How Marijuana Will Change the Food Industry
Food is a huge contributor to the billion dollar cannabis industry.
Published on September 25, 2015


Cannabis and food go hand in hand and it should seem almost obvious that the culinary industry was inevitably going to be shaken up by the high art of cooking with the herb. With the help of many online resources, many of those who had to resort to buying dry brownies from sketchy sources can now cater to their own personal cravings—quite literally.

Edibles are no longer limited to these basic desserts; rather, herb extracts have made their way into the kitchens of professionals who have taken things to another level entirely.

More Options for Consumers

The food aspect of the cannabis industry is just an extension of the current food industry. Think of it simply in the context of competing products, such as when an inorganic, GMO product is put up against an organic, sustainable product. While they may differ in value, both products are still competing in the same market, albeit aimed at different audiences.

The same logic applies to marijuana-infused food and more commonplace snacks. The variety of options helps, not just because it’s a new way to experience the effects of the flower for marijuana enthusiasts, but because it gives consumers more choice. With more choice, generally comes a higher quality product because of competition in the market. 

And this competition is becoming fierce, quickly. With Colorado selling nearly five million edibles alone in 2014, it’s safe to say that the edible industry is a burgeoning market. As demand for edibles (like candies, drinks and baked goods) increases, as will the options, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the current food industry—you won't just have different types of potato chips to choose from, you'll have to choose what experience you want from your food, too.

Of course, it's likely that the food industry (versus the beverage industry) will be disrupted first by these new options, just due to sheer knowledge and popularity. That isn't to say, though, that drinks and candies aren't on the rise as well—several companies we touch on below are also on the rise.

Giving people more choice allows for a shake up in the industry—not due to the superiority of the product, but rather the unique preferences of an individual.

Expansion of New Businesses

A great example of an up-and-comer in the edibles (and drinkables) industry is Dixie Elixirs. This Colorado-based company sells marijuana-infused products such as truffles, chocolate bars, mints, juices and many more. The recent legalization of cannabis allowed them to expand their practices to sell to recreational users, which is a shift considering they started by catering to the medicinal market in California.

Dixie supplies to a niche, but still competes against other chocolate makers, juice companies, and marijuana extract companies. The consumer now has an additional choice that they never considered before—not just another flavor, but another experience entirely. It’s this experience that will allow the marijuana industry to penetrate the market and change the food industry.

With Dixie being a prime example, other companies in the landscape are following in its sleekly packaged footprint in that they're actually legit. Not just meaning that these products are legal (which they are, where they're sold), but also alluding to the fact that their packaging and product are on point too. Take for example Mirth Provisions (cannabis-infused edibles and drinkables), Auntie Dolores (cannabis oil snacks) and Cheeba Chews (chocolate taffy). These companies are also competing against similar products that already exist in the market, giving consumers more options, as mentioned above, and adding more variety to the average eating and drinking experience.

Cannabis Clubs and Cafes

In addition to cannabis-centric businesses, like Dixie Elixirs, comes the development of lounge-style marijuana dispensaries, like the Have a Heart Cafe and dispensary in Seattle. Have a Heart provides marijuana users with a variety of cannabis-infused products, from topicals to edibles, in a cafe/lounge atmosphere. Users can sit back, relax and enjoy their edibles with other like-minded individuals, much like any coffee shop experience, again providing consumers with yet another option.

There is also Club Ned Cafe in Colorado, America’s first legal Cannabis Club. Adults from all walks of life are invited to consume cannabis in a safe, interactive and educational space—plus they provide food, beverages and entertainment. Opening a club of this nature is tricky (public consumption of cannabis is still technically illegal, tourists and residents alike are generally bound to consumption within the privacy of a local home) but with marijuana sales booming, the demand for cannabis-user-friendly environments is booming as well. There will be a vote this fall to decide if private businesses will be able to allow adult cannabis consumption (providing it is consumed in areas not viewable to the public and users are 21 and older). If this vote passes, many marijuana users in the state of Colorado will be rethinking their hangout spots, which will likely have an impact on other non-marijuana-friendly cafes and lounges in the area—especially if these new cannabis clubs follow in Club Ned Cafe’s footsteps.

Of course, the addition of clubs and cafes would just add to the culinary scene of any city, but it goes to show that there is demand for this budding industry.

Another budding aspect? Places that serve up marijuana-infused foods. Take for example Mega iLL in Vancouver, Canada. This pizza shop, sitting next to a dispensary, dab bar and lounge called Mega Chill, serves up medicated pizza. Though their pies are intended for patients, the fact that a cannabis-infused pizzeria exists speaks to the high-growth nature of the industry. Another example of bud-oriented food being served up in a more traditional environment is The Samich Truck. Though this was a short-term promotion for Magical Butter, this cannabis-forward food truck capitalized on two trends: mobile eateries and marijuana. We can't help but think cannabis food trucks will only grow in popularity as legalization sweeps across more states.

Cannabis Culinary

The use of THC extract in the kitchen is gaining traction, so much so that there is an Iron Chef-like TV show based off of this specific cuisine. While this might seem silly to many foodies, it’s actually a real market for those in the industry. People are starting to take cooking with cannabis very seriously, and therefore we may soon see a lot more innovation in the sector, much like there is in any new and exciting industry. If it were completely legal, we wouldn’t be surprised to see marijuana-based options in fine dining restaurants or fast food joints in Denver by now.

Even when there is complete legalization, there are still quite a number of restrictions that people would have to adhere to when cooking products with cannabis. There are certain ways the product can be sold or transported from store to store, as well as restrictions on where you can consume it, among other specifications. This means cannabis isn't likely to be sold at Costco just yet.

With these restrictions in place, the impact that the marijuana industry will have on the food industry will remain minimal—for now. With the proven ability of cannabis enthusiasts, these regulations could be loosened or rewritten, allowing businesses to grow and a massive sub-industry to manifest. Traditional food and beverage industry, take note. The world of marijuana edibles and drinkables is definitely set to shake things up.

MERRY JANE is based in Los Angeles, California and is dedicated to elevating the discussion around cannabis culture.
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