At CULTA, we love looking forward to the future and imagining how the cannabis industry will grow and change in years to come -- after all, it’s this very foresight that enabled us to launch the first cannabis tissue culture in the state. Looking to 2022, we reached out to our partners, fellow dispensary owners, and others in the cannabis space to get their perspective on how the canna-industry will change both in Maryland and nationwide in the New Year. Read on for their individual takes!
A shift away from THC
For decades, cannabis has been categorized, talked about, and grown primarily for its THC content. A couple of the individuals we reached out to, including our very own Michelle Sprawls, think medical patients will start focusing on other equally important yet often overlooked aspects of cannabis in 2022, like terpenes, cannabinoids, and how it’s grown.
Who: Michelle Sprawls, Laboratory Director at CULTA
"I think we will start to see a different mindset towards terpene profiles and other minor cannabinoids, these will continue to become more relevant over THCa values. With more knowledge in the marketplace and less sativa and indica dichotomy that is used to influence patients, a more in-depth conversation will start happening at the dispensary level. This can give brands with proprietary bred strains an opportunity to discuss the robust terpene profiles or what makes their strains unique if they contain other minor cannabinoids such as THCv, CBG, CBN, or THCP. Extraction methods and equipment will start to shift as well. Larger, more efficient solventless equipment and new innovative extraction companies are coming online, this is giving processing license holders more options of how to extract their oil and if they want to go industrial scale or start off small and craft."
Who: Mike Brenner, Founder & CEO of Trackwell, Inc.
"I think we'll start seeing a lot more consumers, especially here in Maryland, searching and purchasing for other attributes than just THC in their whole-plant products. This would include terpenes, other cannabinoids, certain flavor/smell profiles, and even attributes about the production of the product, like outdoor or sun-grown vs. indoor grown. Equally, I believe we'll also see more brands going out of their way to highlight these different attributes to consumers and using this information to differentiate their products."
Greater focus on sustainability
Did you know that the cannabis industry uses more plastic per unit of product than most other industries? And it’s not because they want to, it’s because regulatory restrictions, economic pressure, and other concerns make plastic use simply unavoidable. A couple of the industry experts we spoke to hope that 2022 is the year sustainability moves into focus in the canna-industry.
"Possibly one of the fastest-growing trends in the cannabis industry is the demand for quality and compliant packaging. Everyone is competing to stay cleverer and more innovative than their competitors, we are seeing a rise of sustainable cannabis packaging initiatives throughout the industry. They’ve traded in their heavy plastics for eco-friendly counterparts such as bioplastics, recycled cardboard, and glass. With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, we may see a rise in the availability of biodegradable materials that help to break the demand for wasteful plastics."
Who: Stephanie Fehrmann, Freelance Cannabis Writer
“Statistics show that Millennials are the demographic that uses the most cannabis, and use among Gen Z is growing quickly, too. As such, I think things like a reduction in plastic packaging and a focus on sustainability will be hot topics in the cannabis industry in 2022 and beyond. I myself have been making a conscious effort to reduce plastic packaging in my home, and one of the areas where I struggle the most is cannabis products. I know it’s difficult for dispensaries to use non-plastic materials due to legislation around child-proofing, but even if it’s a mail-in recycling program or a ‘bring 10 containers in for a percentage off your next purchase’ campaign I think dispensaries and manufacturers will be moving towards greater sustainability.”
Technology will creep into the industry
For better or for worse, COVID changed the way people use technology. In 2020, out of necessity, many people were introduced to concepts like contactless delivery for the first time and 2022 might be the year when similar concepts, specifically state-of-the-art delivery technology, starts being integrated into the cannabis industry.
Who: Sean Boone II, Managing Partner at High End Collective (HEC)
"I think that COVID was a horrible thing for everyone. However, I think that it evolved the way that we A) consume or shop and B) how they receive our items. For better or worse COVID has changed the habits of consumers also forcing the hand of companies to advance their payment systems, delivery methods, and overall online customer experience. With the research I’ve done I believe that driverless vehicles/services like Nuro that bring consumers their food or pharmaceutical products (partnered with Kroger, CVS, Walmart, Chipotle, and FedEx) directly to their door without the need for actual human to human interaction. The same could also be said for aerial drones delivering packages. However, many states simply have not created the framework for this type of specific business yet. I think that 2022 will be the year that this creeps into the cannabis market whether it be driverless vehicles or aerial drones."
Who: Renier Fee, Senior Director of Marketing at CULTA
“In the same way that MSO's are sweeping through the states acquiring independent licenses, I believe that 2022 will be a year of consolidation in cannabis software and technology. Larger tech companies will absorb smaller niche products that assist with cultivation, extraction, dispensary, marketing, and admin needs. We'll see tighter ecosystems that integrate IT, ERP, HR, CRM, and POS software. The advantages will be increased employee productivity, lower costs, and clean data.”
Edibles/drinks will become more popular
As new markets get established and current markets continue to grow, patients will have more and more products to choose from. Currently, edibles are having their moment in the spotlight (in 2020, the growth of the edibles category outpaced the growth of the industry as a whole!), and industry experts predict that alternative categories, like beverages and edibles, will continue to grow in 2022.
