on Motley Fool notes that investment bank Stifel foresees $200 billion in global annual adult-market and medical cannabis sales within a decade — amounting to a compound annual growth rate of nearly 34%. In addition, the U.S. is projected to generate between a third and a half of worldwide legal sales within that same timeframe.
But the report warns that the famous oversupply in Colorado, Washington and especially Oregon —itself “a result of everyone wanting in on cannabis” — may be undermining the dream.
Regional and Seasonal Variation
In response to the flooded market, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) announced in May that it was to suspend the processing of license applications as of June 15. Back in January, the OLCC reported that the state was producing two times more cannabis than was being consumed —with more than six years’ worth of supply wasting away at farms, warehouses and retail outlets.
The market reaction to overproduction is noted by New Frontier Data. Hardly surprisingly, Oregon saw a 64% decline in wholesale prices from October 2016 to March 2019, while Colorado experienced a 60% drop from January 2015 to April 2019. However, the “downward slides in wholesale prices are not linear, but in both cases reflected seasonality.” Prices partially recovered in both states in the second and third quarter of this year. And in March, Oregon wholesale prices matched Colorado’s for the first time.
The report notes that a moment of reckoning looms with the approaching harvest season in Oregon (more of an issue than in Colorado where only indoor is permitted). “Will it lead to further price declines, or are prices in both Colorado and Oregon bottoming out?”
As New Frontier Data’s vice president Beau Whitney writes in an analysis for Bezinga this week, “Oregon’s woes are directly attributable to the (originally unlimited) number of licensed cultivators in its program.” Whereas Colorado had guarded itself against glut by requiring any growers applying for an increase in capacity to demonstrate proven demand for their previous crop.
In Colorado, where legalization took effect in 2014, it took until 2017 for the state’s legal market to effectively absorb the pre-existing illicit market, with legal supply effectively meeting demand. This more cautious approach has led to a somewhat more stable market.
On a national level, Cannabis Benchmarks finds that the simple average wholesale price increased $65 to $1,557 per pound by August this year. The lower prices in the western states are in part offset those on the East Coast. Marijuana Business Daily, citing interviews with local industry leaders, reports a range from $2,000 a pound for the medical market in Maryland to as high as $4,200 per pound for the adult-use market in Massachusetts. This contrasts Colorado, where last month the wholesale price stood at $850.
There is also a considerable price differential between indoor (the most highly valued), greenhouse-grown (the middle range) and outdoor (least valued, however disappointing this news will be to its hardcore aficionados).
As Cannabis Benchmarks writes: “California’s market has seen a surge of sun-grown supply recently as light-deprivation harvests are dried, trimmed, and brought to market… In contrast, Oregon and Washington state reported transaction stats indicate that wholesale buyers continue to favor indoor flower this summer, with increasing relative volumes of such product helping to push up Spot prices in those markets.”
[Canniseur: Some of the data Ms. Lukas presents in this article is specious. Some of it is valid. Make your choices in whatever you believe, but the market for cannabis is going to be enormous especially as the states and federal government figure out how to properly regulate this market. If they don’t they’ll become Michigan where the black market is far far ahead of the legal medical market, because there’s no product in the legal market.]
While the 3rd Annual Wine & Weed Symposium offered ideas to both camps on how to work together, utilizing marketing strategies, and integrating more women into the ranks, the critical piece of information that many in the audience were waiting for was presented during Jessica Lukas’ session, “The Cannabis Impact on Wine”. Ms. Lukas is Vice President of Consumer Insights at BDS Analytics, Inc, which has world-wide cannabinoid market data. In presenting her information to a crowd that was a little in awe of the graphs and the blitzkrieg of statistical analysis, she nevertheless made her points known and understood.
To understand her data, one needs to understand that this is information gathered from ~80% of the legal market.
The US market is huge, with California coming in ahead of Canada for sales, followed by Colorado. Right now California is enjoying a $2.5 billion dollar market. Projections through 2024 show this to be a $40+ billion dollar industry world-wide in just five short years, enjoying astronomical growth. The US is projected to garner ~70% of that total value.
