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Market Munchies: The Rising Popularity of Marijuana Edibles

As the marijuana market has bloomed in the U.S. this year, one development that has caught even the local state industry (if not regulators) on the hop is the early and continuing popularity of edibles in the market. From the beginning of legal recreational sales this year, this segment of the vertical has already claimed 50% of total “legal” sales in the U.S.

Colorado, driven by the early interest and high sales of the same, moved within two months of recreational market start to form still missing initial guidelines to regulate the nascent industry vertical. To the extent that the state remains the market leader in this regard, at least on the packaging and content listing front, changes in state drives reform elsewhere, particularly Washington State which has followed rather than led all year including on this issue.
While early and often incomplete regulations are now clearly part of state infrastructure still under construction, there is a great deal of work that still remains to be done and will develop in the realm of state law development before federal reform of some kind is finally enacted. This will create and already has, strange trends that have nothing to do with regulation or even science but rather politics and marketing. For example early calls for bans and stricter packaging requirements focussed more on candy than baked goods or savoury products in the first months of the year.

Edibles have also made news across the U.S. in other states. Early in the year Minnesota became the first U.S. state to completely ban “smokeables” which means the state market will be entirely comprised of both vaped and edible products for the near future. The measure remains controversial, in part because of this exclusion, particularly given the needs of medical patients. Minnesota has only legalized “medical” use. While many use both edible and smoked means of ingesting the drug, smoked marijuana is far easier to control in terms of dosage and long term effect. Edibles create a delayed and more intense physical reaction that is also harder to control and manage, even for experienced users.

The American nationally focussed patients’ rights group Americans for Safe Access as well as other reform groups have also led the way in creating online guides for consumption of cannabis edibles in the face of ongoing U.S. federal failures on the reform front here too. The Marijuana Policy Project which focuses both on legislative change and consumer education has also just launched a new campaign this autumn, depending heavily on social media, to educate novice consumers about responsible use.

The edibles commercial market has also seen some interesting developments this year. American industry darling since the L.A. Cannabis Cup in late winter, GPharmalabs has made headlines in the U.S. ever since, including giving Godiva Chocolate a run for its money in spring sales. The company is positioning itself for a national imprint if not brand awareness campaign by registering the originally California founded entity in Nevada, and angling strategically for market entry in Florida in the latter part of the year. As of the first week of October, the company also announced a private stock offering of USD $5,000,000 and has been the focus of intense investor interest even before this.

The edibles vertical is also a market that so far is most commercially developed in the U.S. but as further reform begins to occur internationally, the edibles market will no doubt establish a beachhead in other places as well.
How much that will be driven by American companies as well as political reform is still unclear. Given current operating requirements in the U.S. that mandate state presence and local manufacturing and grow operations and currently ban cross-state sales, expansions to other countries using the same model seem highly likely, particularly for entrepreneurial types who crave adventure. Both requirements have long been industry requirements for even venturing into the vertical in the first place.

And as major international conglomerates such as Monsanto and GW Pharma already have and know, the international market for marijuana, just like any other commodity, is a highly lucrative market for both food and drugs yet largely untapped but now possible as the world turns a new leaf if not corner on the topic.

by Marguerite Arnold


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