Who: Seth Erlin, Founder and Chairman at Chesapeake Apothecary
"We believe that the market will continue to flourish with robust growth into 2022 and beyond. We expect to see the new flowers, more consistency and top-quality strains, and processed products. I look forward to new edibles coming to the market. We would love to see patient registration continue to grow, along with the adult-use bills that we’ve heard are coming down the pipeline. The goal, and our mission, remains to serve our patients and community, provide access with extended hours, workshops and educational events, and working together with our suppliers to continue to move the program into the future.”
Who: Lyndsey Odachowski, Owner of Positive Energy
"I foresee a drastic increase in edible product options in 2022. Finalized edible regulations were released in 2021 and many licensed processors are just receiving final approval for their new commercial kitchens. Edibles will turn to be a very competitive market for suppliers because they must find ways to set their products apart from others because medicated gummy chews and tablet options have become over saturated. I`m looking forward to new and innovative edible products to help patients have more options to incorporate cannabis into their wellness regimens and overall lifestyle."
More activity in the Maryland medical market
Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2013 and decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis shortly thereafter. Since then, the state has issued medical cannabis pre-approvals to 102 companies, including CULTA. As the cannabis industry continues to thrive in Maryland, some predict that 2022 will bring more activity in the state’s medical market.
Who: Anthony Darby, Chief Executive Officer at Peninsula Alternative Health
"I believe 22’ will be a very active year for the Maryland cannabis industry. I predict more licenses will be transferred to groups that are adequately capitalized to withstand the future regulatory changes and pressure from the larger MSOs. I believe by the end of 22’ Maryland will have a clear path towards adult-use cannabis, with the implementation of an adult-use program by 2024. The medical market will have to adapt to these new laws to ensure that the patients of our great state still have access to medical support and medically sound products."
Who: Wyatt Early, State Director for Maryland Leaf Magazine
"Over the past few years, I have seen a widening in the number of doctors that are prescribing medical cannabis to patients throughout Maryland. I think we can expect to see a whole slew of new doctors jumping on board with MMCC certifications for several reasons. First, doctors can pull in a significant amount of additional money for their practice. Second, doctors are starting to come around and educate themselves on cannabis, when previously they may not have advised their patients to use cannabis for medical reasons at all. Most importantly, they want to help people and with this newfound knowledge will seek to do just that."
More states will launch medical & adult-use programs
As of December 2021, cannabis is legal for recreational or medical use in 37 states. As states where cannabis is legal experience financial benefits and no noticeable increase in crime, it only makes sense that other states will follow suit. In fact, some predict federal legalization is on the horizon -- a bill to federally legalize cannabis was approved by a key House committee in September.
Who: Caroline Phillips, National Cannabis Festival (NCF) Founder & Executive Producer
"I think that 2022 is going to be a break-out year for cannabis brands and businesses on the East Coast. I'm excited to see how advocates and private business owners can work together to push for legislation that creates more opportunities for owner/operator licenses with a focus on social equity and easier access to medicine for patients. In Washington, D.C., I hope to see the Harris Rider lifted, which prevents our city leaders from implementing an adult-use cannabis program. With the Rider removed, I am optimistic that DC will pass comprehensive adult-use cannabis legislation that takes into account how the War on Drugs has impacted people in our city that both supports our current medical cannabis licensees and gives more people the chance to pursue the dream of owning a licensed cannabis business."
Who: Michael Tese, Director of Retail-National at Gold Leaf
"I strongly believe 2022 will be another major, game-changing year for the cannabis industry. It appears adult use is quickly approaching and definitely a big topic all across the country. We don't know how fast adult use will occur federally but I feel confident it will continue to happen on a state level. Additionally, many more states are now legalizing medical cannabis and have begun building out programs. This will likely continue into 2022 and many more patients will appear. At the same time, many larger MSO's are acquiring licenses in those states in preparation for when the adult use does occur. Florida, where cannabis licenses are fully vertical, has become a big battleground state for many of these larger cannabis companies to set up shop and showcase their products"
2022: The year of MD legalization?
Finally, the question that’s on so many of our minds: will 2022 be the year that cannabis becomes legal in the state of Maryland? According to statewide polling data compiled by Goucher College, a strong majority of Maryland residents back legalizing the adult use of cannabis, and Maryland lawmakers have taken the first steps towards putting cannabis legalization on the 2022 ballot.
Who: Export Hi Tec, Maryland Rapper
“I personally think the cannabis industry is going to become recreational by the end of next year. Having so many patients in the state of Maryland only makes it right to progress forward. Medicine for the people!"
Who: Joey Creel, Marketing Manager at Haven Dispensary
"My 2022 prediction: As a patient, I look forward to all the new strains and genetics coming out. I've heard of a couple of strains that will be released soon that I'm super hype for. I would love to see adult-use and home grows passed here in Maryland. I think it could unlock a whole new world of genetics, similar to microbreweries that could eventually build up to a national level. On a larger scale, I hope for legalization nationally along with companies like Google and Facebook reconsider the terms of service around cannabis content. It would be amazing to have a safe place for cannabis content creators."