Although impressive, keep in mind that currently the US Alcohol market is currently roughly fourteen times bigger, and in five years will still be earning five and a half times more than its cannabis counterpart, with a five year projection at around $170 billion dollars. For the three states with the most history regarding this subject, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, alcohol sales do not appear to have been affected by the legalization of recreational cannabis, and the increased sales value seems consistent with the general US trajectory for alcohol. In most areas so far, alcohol grows with cannabis.
For the Wine Industry, her next sets of data looked specifically at a type of edible that seems most in direct competition with wine, which is the cannabis beverages category. Currently comprising only 6% of all edible forms of cannabis (remember edibles themselves only make up ~15% of cannabis products available), there is a growth curve of +15% for cannabis beverages that any stock investor would be pleased to see in a portfolio. With a rapidly changing and capricious market, one of the impediments to beverage sales has been the taste, which Lukas notes, is the “number one consumer driver” for this category.
So who are the consumers of cannabis? Are they also wine consumers? Coming from all walks of life, consumers are a diverse group. In her slides, we saw that of the collections labeled Consumers, Acceptors and Rejecters™ in fully legal states, there has already been a striking change. In Q1 2018, 31% were Consumers, 32% Acceptors (those who don’t use but don’t mind or are open to it), and 37% Rejecters. Lukas illustrated that in just the past year, the shift is there to see, with Consumers climbing to 38%, Rejecters dropping to 33%, and Acceptors dropping to 29%. The dropped numbers together total the increase in Consumers of 7%, and an overall gain of 4% to the grouping of Consumers & Acceptors (those currently consuming or open to it).
An interesting statistic showed that nearly half (45%) of alcohol consumers in fully legal cannabis states also use cannabis products, and that 65% of cannabis users also imbibe in alcoholic drinks. However the risk for the wine industry Lukas laid out was that as Alcohol users are increasingly consuming cannabis, the reverse is not true; cannabis users are decreasing their use of alcohol.
Although she presented that within the alcohol category, wine was more insulated than other alcoholic beverages, the next risk she showed to alcohol was the cross-over effect, where a percentage of people, who presumably used to think of a particular social or recreational occasion as purely a wine occasion, now consider that it could be either a wine or a cannabis occasion.
A last risk cited was that wine consumers, when they pair alcohol and cannabis, consume less wine than they otherwise might, perhaps helping to drop the overall volume consumed. And more and more are considering cannabis as a singular, solo event, playing on the interesting cultural disparity in thought, that being that drinking alone means you are a drunk, whereas using cannabis while alone is more acceptable. That said, of those who use both wine and cannabis, ~70% have not changed the amount of alcohol they consume overall. The risk is highest in the relaxation category, where the substitution of cannabis for alcohol is potentially greatest, and the perception of health and safety dominate, especially among younger adults.
As for the question of the day, is cannabis impacting wine sales, her answer is “not yet”. The amount of cannabis consumption impacting wine consumption is still negligible, but in this changing market and changing environment, and with new users coming online who are not burdened with the stigma of days gone by, next year’s Wine & Weed Symposium may tell a different story.
It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. The state hasn’t figured out yet how to license growers. There are still plenty of retail operations (provisioning centers) in the state, but there’s little flower to be had. Someone in Michigan government thinks they’re doing a good job. They aren’t.
It’s no longer just the medical cannabis market that has draconian fees and regulations. Now regulations for the recreational market are coming. And the fees are cutting out the little guy…again. Michigan’s actions and proposed regulatory rules for applying for a grow or dispensary license will ensure the black market remains larger than the legal cannabis market. Big moneyed players are the only ones who can get in the rec game. And when there’s no product in the legal recreational marketplace (dispensaries), there will be plenty of money flowing into the black market. Michigan is going to lose 100s of millions of dollars to the same market where it has always lost potential tax revenue. It’s the illegal market.
