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A year after adult-use cannabis legalization, new and diverse product formats arrived on the shelves of legal retail outlets. We could now touch, feel, smell, taste, drink, vape, or apply cannabis. The second most important factor affecting our purchase decisions after quality is format. Despite obstacles, this wave helped consumers, retailers, and brands achieve new milestones. The pandemic allowed legal online retail to flourish and pre-rolls, vapes and edibles emerged as popular formats.
When technology and cannabis intersect to offer real-time consumer data, we can create better quality products and medicine. Virtual clinical trials on the blockchain, AI-powered data mining and the internet of things improved the efficacy of medical cannabis. Shoppers Drug Mart, TruTrace Technologies and Audacia Bioscience broke new ground in advancing consumer and patient insights. Audacia’s Women’s Health Study tapped into specific uses and effects of cannabis consumption on women’s wellness. Analyzing cannabis uses and effects across demographic groups is important as younger cohorts tend to use cannabis to manage psychological symptoms while the older age-groups consume cannabis for relief from physical ailments, as per a report by Toronto-based market research company, Vividata that analyzed data collected from over 5,000 respondents.
Once we learn about compounds besides THC and CBD (there are about hundreds of cannabinoids in cannabis), we can scope new breakthroughs. Seventy percent of consumers express confusion between THC and CBD, according to Vividata. This fourth wave will be about creating new formulations of compounds to find treatments for major illnesses and curating recreational experiences that rely on varied “entourage effects” to deliver relief. THCA (known for anti-nausea), CBDA (likely to inhibit cell migration in aggressive breast cancer), CBN (anti-inflammatory), CBG (anti-depressant) are few examples of compounds we haven’t yet harnessed or experienced.
Perched between Cannabis 2.0 and 3.0 of product innovation and tech-advancement, and in the middle of a pandemic with reinstated control measures albeit rising cases and isolation-fatigue, commerce continues, and product quality remains the top catalyst for cannabis consumers. Illicit market cannabis use is on the decline but has not disappeared.
Meanwhile, health and wellness use has soared, normalizing cannabis along with retail innovation. Valued at $4.3 billion annually, health and wellness cannabis targets four in 10 Canadians using cannabis as a potential remedy for depression and other ailments.
As we ride the next two waves of cannabis-powered wellness and innovation, we must track and deploy trusted technologies and science for responsible use and a safer future.
Arundati Dandapani, MLITT, CMRP, is the founder ofGeneration1.caand chief editor at Canada’s Marketing Research and Intelligence Association.