Since the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational use in many US states, the industry has changed beyond recognition. Operating outside the law, cannabis producers, sellers and marketeers had operated in secret. Products were inconsistent and shipments could be interrupted by arrests, rivalries or simply because the risk was too great. Things are quite spectacularly different now. Legal producers, extractors and marketeers sell high-quality agricultural produce to well-regulated dispensaries. What follows is a very brief guide to some of the ways in which the cannabis industry is evolving into something quite different in almost all ways to its predecessor.
In popular culture, marijuana use is associated with young people, often teenagers. When it was illegal, there was great stigma attached to ‘stoner’ culture, partially because of its existence outside the law and partly because it was associated with a lack of ambition.
In the legal cannabis market, perceptions have changed. Seniors are the fastest-growing demographic of legal cannabis users. This could be explained in one of three ways:
- The generation of ‘baby boomers’ that experienced the late 20th century countercultural revolution have simply grown up, and want to experience recreational drug use again in a legal way.
- There is evidence to suggest that cannabis use can help ease the symptoms of arthritis, Parkinson’s and other ailments common amongst older people. Now that cannabis is legal, many older people are trying it for the first time.
- Older people no longer need to be involved in an illegal activity, or be exposed to any unpleasant or dangerous places in order to acquire cannabis. Instead, they can go to a clean, safe dispensary.
A Technology Boom
With the legalization of cannabis, industrial manufacturing companies have been given the green light to develop all sorts of new technology aimed at the cannabis industry. A THC extraction machine has been developed that can produce high concentration THC oils, gels and tinctures. Vaporizers have become fashionable and unobtrusive ways to ingest cannabis.
Agricultural technology has made cannabis farms far more efficient at producing good plants. Modern cannabis farms – of which there are tens of thousands in California alone – use genetic modification, ultraviolet light and complex irrigation systems to give them an edge over competitors.
Perhaps the most drastic change that has overcome the cannabis industry is the way in which it is being integrated into market capitalism as a whole. Large investors have noted the huge growth potential of the cannabis industry and bought into it in huge numbers. Chain dispensaries have begun to dominate the selling of legal cannabis on the US West coast. There is growing concern that the people who suffered most from the illegality of cannabis will not share in the spoils of its legalization. Instead, rich investors are partnering with agricultural giants to corner the market and price out smaller producers and sellers. It seems that the cannabis industry is being assimilated into the conventional market system.