The Michigan Cannabis Market is in Deep Trouble
The Michigan cannabis market is at a dangerous crossroads and it’s the fault of the new governor, plain and simple. Governor Whitmer (D) was elected last November on a campaign promise to normalize the Michigan medical cannabis market and develop the best adult use market in the U.S. In the face of current evidence, the promises are hot air.
New Michigan Cannabis Licensing Agency
Governor Whitmer dissolved the old bureaucracy licensing retail and grow operations. She then initiated a new regulatory department called Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA). The MRA is supposed to be efficiently granting licenses. They’re not. It’s run by the same person who previously held up licenses, Andrew Brisbo. The people at the regulatory agency are breaking their arms patting themselves on their collective back for the good work they’re doing. The MRA is not doing good work, or enough of it to help the state markets now. If they were doing a good job, the dispensary shelves would not be bare.
Street Reality for Michigan Cannabis
The reality is quite different on the street. Medical cannabis patients are hurting. Effective medicinal products are not available, including Rick Simpson Oil (RSO). RSO is reputed to have an analgesic effect on cancer. There is at least one lawsuit because of the lack of product some cancer patients need. It’s not going to get better soon unless the courts step in once again and tell the regulators in Michigan to get their act together.
So, What Happened in Michigan?
A quick recapitulation of the facts; Gov. Whitmer dissolved the department of the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) in charge of licensing both growers and retail operators. She replaced it with a new department called the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA). This simply substitutes one bureaucracy for another. Both the old LARA and the new MRA are run by the same person, Andrew Brisbo. Brisbo gives the impression he does not care about the medical cannabis market or its patients.
The MRA has granted only twelve grow licenses to date. Twelve grow licenses for well over 100 licensed stores in Michigan? There’s just not enough cannabis to go around. Currently, dispensaries have very little cannabis flower product on the shelves.
Michigan’s Cannabis Market
Michigan growers have little interest in growing flower, as concentrates are much more profitable.
Michigan caregivers (the original growers of cannabis) gave way to an unregulated hodgepodge of stores. This was the original failure of the state; A failure to regulate the burgeoning medical cannabis retail market. The adult use market is supposed to start later this year. If it happens, the shelves will be bare.
Currently, there are about 300,000 registered medical cannabis patients in Michigan. If they only smoked two grams per week, per person, about 13,000 pounds of weed per week would be needed to keep patients supplied with cannabis.
13,000 pounds/week works out to more than 50,000 pounds a month. That’s a lot of weed. It takes at least 20 weeks to go from planted seed or clone to cured harvest. Twelve growers, no matter how big, can’t handle that. 100 big growers, maybe. How does Michigan expect to grow the market when adult use comes online? The simple answer is, they can’t. Dispensaries only have 12 growers from which to buy. Past caregivers can either dump what they have or divert it to the black market. Guess what is going to happen? The black market will thrive!
What Michigan Needs to Do to Fix the Problem
Here are 5 things Michigan needs to do right now. Not three or six months from now. Now!
Recognize cannabis is business. The state gets tax revenue from these businesses. In order to operate and thrive, businesses needs inventory. Cannabis flower inventory in the market right now is scant, and has been for over a year.
Allow caregivers (and let’s call them small growers, since that’s what they are) to sell their product to the dispensaries.
Open up the licensing system for smaller growers with smaller fees.Now everyone has to show at least $150,000 in assets, with $37,500 in liquid assets. That’s a non-starter for many people who might like to become a grower. The current Michigan cannabis licensing fee scale is pretty steep. This takes smaller growers out of the cannabis business.Convert “caregivers” to “growers” and make them ’boutique’ growers for a new, craft category. Treat them like the state treats wineries or distillers. Allow the ’boutique’ growers to grow 50 to 100 plants. Create a lower fee for smaller grow operations. This allows smaller, disadvantaged communities access into the marketplace. What a win-win!
Regulate the Michigan cannabis model after the alcoholic beverage market. Both are controlled substances. Both need regulation at some level, especially because both are revenue streams for the state.
Let growers and dispensaries have a say in how they’re regulated. The best interests for both groups will regulate the free flow of legal cannabis products in Michigan. Make sensible regulations and implement them slowly enough to not disrupt the market.
