Cannabis is complicated. For one thing, the word itself can refer to marijuana and/or hemp. The industry can refer to medical marijuana, marijuana-infused products, recreational marijuana, hemp seeds in foods and beverages, and more.
Not only is “cannabis industry” an umbrella term, the legalities behind it are constantly changing. For example, for decades it’s been illegal to grow hemp in the U.S., but this just changed when a new bill was signed into law last year.
Companies and individuals that want to enter this market find the expanding legalization of cannabis alluring, along with the fact that any one branch of this industry is valued at millions or billions of dollars. With that kind of payout, many businesses consider the risks well worth taking. But there are risks.
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The first most obvious risk behind manufacturing cannabis is whether it’s legal. This varies greatly across countries and states, as does what kind of use is legal. Even in states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, there are still regulations passed by those states that companies must abide by. And those companies should be aware that interstate commerce is strictly off the table. Keeping up to date with regulations in any industry is a hassle, and in an ever-changing controversial industry it’s even more difficult.
Any company hoping to offer products containing cannabis needs to be well versed in the laws of the country or state it operates in. In Florida, all marijuana products need to be put into the state’s inventory tracking system. In California, packaging must list the THC and CBD content in milligrams. And in Canada, the maximum amount of THC that can be included in food is 10 milligrams, which is one tenth of what is allowed in California, Colorado, and Washington. It’s easy to see how infractions can occur in this complex regulatory environment.
Regulations aside, there’s the normal risks associated with entering business in a growing, relatively new industry. Some of these risks are amplified in the cannabis industry. One of these is how long it takes for a new business or new product to turn a profit. When it comes to cannabis, profits are affected by the geographically-limited nature of the market. The eventual nationwide legalization of cannabis in the U.S. is seen as inevitable by most industry experts, but when this happens is much more debatable and the timing could be the difference between financial success or ruin.
Getting involved in the cannabis industry is a gamble and the stakes are high, but so is the payoff. In Florida, the medical marijuana industry is already valued at $250 million and is steadily growing. The number of patients using medical marijuana has nearly tripled, the number of dispensaries has more than tripled, and sales from 2018 were ten times higher than in 2017.1 However, medical marijuana business licenses are limited, and existing markets are ruled by a handful of companies.
For companies that aren’t interested in medicinal marijuana, there’s a growing market for edibles—foods that contain marijuana—that shows even more financial potential. In 2017, the U.S. spent over $1 billion on edibles and by 2022 the edibles market in the U.S. and Canada is expected to soar to $4.1 billion.2 This market has fewer barriers to entry, but still has regulations. For example, packaging requirements in California state that companies cannot imitate candy packaging or use language that implies the infused product is candy. Legislation is consistently changing, but the complexity is well worth mastering for an industry with this much potential.
This industry may be relatively new, but it’s highly regulated. The best way for companies to stay on top of complex regulatory requirements and to produce high-quality products is to invest in automated solutions that make quality assurance a much easier process. Manufacturing solutions that completely remove paper from the process are one sure way to simplify compliance. These types of solutions help companies be fully prepared for audits and keep all documentation in a secure, centralized location. Small businesses hoping to break into the cannabis industry don’t even have to worry about a hefty price tag attached to these solutions since some companies offer solutions that are priced to fit a company’s size. Being prepared with the best solutions helps companies break into the cannabis industry and get their high-quality products on the market.
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