Most Americans (60%) now live in a state that has legalized marijuana. But whether you use cannabis for medicinal or recreational purpose, one thing is clear: There’s a race by companies to capture growing opportunities in a $20 billion industry that will reach $47 billion by 2027.
Companies like Viridian Pharmaceuticals are making the therapeutic benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) more accessible by introducing non-smoking products such as edibles, oils, and lotions. In the case of Notion, Viridian’s first consumer topical cream, CBD can be applied in ways not possible before in order to appeal to mainstream consumers.
And why not? The United States has an aging demographic where 10,000 Baby Boomers retire each day. The younger crowd also has an open mind towards cannabis: 62% of Americans now favor legalization.
Politicians are accommodating this shift in public sentiment.
A decade ago, a slight majority of Americans opposed the legalization of marijuana. Aside from the health debate, voters have been concerned about the government’s encroachment on personal freedoms, as well as the heavy toll of incarceration for people who smoke a medicinal substance that has been used for centuries.
The social cost, critics say, reflects bad government policy, not bad individual choice.
So how does CBD benefit users?
Cannabidiol is hemp extract that has been shown to control pain, relax muscles, manage nausea, and help people cope with PTSD. It’s an alternative to Big Pharma’s pain-killers which often have harmful side effects, including addictive qualities.
State legislatures across the U.S. are updating laws to reflect new scientific research about the medicinal benefits of hemp and its derivatives. These initiatives are slowly changing the culture of cannabis by helping the industry to mature, and by removing the stigma attached to weed.
“We’re helping to move the science forward on cannabidiol,” says Layne Beal, CEO of Viridian Pharmaceuticals. “With increasing clarity around the legal status of hemp-derivatives, we have a clinical path to legitimize the science and investigate how delivering the CBD molecule via our cream-based carrier can help people with various indications, including chronic migraines and osteoarthritis.”
The fast-growing industry has also been buoyed by experimental growers who produce “non-high” strains of cannabis. For example, new strains have extremely low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that make them safer for public consumption, while retaining or enhancing desired properties.
That’s all part of commercialization. The ecosystem is incentivized to please customers, and that means enhancing desired qualities (e.g. convenience of topical creams) and reducing unsafe aspects (like high THC levels).
“In addition to our clinical focus, we want to provide consumers the option of accessing the benefits of CBD with the ease of a topical cream. Our continued focus on R&D and scientific study has helped us demonstrate this is possible, leading to the proprietary delivery technology in Notion, our first commercial product,” says Beal.
The momentum should continue. That’s because with increased economic activity, state governments get more tax revenues. Politicians get bigger budgets, while voters won’t have to pay higher taxes to enjoy a public good.
Last year, Washington state collected the most in cannabis taxes ($319 million), surpassing California ($300 million) and Colorado ($266 million), according to a March 2019 report by Leafly. These trends point towards a win-win arrangement for all sides.