The Current Reality
Excess cannabis grown by past ‘caregivers’ is currently not allowed in dispensaries. Until earlier this year it was. Now it is going to the illegal market. Where does the state think it’s going? Do they think growers going to destroy their harvests? What should the small cannabis farmers do? They need to make a living. The cannabis is going to the black market, that’s what is happening. Since January 2019, 3 times Michigan failed to implement a reasonable and thoughtful approach to medical cannabis.
Get your head out of your nether regions, Michigan. You have patients, and soon adult consumers, wanting to pay tax dollars to the state.
Marijuana users have often been plagued by the August drought: those dog days of late summer that fall between harvests in Mexico or somewhere when there was simply no weed available, when you went down your list of dealers and struck out on every one with a “call me back in a week or two” response.
The droughts have been less regular since the advent of home grows, although the vagaries of the growing cycles can sometimes still throw your timing off. That said, right now Michigan is in the midst of an August drought. A couple of weeks ago a text message came out from Corktown provisioning center BotaniQ saying that they were out of flowers. Since then the location’s co-owner Anqunette Jamison Sarfoh has been in the media saying that they have only a few selections of flowers at the location. Few others seem to be able to have adequate supplies either.
Jerry Millen, an owner of the Greenhouse in Walled Lake, reports that location has about 21 varieties, but not much of any of them. “We probably have about two weeks’ worth of flower left,” he says. “Then [we’ll] be totally out. There is no flower to be had anywhere.”
That may depend on where you are, and what and how much you’re looking for. A perusal of the Facebook Michigan Medical Marijuana Growers page shows some evidence of the search for flowers. One frustrated member posted “Straight up! Fuckin (sic) DRY SEASON. END THE DROUGHT!”
Another member responded, “I live in the Amsterdam of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and it has been super dry for at least a month now. Can’t find lbs. anywhere.”
There are several posts that belie that sentiment, but those tend to be from the southwest part of the state. There are other posts that question the quality of what is available. One narrative around the drought is that caregiver flowers of questionable quality are used to make extracts, while only best buds are sold in their natural state.
Of course, product has always been scarce in the Michigan system. For years, growing your own or using caregivers was the only way to legally access medical cannabis. When a medical system came in, some administrators were unfriendly and downright antagonistic to getting it going.
Has there ever been enough medical marijuana? A quick perusal of media this past year shows headlines pointing out a medical marijuana shortage last November, and in January, May, and June of this year. So maybe there is always a medical marijuana shortage. However, the level of complaining has intensified in recent weeks.
Maybe that intensification is due to the Marijuana Regulatory Agency tweaking how caregivers’ products enter the medical marijuana market. Previously, caregivers’ products could be sold in provisioning centers if customers signed a document acknowledging that the cannabis is untested. Now that policy has changed, resulting in less product available.
There seems to be plenty of edibles and oils on the shelves of provisioning centers. Michigan is not yet a “mature” marijuana market, and old-school flowers remain the product of choice for the majority of users. People are used to using it that way, and like it. They understand how to use it and what to expect when they use it. New ways of doing that have not yet replaced the tried and true methods.
Although most of this drought talk is anecdotal, it’s backed by information distributed by Confident Cannabis, a company with software that helps marijuana businesses to test, sell, and buy wholesale cannabis. According to press materials, 50 percent of the legal cannabis produced in the country — across 25 states — passes through the Confident Cannabis lab testing platform.
The company is moving into Michigan and has collected some interesting information about the cannabis market. The initial findings are that there’s not enough product, the caregiver and retail relationship is changing, and there is an abundance of extracts. We kind of knew that already, but it’s nice that other folks are backing up what we’re seeing.
One thing we do need in our system is more growers. Most people who want to enter the marijuana business system want to sell the product rather than grow it. That makes sense. At a basic level, growing looks more complicated than selling. Literally speaking, growers get about three harvests per year per space. You can’t make the plants grow that much faster, and if you stagger the plantings it just means less product at a time — whereas the prospect of retail sales presents a possibility for unfettered sales. But where are you going to get it?
