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Canna Aid

High Hopes: Cannabis Predictions for the Next Decade

Peering through a haze-filled crystal ball, our predictions reveal the high-flying future of cannabis over the next decade.

By Matt Weeks

It’s been almost 10 years since the Pew Research Center first reported a majority of Americans were in favor of legalizing cannabis. Since then, the industry has seen more growth, innovation, and acceptance than at any time in its 30-year history (or thousand, depending on your scope).

Once the purview of the counterculture, cannabis has gone mainstream. New products, like CBD gummies and Delta 8 vapes, have widened the industry’s appeal just enough for legalization to get its foot in the door.

And while no one could have foreseen dab rigs, THC-laced carbonated water, and the continuous, high-quality output of Seth Rogen, they’ve all become welcome additions to the family. So, in the spirit of those impossible accomplishments, here are seven (well, six and a half) predictions for what we’ll see over the next decade.

Prediction 1: Research Will Get Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

When President Joe Biden signed the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansions Act into law in December 2022, he effectively rewrote the rules on cannabis research.

The new law put in place provisions that will supercharge cannabis research in a few important ways. First, it strips the University of Mississippi of its monopoly on supplying research cannabis. A deeper roster of suppliers will provide researchers with access to higher-quality samples that will open new doors in research. For the first time, scientists will study high-THC strains, examine fresh cannabis buds, and compare how similar strains grown miles apart differ.

And that’s just the start. The new rules will allow for more robust, efficient, and effective research in all sorts of cannabis-related realms.

But let’s be clear: unclogging the bottleneck isn’t likely to bring new cannabis-based drugs to the consumer market by 2033. However, what it will do is just as consequential. Better research will further our understanding of cannabis and the human body, capture consumer attention, legitimize cannabis within the medical community, and point drugmakers down more effective avenues.

Prediction 2: Investor Confidence Won’t Crumble

The mid-air turbulence of the cannabis industry’s flight toward sustainability will continue, so keep your seatbelts fastened (and maybe pop some CBD to relax).

In the next decade, headlines proclaiming the death of the cannabis business will certainly proliferate, but Chicken Littles are wrong to fear a reckoning. Investors won’t be clamoring for their parachutes. Even as some market corrections determine a few winners and losers, the well-heeled crowd will continue to pump money into cannabis ventures.

Why? Because the promise of a massive payout is just too great to resist. Whichever Wall Street hustler founds the Amazon of cannabis will rake in a disgusting of amount of money and will probably lodge themselves firmly in American pop culture right beside Elon Musk. That’s enough payoff to keep the faucet flowing for at least 10 years.

Prediction 3: A Better Mousetrap is Coming

In the beginning, there were pipes. And they were good.

But as hippie culture grew, mid-century manufacturing techniques allowed for the proliferation of new ideas, like rolling papers and glass bongs. Then college-aged stoners pioneered found-object engineering practices, leading to the development of smoking devices made from household detritus like hollowed-out apples and Coke cans. 

However, nothing compares to our current Golden era of cannabis technology. Vaporizers, gummy candies, dab rigs, sodas, and dermal patches have given medical patients and recreational users new, more efficient, and safer ways to partake.

Far from bucking the trend, the next 10 years will produce an unrivaled exploration of weed-delivery options. New technology will range from the imminent (THC-laced breakfast cereals and dino nuggets) to the bizarre (teeth whitening strips?) to as-yet unimaginable (bathroom air fresheners that mist CBD).

Prediction 4: Things Will Get Personal

The effects of cannabis are simply too powerful not to follow the path of the paramedical business. Taking a cue from quasi-scientific promises, the next decade will offer consumers hyper-personalized recommendations for cannabis strains, delivery devices, and dosages.

Through genetic tests, personal gurus, and internet quizzes, a sub-industry of catering to personal tastes will bloom. Imagine: a personalized strain, named in your honor, promising to cure your very specific ailments. Or a licensed cannabis coach whose $500 fee includes a three-week dosing plan to improve sleep, reduce muscle soreness, and unlock your creativity.

Prediction 5: The Names Will Improve

Cannabis strain names are AWFUL.

The cheeky names for cannabis strains and products have been part of a long and storied tradition. Unfortunately, they get worse by the day. While names like White Widow and Sour Diesel were once semi-descriptive and harmlessly irreverent, the de-evolution has led us to sophomoric monikers, like Monkey Balls or MILF.

As the industry professionalizes, it will bend the knee to inclusivity. The days of users trying to pronounce names like “Zkittlez” will be over, replaced by naming conventions that appeal to wider audiences and those looking for specific effects. Imagine someone’s great aunt wants a little cannabis to help her sleep. Will she choose Bubba Kush or Plush Slumber?

Of course, the other shoe will drop. Suggested change: “We’ll see celebrity-sponsored strains, corporate tie-ins, and services that provide “one-of-a-kind” varietals for weddings. This will all get tiring, too. But at least it’ll be different. 

Prediction 6: We’ll Start Asking the Right Questions

The future of cannabis’s legality is no longer a question of “if.” It’s hardly a question of when. The real question is how.

We’ve already reached the tipping point of the issue the moment it gained a critical mass acceptance. According to Gallup, 2020 marked the first time that a plurality of Americans in every demographic approve of cannabis legalization (at a total rate of 58 percent in favor of recreational legalization). As that number continues to grow, it’s hard to picture any executive branch—progressive or backwards—can long hold out against the coming tide.

So, the talk of when is just fluff. Preseason speculation. Texas tea. Cannabis legalization is marching on with the force of a juggernaut, imminent in all its hazy glory.

Cannabis is hardly controversial. On the scale of Thanksgiving topics likely to cause a rift in the family, legalization rates below veganism, driverless Ubers, and giving poor kids a free breakfast at school (really).

But the question of how cannabis will be legalized (such as whether it will include license caps, anti-corporate measures, criminal justice reforms, and/or allow for home growth) will come to dominate our discussions.

Prediction 7: Infighting Will Get Worse

In the before time, when things were simpler, and we were younger, there were two sides to the Great Cannabis Debate. You were either pro- or anti-legalization.

Now, as the pro-cannabis side expands, its big tent has made room for a million little factions. And they’ve got plenty of differences to quibble over.

In a sense, this is already happening. The “Suits vs. Roots” debate torpedoed Arkansas’s 2022 bid for legalization.

When the issue came before voters, progressive-leaning cannabis enthusiasts chafed at the bill’s proposal to limit new dispensaries and allow the already established medical cannabis industry to dominate the recreational market. Further, the measure didn’t address the social justice aspect of legalization. Those in prison for cannabis-related crimes would continue to stay behind bars with no hope of finding their way back into the industry. In the end, 56 percent of voters checked “No.”

We can look for more of this in the future. When we start asking more complicated questions, we’ll get messier answers that require tough compromises. Even if we all want to order a pizza, how long will it take us to decide on toppings?

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