It’s impossible to miss the many ways in which cannabis is carving out its place in the cultural mainstream—and the mainstream marketplace. Long gone are the days when pyrex hand pipes, Bob Marley t-shirts, and Cheech and Chong clichés served as the sole signifiers of the taboo world of weed. The new landscape of cannabis consumption takes up more demographic territory than these archaic stereotypes. Overworked moms are turning to cannabis-infused topical creams and tinctures to curb anxiety, millennials are taking aerial photos of CBD toast for their Instagram feeds, and septuagenarians are keeping cannabis in their medicine cabinets to help with arthritis—if not launching cannabis companies themselves. Today, cannabis isn’t counterculture—it’s a wildly promising business opportunity.
As societal sentiments shift and laws relax on cannabis, it is earning its status as a major player—and disruptor—in the consumer sector. Producers of mainstream consumer goods that previously would never have even been considered a part of the cannabis space are finding success in this new intersection. Media darling CBD—THC’s nonpsychoactive cousin that has proven to be comparatively more palatable to public opinion—has been especially fundamental in making cannabis mainstream. CBD’s ability to upgrade just about any consumer good—or at least make it relevant—has made the compound a driving force in the cannabis industry, with the hemp-CBD industry alone predicted to hit $22 billion by 2022.
In Name Alone “Cannabis” Can Have an Effect
Once it proved good for business, it was only a matter of time before cannabis became mainstream. It’s not just the stock prices of companies that grow, process and sell marijuana that have been rising. Companies that traditionally have zero correlation with cannabis have seen their shares double or even triple due to expressing plans to enter the emerging legal cannabis market. Bloomberg highlighted this phenomenon in an article aptly titled, “Mention Cannabis. Watch Your Stock Surge.” It describes how Advantis, an over-the-counter packaging company gained 22 percent on an agreement to package cannabis-infused gummy edibles, how Corbus Pharmaceuticals surged 54 percent after saying it licenses approximately 600 compounds that target the same system in the human body affected by cannabis, and how Zika-drugmaker Intrexon saw a 32 percent gain after announcing it had engineered a yeast strain to extract cannabinoids for medical use.
Taking a Deep Drink of Cannabis
One of the most salient examples of mainstream businesses dipping their toes into the cannabis space has been the beverage industry. When detox beverage brand and Instagram sensation Dirty Lemon introduced its CBD line, it reported new customer growth 60% higher than any other product launch. Now bigger players are hoping to cash in on cannabis-infused drinks. Especially as beer companies are becoming wary that the emergence of legal cannabis will cut into their market share, they’re looking into new ways to stay relevant to consumers. Heineken’s Lagunitas brand has launched a non-alcoholic sparkling water featuring THC. Blue Moon creator Keith Villa is releasing the first THC-infused beer (a Belgian-style white ale), set to hit the shelves of Colorado dispensaries next month. Constellation Brands, the parent company of Corona and Svedka vodka, announced in August that it had invested $4 billion in Canopy Growth, a publicly traded Canadian cannabis producer, less than a year after taking a 10% stake to develop a line of nonalcoholic, cannabis-infused drinks. “As the leader in the total beverage alcohol space, we look forward to reaping the benefits of our cannabis investment, which we see as incremental to our core beer, wine and spirits portfolio,” Constellation Brands CEO Robert Sands told analysts in August, according to The Times. Not to be outdone, the global leader in beverages, Coca-Cola, is reportedly exploring infusing beverages with CBD.
Beauty is in the eye of CBD
Beauty giant Estée Lauder made their move into with their launch of CBD-infused products via sub-brand Origins. Their celadon green face mask contains cannabis sativa seed oil derived from hemp (rather than cannabis), which provides “nourishing benefits” to help condition the skin via oil-rich fatty acids. Origins is not the first, nor will it be the last, beauty company to celebrate the benefits of CBD. The Body Shop has a variety of products infused with hemp, retailer Sephora offers a growing number of CBD/cannabis/hemp products, and Lord Jones’ CBD body lotion has gained a devoted cult audience. CBD can be found in everything from face masks and body washes, to mascaras, lip balms and bath salts.
Big Tobacco Takes a Hit
Considering that several major beverage brands have dived head-first into cannabis, it comes as a bit of surprise that big tobacco, an industry poised to be greatly affected by the global increase in cannabis use, has been slow to pivot. To date, only a few tobacco giants have made public entreaties to the cannabis industry. In 2016, Philip Morris International invested $20 million into a manufacturer of medical cannabis inhalers, and has further staked IP claims on vape pens and other related products. More recently, U.K.-based tobacco giant Imperial Brands, makers of the Kool and Winston cigarette brands, invested in medical cannabis research firm Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies. As cannabis legalization spreads worldwide, its likely more tobacco companies will see the writing on the wall and get their share.
Coming Soon … Cannabis Everywhere?
Few consumer spaces are left untouched as businesses seek to capitalize on the legal cannabis market. As new innovative products that meld everyday consumption with this once polarizing plant are created to satisfy growing demand, cannabis will continue its rise as a mainstream entity. In a world where cannabis-themed stocking stuffers are hot-ticket items on every holiday gift guide and CBD gummy bears are available on Groupon, it’s just a matter of time before the mention of cannabis raises only stock prices, not eyebrows.