Not from Oregon, where a reported surplus of marijuana exists, and prices are at least half of what they are here.
That all points to the fact that Michigan’s medical marijuana system still hasn’t gotten its legs under it yet. The so-called black market is still vibrant, and people seem to have more trust in the folks they’ve been buying from the past decade or more.
The medical marijuana system should be delivering for patients with an unbroken supply. They should never have to worry about where they can find what they need. The idea of a marijuana drought should be a thing of the past, but it is emphatically a thing of the present.
This August drought looks like it could well extend into September, as headlines of the past year indicate. Personally, I’m not affected by this yet because I made a bulk acquisition a couple of months back that is seeing me through all this. Not everybody can do that. From the perspective of the average patient, things don’t seem to be getting better.
There was a chance that a constitutional amendment in nearby Ohio would be on the fall ballot in that state, but it is now officially a no go. At this point it looks like Ohio Families for Change, the group backing the amendment, has gone dormant. That doesn’t mean legal marijuana isn’t an issue there. A new law legalizing hemp in Ohio has caused some confusion. Hemp is partially defined by having less than 0.3 percent THC, the cannabinoid that produces the marijuana high. The problem in Ohio is that police equipment can detect the presence of THC, but not the amount. So any given sample could be hemp — until proven otherwise.
An idea to ship the stuff to other states for testing runs into the roadblock of interstate commerce with marijuana, which is doable, but it takes paperwork that has not been processed. In the final analysis, marijuana is not legal in Ohio, but police will not pursue marijuana misdemeanors until this is all cleared up or until they get a better testing lab.
[Canniseur: I don’t generally use vape pens because I don’t know exactly what’s in the cartridge. The ingredient label on the side can be fake. Perhaps solo sciences’ product is a way to help us know exactly what’s in those carts.]
In a time of designer bags, jewelry, shoes, and a slew of other consumer goods being knocked off, the cannabis industry has also fallen victim to counterfeit products.
Imagine going into what you believe is a legitimate cannabis dispensary or online shop and being sold what you think is a King Pen, Brass Knuckles, or Heavy Hitter vape, only to find that in comparison to what you’re inhaling, “you’re better chewing on lead paint”.
This is an occurrence more common than we think within the cannabis industry, according to Ashesh (Alex) Shah, CEO and co-founder of solo sciences the consumer-products intelligence company dedicated to preserving the integrity of the cannabis industry as a whole by protecting cannabis consumers from potentially harmful bogus products.
The Extent of Counterfeit Cannabis
Solo sciences dug into their own research and estimate that up to 80% of all packaged cannabis products appearing within the cannabis market, both illicit and legal, are counterfeit. This means that 8 in 10 times, cannabis consumers around the U.S. are consuming products that have not been distributed through licensed providers, manufacturers, distribution companies, and retailers. Most common cannabis products being knocked off are vape pens, trying to represent the big brands of that product category.
Just a Google Search away, people with less than honest intentions can access knock-off packaging from cannabis brand giants, to fill with low-quality oils, or in some cases, products that don’t contain any cannabis at all. With so many new consumers putting their trust in the hands of dispensaries and budtenders being sold counterfeit packaged cannabis products, Shah remarks that “It’s a perfect storm that could mean the end to the industry.”
A Tool to Protect Industry Integrity
“Major brands are being misrepresented,” says Shah, as licensed brands only legally do business with licensed retailers. To fix this, Shah, along with co-founder Kate Flannery, solo* is bringing to the cannabis industry technology yet unseen by the industry, and the anti-counterfeit solutions industry as a whole.
The world and the industry’s first cryptographically secure cannabis product authentication system, solo*CODE is the first-of-its-kind, closed-loop intelligent authentication system for cannabis products. The platform uses an app to decipher uniquely encoded labels that create a “digital fingerprint” that can only be used and decoded by the solo* app. What is produced is a product authenticity report that acts as a certification for cannabis brands, telling the consumer that the product is 100% authentic.
