Focusing on the Positive is Important
The state of Oregon has seen an explosion of Cannabis Industry activity over 2014 and this year. Every aspect of the industry is represented and many trends are actually worth supporting. From dispensaries to extractors to medicated edible makers, there are some signs of maturation occurring and with everything, there are growing pains, but as a whole, things are moving in a direction that can be seen as beneficial for the average person.
Regulation and legalization offer pressures to the industry that can’t easily be defined. We have had a thriving “medical market” for quite some time and many of the trends we support will wholly lost on profit-minded businesses that drive bottom lines before acknowledging the plant is medicine and regardless of usage or label of market, people use it to feel better. Other trends are good for both profit and for customer – control and integration generally offer higher quality and safer end products…and these are trends that will continue regardless of market.
We’ll go through a few interesting trends that we support and hope other parts of the country can adopt as legalization sweeps across America.
Dispensary – Retail MiddleMan
Dispensaries are doing some interesting things that deserve commendation. There has been an explosion of retail outlets around the western half of Oregon where urban populations demand a constant supply of Cannabis-based products and moratoriums were not put in place. Market saturation means dispensaries have to work to set themselves apart and offer a product or experience that would bring market share their way.
Volume Concentrates Offered
As market adaptation to hash oil becomes more full, dispensaries will be forced to move away from the “gram package” format they have instituted. Almost no one who uses hash on a regular bases will be happy to buy it by the gram. This realization is being had by many dispensary owners and they are moving to offer larger quantities of oil to their customers. In Portland currently, there are a handful of retail locations that offer half ounce and full ounce slabs of oil. This product requires that the purchaser can try the oil before buying it because they will obviously be using it for a longer duration. This is a big issue in the current climate. We support extractors and dispensaries that offer higher volume purchases and hope in the future there is a way for dispensary customers to try the products before making larger purchases.
Dispensaries have traditionally taken in inventory, put it in their own container, put their own label on it and dole it out at smaller portions. A new trend we’d like to support is the curation of growers who have taken the time to brand themselves and publicize their growing techniques so that the end user can decide how “organic” the product is. This curation had to be done for medible and extraction companies, but has expanded to flower so that growers who specialize in the growing aspect of the process can also be given support by the end consumer. Binder portfolios of each grower should be available at every dispensary so that customers can identify growers who use growing techniques they deem clean or safe or organic.
Consumer Access Display
Dispensaries have traditionally taken on the “Pawn Shop Template” where glass cases are stacked around the perimeter of the room and customers are forced to interact with the inventory by having to communicate with a budtender. This is by far the most widely used format for retail locations and many dispensary owners have struggled to find a more “efficient model” to use. We would like to support the inverse of this format where inventory, especially flowers that are in jars, be left on shelved displays for consumers to interact with. The ease of access will allow people to make a decision based on their natural reaction to their senses and can take their time to smell and inspect the flowers. The jars label would clearly show all of the relevant information including grower and lab results and people would bring the jar to the budtender with any questions and to request a portion be set aside for them.
Vertical Integration & Exclusive Relationships
Dispensaries have traditionally taken on the middle man approach where they take in things in very cheaply, double their price, and put it out on a shelf for customers to purchase. Many dispensaries operate don a consignment format and wouldn’t even pay for the items brought to them and only offer cash upon sale with contracts that include expiration and pay dates. A new trend that has been observed is vertical integration where dispensaries have created their own grow operations and exclusive relationships with growers to bring their harvest to their retail locations in all of it’s forms. This is a response to market fluctuations and the ongoing headache of creating relationships with growers who simply bring their products to whomever is offering the highest price per gram. This offers a higher quality product to the customer due to the level of control being increased from seed to sale. Dispensaries want a consistent, high quality product brought in on regular intervals with no major swings in cost given no outside cost factors. Growers are also seeing the benefits of being involved in a vertically integrated operation and can focus on what they do best, which is grow plants and bring them to harvest at the top of their genetic potential. Having to pedal their products to different businesses every cycle is not efficient use of their time and many growers want to be featured in retail outlets that are run in a way they approve of, and not just in any shop that gives the highest price. Vertical integration also offers outlets for processing of trim and smaller buds for oils and edibles. This makes the total value of the plants go up and the hassle of bringing everything to market very low.
