Where Is The Cannabis Industry Headed In 2022?

Ross Lipson is CEO and Co-Founder at Dutchie, the technology platform powering cannabis commerce. 

The best — and only — way to predict the future is to shape it. With every sector of the cannabis industry doing its part to move it forward, from consumers and cultivators to distributors and dispensaries, I have every reason to believe cannabis will accelerate positively in 2022.

Cannabis is one of the fastest-growing industries, globally. In 2021, governments across the world took steps toward legalization and investors doubled down (paywall) on backing the technology that is helping to propel the industry forward.

The industry thrived despite an ongoing global pandemic, a supply chain nightmare and stalled progress on policies proposed to modernize the industry at the federal level. With the inevitable positive change on those fronts and a record-high percentage of Americans supporting legalization, the industry has the conditions in place to keep soaring to new heights in the coming year.

As a cannabis technology company co-founder and CEO, here is my forecast for what we can expect for the industry in 2022:

Outdated Stereotypes Finally Start To Fade Away

The “dazed and confused” depiction of cannabis consumers has persisted even as leaders worldwide have recognized its positive impacts and health benefits. I believe that will change substantially in the year to come.

New data from my company, Dutchie, could help set the record straight about who cannabis consumers actually are. A study of 5,000 adult cannabis consumers in the U.S. and Canada revealed that today’s consumers — the majority of whom we found are women — are successful, highly educated and health-conscious, which is quite the opposite of traditional stereotypes people often hear about. One FlowHub study points out the increasing diversification of cannabis consumers as well. The industry leaders who realize and embrace who the modern cannabis consumers are will be in a strong position for further growth.

Companies must play a more active role in empowering these college-educated, health-conscious consumers to find the cannabis experience that’s right for them, especially as more consumers view cannabis as an integral part of their health and wellness routine. Richer product descriptions, like terpene and cannabinoid profiles, will become a consumer expectation. As such, cannabis businesses can and should take steps to enable customers to look past simply buying the product with the highest THC percentage or buying solely on basic descriptors (i.e., Sativa vs. Indica).

Providing A “Normal” Shopping Experience For Customers

Even with legal sales hitting $24 billion and legalization spreading like wildfire, cannabis dispensaries are hamstrung by outdated regulations as they strive to provide safe, compliant and modern shopping experiences for their customers. While federal legalization is unlikely to pass in 2022, I believe we will see multiple states that have been holding out take the step toward legalization.

This means that we’ll move even closer to a “normal” shopping experience with the adoption of more modern point-of-sale hardware that facilitates a more fluid and trustworthy checkout experience. (Full disclosure, my company offers these types of solutions, as do others.) Believe it or not, the vast majority of the industry has had to rely on cash payments, which creates safety concerns and can be inefficient for businesses and consumers alike. That is changing.

Providing modern payment solutions is one of the biggest remaining barriers to normalizing the cannabis shopping experience. Consumers are already taking advantage of convenient options for curbside pickup and pay-ahead services that were uncommon before the pandemic. Adding these purchasing options will only grow more important to dispensaries’ bottom lines next year.

While delivery is synonymous with e-commerce in most industries, that has not historically been the case for the cannabis industry. That will also change this year as innovative solutions help dispensaries more easily manage compliance requirements, lower costs to offer the service and give their customers the seamless experience they deserve.

Cannabis Data As Catalyst For Change

Cannabis is a crucial element in the lives of many people who use it for recreation and for medicinal needs like pain, anxiety and depression. It’s also an economic and social boon for the communities they call home.

The total U.S. economic impact from cannabis sales is expected to reach $92 billion in 2021. That number will rise to $160 billion in 2025. The industry can inject new and much-needed tax revenue into local communities, providing more resources for critical public services and public projects like schools, hospitals and roads.

Cannabis is one of our country’s fastest-growing sectors (paywall) for job creation and tax revenue. California, the largest market for cannabis, benefited from more than $1 billion in additional tax revenue from cannabis in 2020. As communities continue to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, I predict cannabis will serve as a vital economic engine in 2022 as communities continue their economic recovery.

A New Era

Every year brings a wealth of changes and surprises to a nascent and ever-evolving industry like cannabis. The next one will be no different. I expect the worldwide wave of legalization to pick up speed and technology to play an outsized role in creating more safe and easy access to cannabis in 2022. The sky’s the limit for the impact this special industry can keep bringing globally.