With 80% of products estimated to be counterfeit, the problem is mostly exacerbated by online retailers that get their materials mostly from China. Disposable counterfeit vape cartridges either comes pre-filled with mystery oil or is sent empty for the retailer to fill. Since there is no regulatory body overseeing what is going into these products, it could be low-grade oil, pesticide-ridden products, or even synthetic cannabinoids, which have proven to be fatal in some cases.
As the black market continues to thrive, unlicensed shops also add to the problem of pushing counterfeit packaged cannabis products. For instance, according to the Los Angeles Times, more than 200 illegal dispensaries operate in L.A. alone, which could be a conservative estimate.
“The world of cannabis is murky, unpredictable, and often not safe,” said Ashesh (Alex) Shah, CEO and founder of solo sciences in a company press release. “As brands and governments are struggling to fight the illicit market, we created solo* to solve that problem by creating transparency into what cannabis providers are actually selling to consumers. solo* is designed to keep people out of the dark when it comes to what they’re consuming and putting into their bodies, so they feel secure and knowledgeable about the products they’re purchasing.”
According to Flannery, the solo* app is about “putting the power into the hands of the consumer”, allowing the consumer themselves, not a budtender at a possibly unlicensed shop to tell them what products are authentic.
Data Experts Playing “Data Judo”
Solo sciences is not your average cannabis data company brought together to sling just another data set into the cannabis space. Shah is a former CIA Profiling Specialist on the Presidential Task Force holding 8 patents, while Flannery is a former consultant in the medical device and pharmaceutical industries, working among the likes of Medtronic, Philips Healthcare, and Hospira/Pfizer. Filling out the team of 20 employees at solo sciences are former members of the CIA, DEA, and advanced professionals in the technology of detection. The development of solo*CODE involved “image processing containing the most complicated algorithms,” according to Shah. “This is beyond a QR code,” he adds.
Solo sciences came across the platform and its potential “accidentally, but it’s become the most important part of our product”, said Flannery to Green Market Report.
The solo* app couldn’t be easier to use for the consumer, and it not only empowers the consumer with information about the legitimacy of their product but also invites the consumer to provide feedback on their experience with their product.
How solo* Works
Through building widespread awareness among the cannabis community, consumers will recognize the solo* label on cannabis products, which will invite them to scan the code into their phone via the app. Information about the possible side effects (as reviewed by a doctor), THC:CBD ratio and other product attributes, package and dosage details, and producer information with the license number will appear to confirm a product’s legitimacy.
Following this authentication process, consumers are invited to provide feedback on their product after its use, prompted by a series of interactive questions that will ask the consumer their mood along with their level of energy, focus, and even their level of confidence. “This allows us to close the loop and provide intel to brands from the voice of the individual,” explains Shah.
Shah also explains that the emergence of solo* “puts the screws to brands to be transparent” in offering product information to this platform that will eventually make its way directly into the hands of the consumers. The platform allows for transparency upstream and downstream, something that Shah refers to as “data judo” to Green Market Report, by working with manufacturers to help ensure customer safety. “Consumers also have a level of expectation around technology when it comes to the data that’s available to them,” adds Flannery. “This helps everyone on all sides,” remarks Shah.
Spreading Authentication Across the Industry
In addition to publicly unveiling its cannabis authentication product, solo sciences also announced today that more than 1.2M units with the solo*CODE will start shipping in August through its partnership with Vertical Companies, a seed-to-sale multi-state operator.
“We’re proud to be a launch partner for solo*CODE,” said J. Smoke Wallin Vertical Wellness CEO in solo science’s press release, “We demand the highest standards in terms of product safety and excellence. We want the distributors in our network to know that our brands and CBD products they’re selling in stores or online are the real things. Through the solo*CODE, consumers can get a download of exactly what’s going into their bodies, in real-time through the mobile app. This builds trust and transparency and should be the industry standard across the industry.”
To date, solo* has partnered with 53 cannabis brands to join forces with the new cannabis authentication system. It’s expected to ship more than 9 million encoded units into the market over the next 12 to 24 months.
