By Garrett Rudolph
Innovation has always fascinated me, and it’s one of the aspects that I enjoy about publishing a business magazine and being a part of the cannabis industry.
Because it’s been a black market endeavor for so long, the business of growing and selling marijuana hasn’t changed all that much in the past few decades prior to legalization. Now, with nearly half the country allowing medical marijuana, four states legalizing recreational cannabis, a majority of Americans supporting full legalization and the federal government seriously considering the removal of marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the creative process can really get ramped up.
For the first time in our lifetime, it’s probably safe for people to openly invest time and money into products geared specifically for cannabis. The impact that will have is hard to predict, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that within the next couple years, we will see inventions — both large and small — that will revolutionize the cannabis industry.
In 1793, Eli Whitney invented the mechanical cotton gin, and it changed the entire cotton economy.
Somebody or something is likely to come along and do the same for cannabis, although in this case, it will probably be many different inventions rather than one singular game-changer.
You’re already starting to see it.
LED lights, for example, have been getting better and better for years. It won’t be long before a light is developed — be it LED, plasma or some as of yet unknown technology — that will be as energy-efficient and long-lasting as current LEDs, with the initial cost and reliable yield production of high-intensity discharge lighting.
Trimming machines have been getting better and cheaper.
Packaging options — obviously not a concern for the black market — are going to see a tremendous rise.
I’ve been talking with some people in Eastern Washington who believe they have created a hydroponic system that they believe will be a game-changer.
From the consumer side of things, the rise of vape pens are a classic example of new technology quickly capturing a share of the market. For several decades, smoking weed largely came in joint, pipe and bong varieties. Now, the methods of consumption feel limitless, further opening the possibility for cannabis to be enjoyed by people who are against smoking.
To me, greenhouses are largely an untapped gold mine for cannabis. Warehouse cultivation was the best option for decades because growers had to be invisible. Greenhouse manufacturers have been developing high-tech facilities for tomatoes and ornamentals for ages. Now, they’ll be able to dial in exactly what would work best for cannabis growers, providing the ultimate best of both worlds between indoor and outdoor cultivation.
There are probably hundreds of products that are used in traditional farming and agriculture that can be adapted to the cannabis market. In some cases, the manufacturers might not want their product to be affiliated with an illegal drug. In other cases, people might not have put two and two together yet.
But it’s only a matter of time. Those companies that shunned marijuana will eventually come around, or watch their competitors take a larger share of the market. And eventually somebody from the traditional agriculture industry is going to look at a tool or a piece of software and have that proverbial light bulb go off.
Of course there’s a potential downside of any technological progress.
Whitney’s masterpiece was considered a secondary cause of the Civil War, as it fueled the need for more and more manual labor and further entrenched the south in slavery.
While I doubt very strongly any cannabis-related inventions will lead to bloodshed, there may be a point in the near future where tedious tasks like hand trimming and harvesting are figments of the past.
To me, that’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get there.