Diversity in Dispensary Staff
Dispensaries in Oregon come in all different flavors and types. It’s very hard to generalize in any way, however, the lack of diversity in retail locations is obvious even in the most diverse parts of the state. Many shops are staffed by the owner and their friends, others have staffed themselves with a very specific 20-something female with a customer service disposition. Hoodies and baseball caps are slowly becoming less the majority, but still, there is more diversity needed in these staff roles of intake, budtending, concierge, security, and so on. Attractive females are not the only people with budtending and customer service skills and so the general population should be represented in these roles. Again, this is a maturation process and as more people apply for Cannabis Industry positions, people with empty skill sets will be pushed aside for people with real experience and ability. One of the most undisirable things to see on a Job Listing is the business asking for a picture or a link to social media. This smells of discrimination and is an aspect of an immature industry.
Extractors are seeing a major demand for their abilities and as such, have had to adjust to market trends and regulation. Some of these trends are very good for the average end consumer of concentrates and anything that contains them (all edibles almost). This area of the Cannabis Industry will see the most explosion in growth in the coming years because it is the veritable lynchpin between the raw material and growers, and the vast ocean of processors that will need to have a constant demand for concentrated compounds for their own products. Here are a few of the trends we’d like to support.
The same response to market indications and regulation has been going on with extractors. They realize that the only way to know just how organic your flower material is, is to grow it yourself, and so many extractors have decided to make branding very explicit for their product – some hash is made by running other people’s stuff, but then there’s a higher grade that is “house grown”. This trend will continue and it will begin to be very difficult to tell the difference between a “grower company” and “extractor company” because growing is needed and being done on both sides.
Focus on Single Strains and Small Batch
One of the most un-talked about pressures on extractors is to do “big runs” where pounds and pounds of raw material are needed to make it worth-while to extract. This pushes extractors to create “blends” and label them in a way that makes them out to be “single strain”. Blends are not nearly as desirable due to their dubious medicating properties. As market pressures respond, the extraction equipment will be modified so that any amount of raw material can be deemed worthy for extraction and that small runs will actually be the norm and focus will be given on using very clean solvent material that hasn’t been cross-contaminated from reuse.
Focus on Solventless & Organic
The explosion of Rosen tech has offered renewed interest in solventless hash and we appreciate any extractors that expand the techniques they use with ice and co2. It can be said that the cost to the end consumer is too high at the moment for medical-minded people to use solventless hash but the market will drive competition and competition will drive cost down. The labor is quite high, but the sophistication and overhead of the equipment is much lower and this will drive many people to want hash that his made by a person with skill but without massive overhead in solvents and closed loop equipment.
Transparent Labeling and Trash Friendly Packaging
Extractors use many different techniques to market their product. Many have zero interest in stating where the raw material came from that created their oil and will only put potency and strain information. The new trend in labeling is to offer information on where the flower came from, whether it was trim, nugs, or an extraction and what solvent(s). Many will list what growers the flower came from and differentiation is being made between “outside” vs “house grown”.
Extractors are finally arriving at the conclusion that parchment paper is by far the most efficient and healthy way to transport and package hash oil. The silicon, glass, pyrex, pvc containers are unnecessary overhead and create garbage that cannot be ignored. Some very ingenious ways of packaging with parchment are being used by companies like Dab Society and we support any company that puts there product in to paper with no extraneous garbage. This is not very forgiving to the extractors putting their products in discard-able e-cig capsules that cannot be refilled, turned in, deposited, or recycled. This is big-time trash and companies need to take a pro-active role in understanding why their product is destined to fail when customers start comparing companies.
Full Extract Product Offered
The majority of hash is consumed either in edibles or vaporized on nails. There are however, very sick people who need to purchase full plant extracted oil for their cancer, or other serious health conditions. Many extraction companies are offering a “FECO” option to their product list so that dispensaries can offer a product that can be eaten, smoked, vaporized, cooked with, rubbed on the skin, stuck up the butt. This is a very needed product that is under-represented currently in the market and as awareness of the healing properties of ingesting active compounds spreads, more people will ask for an ethanol extracted full plant extract. In our opinion, you really can’t call yourself a medical dispensary unless you have this product on your shelves constantly at around fifteen dollars per gram. This is a staple supplement whether it comes in high THC form or high CBD form.
Medibles – Medicated Edible Processors
Medicated edible products will see a major explosion as legalization and gentrification occurs around Cannabis and our culture. We are a food-crazed society and many people will be made consumers of Cannabis through this form of ingestion. The processors and culinary artists are maturing and many of their trends can be commended. We’d like to list a few of the things we’re observing here in Oregon.
