Cannabis Technology Opportunities: What’s Coming This Decade?

Cannabis technology opportunities will continue to grow in the coming years with Gartner reporting that technology trends across all industries fall under three unique themes: people centricity, location independence, and resilient delivery. In other words, technology of the future must digitize processes so people can work and interact in the current environment regardless of disruptions (e.g., a global pandemic) or their locations.

A separate study by Forrester, Top Trends and Emerging Technologies, Q3 2020, echoed some of the same technology predictions as the Gartner report. Key trends identified by Forrester include a rising demand for ethical artificial intelligence and improving employee experience to address what Forrester predicts will become a permanent increase in remote work (leveling off at a 300% increase from pre-pandemic levels).

These trends are extremely important for the cannabis industry where technology affects every part of the supply chain from big data and cultivation to sales, delivery, and everything in between.

As marijuana laws continue to loosen in states across the country, new business opportunities will continue to open. This includes opportunities for new cannabis technology to transform the industry and existing technology to evolve and expand.

The biggest opportunities for cannabis technology this decade focus on three critical areas:

  • Solving industry problems
  • Meeting consumer needs
  • Streamlining business operations and boosting ROI

With the predictions from Forrester and Garner in mind and considering the unique opportunities for the cannabis industry, let’s take a closer look at some of the most significant technology trends to watch for in the future.

Extraction and Delivery Methods

Cannabis consumer preferences are changing as the stigmas associated with marijuana fade and broader audiences become active users. For example, both the senior and female consumer markets for cannabis products are growing, and these consumers have different preferences for how they consume marijuana. As a result, the demand for delivery methods other than smoking, vaping, and dabbing is increasing.

With a growing demand for new delivery methods comes an opportunity to develop cannabis technology that will transform extraction. Ultrasonic extraction and nano-encapsulation technology has been a hot topic in the cannabis industry for some time now, and with the skyrocketing popularity of CBD products, developing this technology in order to provide new ways to consume cannabinoids in a safe and consistent manner should be a priority.

Cannabis extraction technology will also play an important part in new product development – particularly for edibles and new forms of delivery – to meet the growing consumer demand for quick onset, predictable dosing.

Automation and Artificial Intelligence

Technology could help the cash flow problem that has impacted many cannabis companies in a variety of ways. Data shows that automation can have a significant effect on a company’s bottom-line. This is true across the supply chain. For example, cultivation automation can decrease manual labor hours by as much as 80% in a grow facility.

Today, cannabis growth can be monitored using automated grow apps. This technology integrates artificial intelligence to improve harvests and reduce costs. Scott Campbell, CEO of METER Group, explains that his company’s technology achieves this by finding ways to, “give people the tools that improve on [the processes] that they have right now and ... replace whiteboards with task lists or feeding schedules with an automated process.” The goal is to improve cultivation results and business results.

Drone technology for hemp crops has grown in popularity recently. Today, farmers use drones to save time and money. Drones can fly over crops and provide information for compliance reporting, data on crop nutrient deficiencies, problem areas, yield estimates, and more. Using data mapping, some drones can even release predatory insects across large areas. 

In dispensaries, vending machines could automate sales using artificial intelligence to link a barcode, an app that scans a customer’s government issued identification, and takes a 180-degree video capture. Using facial recognition technology, the customer’s identity is verified as matching their photo identification card and the transaction can proceed.

From a sales perspective, artificial intelligence has been built into mobile apps, chatbots, websites, and more. Cannabiz Media has added a variety of automation and artificial intelligence features to the Cannabiz Media License Database for sales and marketing to make it even more powerful and effective for subscribers who want to connect with cannabis license holders at the perfect time to grow their businesses. 

In addition, Cannabiz Media’s Cannabiz Intelligence provides comprehensive cannabis and hemp license holder financial analysis data, M&A targeting, and valuations. Using built-in artificial intelligence, users can even simulate deal transactions.

It’s important to note that the growth of artificial intelligence has brought new concerns as well as positive effects according to both the Forrester and Gartner reports.

Today, both consumers and employees expect companies to use artificial intelligence responsibly. There is an increasing call for ethical artificial intelligence, and companies will need to commit to ethical and responsible data collection, handling, and sharing, which includes only working with partners that share the same ethical commitments.

Scaling and Integration

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, companies need to adapt and be prepared to scale – sometimes very rapidly. That means savvy tech leaders will be forward-thinking and put the pieces in place now to accommodate rapid scaling in order to seize new opportunities as they arise.

Furthermore, with the growth of the cannabis industry comes more opportunities for the best technology providers to rise to the top of the pack. Integration across technology platforms will become the norm as employees and consumers will expect software and processes to connect seamlessly.

Many cannabis technology companies are already aware of the need to scale and integrate in order to gain a competitive advantage and meet user needs. Karen Mayberry, co-founder and CMO of cannabis technology company Trym, explains, “Technology solutions are getting more and more sophisticated. The Trym platform is now really, really scalable, and I think integrations are going to be really exciting. We want to integrate with a ton of partners.”

Environment and Sustainability

The environment, sustainability, and both water and electricity conservation have long been sources of discussion in the cannabis industry. Fortunately, cannabis technology has solved some of the problems, but there are still opportunities for technology to do more.

For example, using LED lighting at grow facilities has definitely helped reduce some electricity consumption, but there is a significant opportunity for new technology like electricity storage.

Similarly, there have been technological innovations around cannabis product packaging with a number of eco-friendly packaging solutions available today, but the reality is that massive amounts of paper and plastic are wasted across the cannabis supply chain every day. Again, a big opportunity is waiting for an affordable technological solution.

Privacy and Customer Data

First we had GDPR, and then, we had CCPA with many more privacy regulations to come.

The European Union implemented new privacy regulations in May 2018 called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and by the end of 2019, the law generated $126 million in fines. Under the new laws, companies that met specific criteria related to doing business in the European Union had to start complying with strict privacy rules.

In 2020, enhanced privacy rules debuted in multiple states across the U.S. For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was passed in 2018 and went into effect on January 1, 2020. Enforcement of the new law began on July 1, 2020, so companies had to quickly put processes in place to ensure they were compliant.

CCPA set strict rules around how companies can use people’s personal information, and it’s expected that more states will follow with their own enhanced privacy laws in the future. It’s also expected that some of those laws will be even more comprehensive than California’s law.

Companies in the cannabis industry will need technology to help them map customer data, manage third-party relationships, develop compliant tracking processes, and automate those processes. At this point, the opportunity for a technology solution is wide open.

Key Takeaways about Cannabis Technology Coming This Decade

This decade will be filled with new cannabis technology launches. There are certainly problems to solve and needs to fulfill. We’re already seeing technologies from other industries transition into the cannabis industry, and new cannabis technology debuts all the time. The best, most agile technology will have the greatest chance to succeed and stay in this industry for the long-term.

To learn more about the technology that powers the Cannabiz Media License Database and Cannabiz Intelligence, schedule a demo and see how the data and tools can help you reach your goals.

Originally published 2/18/20. Updated 10/8/21.

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