Future of cannabis: 25 ways the industry could change

Published on September 8, 2023 by David Wylie

Cannabis trends include better technology, like drones Photo: Adobe stock/the oz.
Advances in agricultural technology has an impact on cannabis.

Cannabis kiosks? Farm drones? A global weed economy?

We compiled 25 ways the cannabis industry might evolve in the coming decades as it matures into a world market shaped by increasingly cutting-edge technology and more years of research. Some of these changes may depend on regulatory changes, consumer trends, and technological advances.

Here’s the oz.’s list of potential developments that could shape the future of cannabis in the coming decades.

1. True global expansion: As an increasing number of countries legalize recreational and medical cannabis, the industry will expand globally and new markets will open up for cannabis products and services. Cannabis will start to cross international borders legally, including through airport duty free shops, just like alcohol.

2. Smart packaging: Individual packages will have tracking technology so companies know where they’ve been purchased and where they end up. This will help with inventory control and marketing.

3. Robot farming: Artificial intelligence will use data from sensors to control everything in the grow rooms, from lighting, to watering, to nutrients. It will help increase yields and potency.

4. Consolidation on a massive scale: Expect big companies to continue swallowing small companies until huge behemoth cannabis corporations span the globe. This will include companies in other industries engulfing cannabis companies to diversify their holdings.

5. More medical applications: As more research is conducted on the medicinal properties of cannabis, there will be more medical applications for the plant will emerge, including the development of new treatments.

6. Mainstream acceptance: Pot’s positive impact on economies and as a growing part of the medical system will continue to generate positive and neutral press that will chip away at reefer madness. People will see that legalization doesn’t lead to the sky falling.

Photo: Contributed
James Franco and Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express. Cannabis will appear more in popular culture.

7. Pot in popular culture: Cannabis will have a growing place in popular culture. As more kids see cannabis in the household (and in movies, shows, and books), it will be normalized.

8. Spread of cannabinoids: CBD, and other cannabinoids, will be deregulated and then integrated into a wider range of products and services, such as smoothies, beauty products, and spa treatments.

9. Personalization: Consumer preferences will become more refined, opening pockets for personalized cannabis products and services, tailored to individual needs and preferences.

10. Social consumption: As more jurisdictions allow for public consumption of cannabis, we’ll see more cannabis lounges and cafes emerge where people can consume cannabis in a social setting.

11. Environmental sustainability: Concerns about climate change and environmental sustainability grow as the crisis deepens. Environmentally-friendly farming and packaging practices, such as regenerative farming and the use of renewable energy sources, will become standard.

12. New markets for hemp: While cannabis is typically associated with its psychoactive properties, the hemp plant has a wide range of industrial uses, from textiles and construction materials to biofuels and bioplastics. Cannabis is chic and easy to grow so we’ll see new markets emerge for hemp-based products.

Future of cannabis will include lab work Photo: Adobe stock/the oz.
Research and development will play a large part in the future of cannabis.

13. Research and development: As more resources are invested in cannabis research, there will be more discoveries and innovations that will shape the industry. This could include new cannabinoids, novel delivery methods, and more efficient cultivation techniques.

12. Social justice: A growing awareness of social justice issues related to drug prohibition and a desire to see reparation culminate in better efforts to address the negative impacts that drug prohibition has had on marginalized communities, and to promote equity and inclusion in the cannabis industry.

13. Regulation and standardization: As the cannabis industry grows, there will be more standardized regulations and quality control measures put in place to ensure consistency and safety.

14. Cannabis tourism: More legalized countries means more cannabis tourism opportunity. Tourism associations will start to focus on the cannabis experiences that each region has to offer.

15. There’s an app for that: There aren’t very many apps targeted at cannabis consumers and apps that allow bluetooth control over vapes are outlawed. That will change and apps that track dosage and effects, online marketplaces, and community review apps will spring up.

16. New consumption methods: As the industry evolves, we could see new and innovative consumption methods for cannabis emerge, such as transdermal patches, inhalers, and sublingual sprays.

17. Novel applications for terpenes: Terpenes, which are natural compounds found in cannabis, have been shown to have a variety of potential health benefits, and may be used in a wider range of products beyond cannabis, such as aromatherapy and skincare.

18. Changes to legal frameworks: As the legal landscape around cannabis evolves, we may see changes to how cannabis is regulated and taxed, which will impact the overall growth and health of the industry and its players.

The future of cannabis includes blockchain Photo: Adobe stock/the oz.
Blockchain technology can help alleviate some issues associated with payment processing, with cryptocurrencies reducing cash transactions.

19. More focus on education: As cannabis becomes more widely used, it is likely that we will see a greater emphasis on education, both for consumers and for healthcare professionals. This could include initiatives such as public awareness campaigns, industry training programs, and continuing education for medical professionals.

20. Increased public and private investment: As the industry matures and becomes more mainstream, we may see an increase in public and private investment in cannabis, both in terms of funding for startups and research, and in terms of mergers and acquisitions by larger companies looking to enter the market.

21. Integration with blockchain technology: A new industry itself, blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the cannabis industry. Some cannabis businesses have already integrated blockchain tech and tools to verify plant authenticity and lab results. Cryptocurrencies allow for cash-less transactions, as banking remains standoffish to pot companies.

22. New breeding techniques: As cannabis breeding techniques become more advanced, we may see the development of new and unique strains that offer specific benefits, such as pain relief or anxiety reduction.

23. Increasing focus on intellectual property: With the development of new strains and products, it is likely that we will see more emphasis on intellectual property protection, with companies working to patent their innovations and protect their brands.

24. More opportunities for social entrepreneurship: With the increasing focus on social justice and equity in the cannabis industry, it is possible that we will see more opportunities for social entrepreneurship, where businesses can prioritize social impact alongside profitability.

25. Budtender-less stores: We already use tablets to explore products we can purchase, these could be connected to an automated system that would dispense your order after payment.