Cannabis is finally going legit, at least in California that is. Even though Cali has had medical marijuana since 1996 and a lucrative MMJ marketplace for years, much of the industry is still operating in the black market. But now that adult use cannabis has passed and will go into effect in early 2018, other California-dominant industries, like technology, are getting involved to bring cannabis out of the underground and into the (well-regulated) light.
With legal cannabis comes government regulations and a need for transparency, like there is in the alcohol or tobacco industry. California’s flower is currently unregulated, and much of it is grown with pesticides not approved for human consumption. Some have even gone so far as to claim the state has a “dirty weed problem” after the 2016 Emerald Cup.
But new technology, especially apps and other software, are bringing accountability to cannabis and cutting down on bad experiences.
Take the new Swallow site for example.
Created by the “edible expert” Alice Moon, a seven-year veteran of the cannabis industry, Swallow has branded itself as the “Yelp for edibles.” People who don’t regularly consume cannabis can be wary of trying edibles because of the potential for a bad experience. Swallow was created to help consumers take the risk out of edibles by providing customer reviews, similar to Yelp.
Plus, Swallow allows users to search for local edibles based on dietary restrictions. Looking for a vegan, gluten-free, CBD breakfast bar? Swallow will help you find it by zip code and let you know how intense the high was from other user reviews. The beta launch is going down now in Los Angeles and will soon expand nationwide.
Then, there are apps to help the cannabis brands themselves, like KushMoji.
KushMoji is a weed-themed emoji keyboard, free for consumers to download and use. It was created because cannabis companies aren’t allowed to use traditional digital marketing techniques, like Facebook post boosts and pay per click ads, because pot products are still considered “inappropriate” content. Even Instagram accounts, one of the main social platforms for cannabis, get taken down without warning.
Alice Moon, Swallow’s founder, had her Instagram account deleted recently.
“When I lost my account, I was devastated!,” she said. “I spent years building up a following, and I suddenly felt so disconnected from everyone. It made me feel bitter towards social media, and I withdrew from using it actively for months. I had over 14,000 followers, who refer to themselves as my #moonstoner fam… it [also] impacted my ability to share my blog.”
With Kushmoji, users can text each other branded emojis, like a picture of a delicious Incredibles edible or a Native Roots Apothecary product. These emojis are also linked to companies’ websites, so friends can share new brands and have access to all of their details like price, THC percentage and where they’re available.
Clearly, it also benefits the companies themselves—not only with brand awareness, but they also gain access to some crucial customer data, like age, gender and location. With these new insights into the cannabis consumer base, companies can create targeted marketing campaigns and other advertising strategies that most industries take for granted.
Plus, the emojis are super cute and fun to use.
“KushMoji combines the cannabis industry with the fastest growing form of communication which is SMS and emoji,” Olivia M.H. Mannix, founder of KushMoji and co-founder of CannaBrand, explained.
There is also new software to aid dispensaries and cultivators, like MjXchange.
Currently, it’s quite hard for new growers to enter the legal cannabis space and sell their goods to dispensaries. MjXchange addresses this issue with its software that allows growers to upload products they have for sale with all of their pertinent info, like strain name, percentage of cannabinoids, test results, even pictures of their cultivation facilities.
On the other end, it enables dispensaries to search for new products to buy wholesale with full transparency. With MjXchange, dispensaries can make more informed purchasing decisions and get the best price.
“MjXchange solves the problem of buyers and sellers finding the best product at the best price across a much larger number of suppliers and retailers than they would ordinarily be exposed to in their local area or with their local contacts,” Dan Goldin, creator of MjXchange, explained.
Lastly, there’s also software that helps the industry as a whole provide full accountability and transparency to the government and general public called “seed to sale.”
There are two types of seed to sale platforms: government traceability systems and commercial-use seed to sale programs. Government traceability systems, like BioTrackTHC and Franwell METRC, are contracted by individual states and ensure cannabis is 100 percent regulated, similar to alcohol and cigarettes. These systems give politicians and parents peace of mind because they make it next to impossible for cannabis products to fall into the wrong hands, and they warn law enforcement officials if dispensaries or cultivators try to do something against regulation, either intentionally or accidentally.
Commercial seed to sale platforms, like BioTrackTHC and MJ Freeway, are used by dispensaries, cultivators, even extraction facilities, to keep track of every plant and product from “seed to sale,” as the name implies. These systems guarantee everyone in the industry is totally complying with state regulations with full visibility.
These programs are vital to making the cannabis industry legitimate and accountable, but they’re just the beginning.