When Jim Patterson became the CEO of Eaze, an app service that allows medical marijuana patients to purchase home-delivered cannabis products from 100 different dispensaries across California, 80 percent of the marijuana products purchased through the app consisted of raw flower. But nearly three years after launching the app in 2014, Eaze’s 250,000-strong clientele have started spending their money on edibles, concentrates and vaporizers, sending marijuana flower sales tumbling down to 50 percent.
“The biggest trend in marijuana overall is the decline in the percentage of flower – the actual plant that can be rolled or put in a pipe that you light on fire and inhale. That type of product is in pretty rapid decline, and we’re seeing the rise of products like edibles and vaporizer concentrates,” Patterson told International Business Times.
For some people, rolling a joint can be a relaxing process all within itself. Deciding whether to zen out with Granddaddy Purple indica or get a little trippy with a Super Silver Haze sativa strain, followed by refining cannabis buds with an elegantly designed premium metal Kannastör grinder, then rolling it all up in Zig Zag Ultra Thin cigarette papers, can become a routine leading to more feelings of euphoria than the actual act of smoking marijuana. But these days, more cannabis consumers are enjoying their pot without coming in contact with marijuana flowers or buds at all.
Consumers spent more than $6.9 billion dollars in the legal marijuana market in 2016, according to ArcView Market Research’s January report. ArcView, an investment network that has analyzed and tracked marijuana-related investments and trends since 2013, forecast cannabis sales to reach upward $21.6 billion in North America by 2021. However, the firm noted while the majority of those billions may come from marijuana flower sales, other types of cannabis products like edibles and particularly concentrates are continuing to gain popularity among consumers, especially in the marijuana industry's three biggest recreational markets, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.
In Colorado, ArcView’s report found traditional flower sales were down by roughly 56 percent while sales of concentrates like dabs, budder and cannabis oils quadrupled in 2016, accounting for more than $80 million, or 22 percent worth of sales, a far cry from the more than 13 percent of the market concentrates accounted for back in 2014 when Colorado first went completely legal. As for cannabis-infused edibles, including candy, beverages, tinctures and food, sales in Colorado represented about 14 percent of the market, grossing more than $53 million in the third quarter.
In Washington, 21 percent of sales were from concentrates in 2016. In Oregon, 19 percent of marijuana sales came from concentrates and edibles, which the state only started allowing dispensaries to sale in July. A separate report by Marijuana Business Daily said concentrates and edibles represented about 30 percent of total legal marijuana sales in 2016 while edibles and concentrates only represented 24 percent of the market in Colorado and 15.3 percent of the market in Washington in 2015.
Concentrates like dabs date back to the 1970s, but have been steadily gaining popularity especially within the medical marijuana community due to its incredibly potent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels that lead to an instant and powerful high. Concentrates, often referred to as shatter, wax, honey oil or honeycomb because of its sticky candle-wax like texture, are made by heating marijuana soaked in solvents and can be four times as strong as a joint. Depending on the solvent and how the plants are extracted, the concentrate could result in an oil form, which could also be smoked through vaporizers.
“Concentrates are the fastest growing category [in the industry] right now. Those vape pens with the cartridges, processed wax and shatter, which people use to dab… As people become more and more familiar with the cannabis industry and less intimidated by something like a dab rig, we do see concentrates becoming the fastest growing category,” Joel Milton, CEO of Baker, a software platform designed specifically for dispensaries to manage customers, track their purchases and monitor their interests.
Baker is used by over 200 dispensaries across the U.S, giving Milton and his 23-person team a macro view of the marijuana-purchasing landscape. Data from the nine states where Baker’s software is used already show cannabis enthusiasts being 43 percent more interested in learning about and trying out concentrates in 2017.
Edibles, which have been gaining mass attention since marijuana started becoming more mainstream, are having their own renaissance within the industry as developers have started to roll out a variety of products containing lower doses of THC that seem to be especially popular among people who aren’t necessarily looking to get stoned.
“There’s really kind of two markets for edibles,” said Eric Gaston, co-founder of The Evergreen Market, which landed a spot on marijuana and dispensary rating site Leafly’s top-trending dispensaries in Washington list. “You’ve got the medical market which historically has been very high dosage of medication, like a brownie with 80 or 100 milligrams of THC in it. Then there’s the new marijuana users or people who are curious about marijuana who may be a little intimidated by high levels of THC, and we’re seeing more and more products that are a much lower [dosage] for them. So instead of 80 milligrams of brownie we’re seeing products that are 2.5 milligrams per product, like a box of mints or hard candies.”
While 2.5 milligrams isn't nearly enough THC to provide relief for medical patients, smaller dose edibles give recreational users the ability to microdose, Gaston said, or consume something that contains less THC but is still capable of producing a slight lift. The small dosage won't lead to an overwhelming high, but if the buzz is not strong enough, a consumer would have the option to just pop another mint, for instance, at their choosing instead of eating something incredibly potent that could result in a longlasting high.
Gaston said flower sales still represented about 60 to 70 percent of The Evergreen Market’s total sales, but noted that there was definitely an apparent uptick in purchases of low dose edibles and products that don’t actually require customers to smoke or inhale vapor.
“If you think of the more casual market, for example, people who use cannabis to help them sleep or to help relieve stress – the reality is those people don’t actually want to get high. They’re not using it to get high, they’re using it to help them relax, to help destress, in the same way that they might have a glass or two of wine after a day of work. What they’re looking for is much more moderately or low dose products,” said Patterson from the Eaze app.
Microdosing isn’t just limited to edibles. It also spills over into the world of concentrates, too, with products such as cannabis inhalers that provide a 10 milligram dose of THC.
“The proliferation of ideas and technology in this space is absolutely staggering," Noah Rubin, editor and chief of MERRY JANE, a cannabis culture and news site created by Snoop Dogg and Ted Chung, told IBT. "And honestly, having grown up as a kid who smoked joints and ate a weed brownie every now and again, compared to today where there’s a full array of consumer products and ways to consume, it’s really impressive.”