The mainstreaming of marijuana is well underway. You can see it in the Keurig-type vape pods, the lifestyle brands, and the handbags. You can see it in how people talk about it openly, and how strong majorities want it legalized.
And you can see it in actual legislation: 23 states and the District of Columbia already have some form of legality, and four states—California, Nevada, Arizona, and Massachusetts—could open the doors to recreational use this November.
Marijuana is losing its grungy, pothead, "gateway drug" reputation and becoming something more modern, artisanal, and premium, according to a new survey from Sparks & Honey, a trend-tracking agency, and High Times magazine.
"In many ways, our morality about marijuana is outpacing legislation," says Sean Mahoney, S&H's editorial director. "It's an interesting time to see how culture is changing because of the changing views of marijuana, but also how culture is changing marijuana. It goes in both directions."
Based on a survey of 1,000 people in states that have legalized pot (all had tried weed in the last five years), the report looks at how weed is coming out of the closet and how different groups view the drug. For example, men are more likely to use the term "marijuana" when discussing food (as in the recipes in this cookbook). Women are more likely to refer to "cannabis," which has a more wholesome connotation than weed, ganja, or kush. More than 50% of people want to buy cannabis at the grocery store (good luck with that). And people interested in religion were quite likely to talk about marijuana online (18% of those according the survey)—certainly more than people working in religion.
Here are some trends the report sees expanding and deepening:
Cannabis will be packaged in easier-to-consume ways—whether it's pre-dosed, or paired with other products like wine. "Cannabis-infused food products will create a new expectation of product labeling, alongside calorie and carb counts. Expect clear cannabis dosage and ingredient information," the report says.
We'll see more marketing of cannabis based on provenance—as in other types of food—and its specific mood properties. "In the future, we’ll see even more attention paid to the process of cultivating marijuana, and passing on a sense of provenance to the consumer," the report says. "We will see more innovation around ways for consumers to ingest curated doses of cannabis, with an optimum mood state in mind."
Cannabis will go from being a drug that gets you high to being something that offers "relief" and "wellness." "While regulated by strict laws, weed is an ingredient that is shedding its old skin and becoming part of a wellness movement," the report says. "The way we think of using cannabis-infused products [is] also changing. . . . Cannabis-infused wellness items could be the next tea tree oil or aloe vera."
Weed will change everyday design and even remake public spaces. "Marijuana is evolving from bean bag to Eames chair. Some call it the Whole Foods-ification of marijuana, or the coffee shop effect," the report says. Bars, restaurants, concert halls, and amusement parks will begin to incorporate "universal design language of cannabis," just like the language of alcohol pervades today. "It's not about putting pot leafs on T-shirts. It's about incorporating it into our day-to-day," Mahoney says.
Consumer-facing brands use celebrities to sell their products. Weed will be no different. Baltimore Ravens lineman Eugene Monroe already supports cannabis research. Snoop Dogg and Whoopi Goldberg have weed companies. The report expects "further [endorsements from] sportsmen and marijuana partnerships, particularly in regions where marijuana is legalized and local athletes are leveraged as mainstream mouthpieces."
In other words, weed will go from being a thing grown and marketed amateurishly to being a product sold professionally and creatively by marketing agencies like Sparks & Honey (how convenient). Even if some legal restrictions remain, the public's acceptance of weed will see those barriers come down, Mahoney believes. "Where there's obstruction and confusion, there is a resilient, crafty, and quite advanced group of people who are pushing this industry forward. They're going to find ways to solve any problems," he says.