[Canniseur: While there are definitely women working in the cannabis market, more are needed. Cannabis is the first ‘new’ industry where women can make their mark. While there is plenty of sex discrimination (plus race and sexual orientation), women have a better opportunity to lead the way where gender is secondary to getting the job done. Let’s make sure salaries are commiserate with skill and not gender, as well.]
Women are firmly established in many cannabis industry leadership positions. Cannabis conferences like Women Grow and The National Women of Cannabis Conference highlight the number of female entrepreneurs in the industry.
Women also make up a large chunk of cannabis users. In a 2017 report from The Cannabis Consumer Coalition of 537 consumers across both legal and prohibition states, women made up a majority of the respondents. With such a large share of cannabis consumption attributed to women, it’s no surprise that women are taking the industry by the horns.
The cannabis industry is fertile ground for female leadership. Anja Charbonneau, editor of the weed magazine Broccoli, puts it this way: “because cannabis is so new as a legal industry, it feels like there’s this opportunity to make women’s voices heard while it’s being built – and that’s pretty much never, ever happened with any other industry.”
This post highlights a few of the women who have dedicated themselves to the production, marketing, and advocacy of cannabis.
Billingsley was an early investor in Colorado’s cannabis industry. She recognized a gap when she could not find software suitable for medical marijuana tracking. She co-founded seed-to-sale cannabis software tracking company MJ Freeway in 2010.
Surviving a hack on their database in 2017, MJ Freeway recently merged with MTech Acquisition to form Akerna. This made them the first cannabis-compliance technology company to trade on NASDAQ.
Billingsley is highly engaged in the cannabis community, and also advocates for women in tech with her One Woman Challenge initiative: “I urge us to focus our energy equally on keeping women in tech careers and inspiring girls to enter tech. Gender parity in the tech industry is about more than workforce diversity. All of us must shape the virtual worlds in which we operate so these worlds are truly expansive, innovative, and disruptive versus hardcoding more of the same.”
Peters struggled for years with her period. She was hospitalized in her early twenties more than once for severe cramping and vomiting. The drugs prescribed for her eventual endometriosis diagnosis had so many side effects that she could not tolerate them.
Her exposure to CBD treatments was a revelation. She founded Moxie Meds to create medical cannabis medicine by women, for women. Her CBD and THC tinctures provide relief from cramps and pain, anxiety, stress, and help balance hormonal cycles.
Nicknamed “Queen of the Desert,” Vilchis was the youngest and first minority female CEO to receive a Nevada cannabis license. Since 2013, her company Premium Produce has cultivated and produced both medical and recreational marijuana.
She got her start through managing physicians in Southern California and became interested in cannabis due to its potential to reduce the burden on Americans’ health bills. She is a strong advocate for cannabis as a treatment for chronic pain.
Penny is a world-renowned management consultant who took a leap of faith to found her cannabis business consultancy, Budding Solutions, in 2015. They offer project management, license application help, cultivation operation assessments, product and branding and more.
Penny is a cannabis advocate who lobbies for policies on Capitol Hill to normalize cannabis. She coaches her clients to create compliant, successful businesses that positively impact communities across the US. She is also the president of The Minority Cannabis Business Association.
In late 2018, Ontario cannabis producer 48North run by Gordon acquired VanderMarel’s Good & Green. 48North is now the first cannabis company in Canada helmed by two women. The marketing focus for their products focuses on the female health and wellness market.
Alison Gordon is a veteran in Canadian cannabis with a focus on marketing. She was named one of Canada’s Top 10 Marketers by Marketing Magazine. She also sits on the board of directors of the Cannabis Canada Council.
VanderMarel was a registered nurse who recognized the benefits of cannabis as an alternative medicinal treatment. Before launching Good & Green, she was one of the first licensed producers of medical cannabis.
For Women and Weed, There Are Budding Opportunities
These are only a handful of the many women making headlines in cannabis news. Through their ingenuity and passion, more and more women are becoming inspired to start their own marijuana startups.
Are there any notable women in cannabis we missed that deserve a shout out? Let us know in the comments.