Marketing + Packaging Maturation
Using various marketing techniques, many medible producers have ostracized themselves from the industry, using cartooning packaging and names for their products that conger connections with mainstream products. Much of the marketing was seen as “oriented towards children” and because many of the products where sugar or candy based products, outsiders could not see the premise behind the marketing. We’re seeing maturation occur and products be offered that are clearly for adults and are made of a range of foods that may or may not contain sugar. At present, we are oversaturated with “candy” makers and so there has been an expansion in to different products such as beverages, teas, and specialty foods such as pasta sauce, ice cream, salad dressing, and organic oils.
Portion Information Based on Weight (of product and person)
Much publicity has been given to the regulation of medicated edibles and their potency labeling for people who have no experience eating active compounds. Many companies did the bare minimum to give people appropriate information to dose themselves according to their tolerance, bodyweight and specific situation. Many edibles carried many doses in what many people perceive as a “bite” or a “small amount”. Candies made with concentrates can be especially potent for their weight and volume. One trend we appreciate is dosing information being offered in terms of portion weight and body weight of the consumer. Many companies are packaging their product so that a portion for the average person can be easy discerned or “broke off” or “bite sized”. Many different factors go in to how potent ingested compounds will be and there is no standard accepted dose of THC to get a person with no tolerance started. 10-25 milligrams can be a great starting point but there are other factors such as how much the person weights, their metabolism, what they have in their stomach and their state of being.
Growers are the foundation to the industry and because of this, they experience the most pressure to change with the market demands or cut corners to keep up with the overall need for their product. Growers in Oregon come in all shapes and sizes and many have discovered that bringing wares to the legal market can be a tremendously liberating experience. Regulation has also come down the most hard on growers, as testing and zoning restrictions has created extra overhead and headache to contend with. Cannabis is not a complicated plant to grow, but it is a very complicated plant to grow in large quantities while still maintaining high quality standards and legality.
Branding + Social Networking
Growers are continually making a brand and identity for themselves. Instagram is exploding with activity around Cannabis growing and activity. Growers have found community and exposure on social networking platforms and can create excitement for their products before they have arrived to the market. “Drops” are many times advertised on the various social networking interfaces and consumers can keep a bead on their favorite growers and what strains they are working with. This branding trend is falling in line with the dispensaries agreeing to curate instead of middle-man and growers can get kudos and exposure for bringing a consistent or niche product to market.
Record Keeping and Publication of Growing Practices
Growers are constantly self-defining “organic” and the term has not been defined by the industry or government so each grower gets to have their own opinion as to what is a standard organic growing practice. One trend we are starting to observe is that branded growers are taking their growing information and publishing it with the lab results on their website and offering it to dispensaries that would like to curate their product. Consumers can ask specific questions regarding the growing and processing and the information provided by the grower can offer the dispensary a source of ongoing portfolio and some quality standard that can be reviewed by the consumer.
Rejection of Foliar Sprays
Growers have used many different strategies to deal with infestations and mold issues and due to the Oregon climate for indoor and potential for moisture in the autumn indoor, there has been a tremendous pressure to use foliar sprays that are made for altogether different growing process and plants. These sprays are carcinogenic in all forms and are not being tested for in the appropriate parts per million. The state is slowly adopting regulations that will keep these products off of Cannabis but growers themselves have to take a personal stand against practices that compromise the product at all levels, flower, concentrates, and edibles.
Growers have traditionally taken their products off to a specialist to have them processed but more and more, there has been a move to vertically integrate the processing so that quality control and risk for cross contamination of products is brought to a minimum. Growers are now taking on the extraction process and creating exclusive products that they’ve taken from seed to end product. Many of these integrated growers are aligned with dispensaries so that they have a constant demand for their products and do not have to content with the dispensary overhead.
In all, there are some very promising trends occurring and as Proposition 91 goes in to effect July 1st, people in the greater Cannabis economy will be able to benefit from some of the trends that have been cultivating in OMMP for several years and with it being at least a year before recreational retail locations start licensing and opening, we’ll keep a close eye on the trends they will want to adopt and which ones we can leave to history. Growing pains aside, there is much to be supportive of and when you see something being done in a way you approve, let the people know – shake their hand and tell them they have stepped outside of the box to help benefit everyone. This is the altruistic way.