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Cannabis Trends to Expect in 2019

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jan 11, 2019   
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When 20th century futurists looked to the far-flung year of 2019, they imagined flying cars, space exploration, robot butlers and alien contact. What they didn’t foresee were CBD-flavored cappuccinos. Truth is often stranger than fiction.

While such caffeine-balanced beverages may fall short of grand sci-fi futures, 2019’s cannabis trends are still visionary. As we begin the year, Analytical Cannabis looks into the future to predict the top trends of 2019.

Everything is edible

As the North American cannabis market expands, so might North Americans’ waistlines.

Thanks to increasing social acceptance and new safety regulations that match those expected of food products, cannabis is finally graduating from brownies and entering the edibles market.

From coffees to cooked meat, purées to puddings, CBD and THC are shaping up to be 2019’s staple ingredients.

Of course, in certain states, a thriving edible cannabis market is nothing new. Californian consumers spent $180 million on THC-infused food and beverages in 2017 alone. But with new recreational states comes new markets, as well as new consumer habits.

“No one does it [smokes] anymore,” explains Dooma Wendschuh, co-founder of Province Brands, an Ontario-based company which markets cannabis-infused beer. Speaking to CBC News, Wendschuh added that “smoking has lost, and beverages are how we like to become altered.”

And as if to cement this ingestible trend, the soda giant Coca-Cola is even looking into the cannabis market, with the aim of producing a CBD-infused drink in association with Canadian producer Aurora Cannabis Inc.

This influx of new products will, of course, create new analytical challenges for cannabis labs. But maybe they are just the kind of challenges that desperately need to be addressed.

“The analytical testing of orally administered drugs, such as cannabis-derived edibles, can be quite difficult, time-consuming and expensive, depending upon the complexity of the formulation and the variability between batches, says Brian Thomas, Principal Scientist for Discovery Sciences.

“Thus, the key challenge in the testing of cannabis-based edibles is the absence of a scientifically based regulatory framework that all stakeholders have agreed upon.”

A different state of mind

Due to a combination of federal prohibition and a unique constitution, the US has several differing states of cannabis interdiction. Fifty to be exact, and more if you consider the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.

This minefield of a map creates problems for everyone working in the cannabis industry, especially lab analysts.

“For example, the sampling protocol of raw flowers allows Washington growers to simply select and send their representative samples to a testing laboratory, while Oregon law requires the testing laboratory to go onsite and select the samples,” explains Joseph E. Sabol, Ph.D., Chemical Consultant at Racine, Wisconsin.

Of course, these annoying discrepancies could all disappear if cannabis were to be rescheduled under the FDA’s Controlled Substance Act. And while that may sound like a pipe dream, 2019 might just deliver something similar.

After all, the FDA’s act is based on the United Nation’s own international drug classification system, which was recently reviewed and criticized for its placing of CBD. Official reclassification could come as soon as March 2019, but even if it doesn’t, there are still ways US labs can help each other out.

Writing in Analytical Cannabis, Sabol outlined how better organization and communication between interstate authorities could benefit analyses. “State regulators should periodically meet and discuss what works and what doesn’t. Even if each state has their own laws, the laws could be more uniform,”

“Examine your state regulations and if you find something that appears to be too restrictive, contact your officials and let them know why it is overly burdensome and ask if they can issue a waiver or modify the regulations to be more reasonable. Now is the time to act to ensure regulations are fair and effective.”

Green genes

When remarking on the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2000, President Bill Clinton said that, “without a doubt, this is the most important, most wondrous map ever produced by humankind.”

In the eyes of many cannabis professionals, that honor was supplanted in late 2018, when the cannabis genome was finally mapped.

Because while the human genome failed to live up to its moon-landing-level anticipation, the cannabis genome might just deliver the goods.

“With the genomic map, we can now more precisely identify the genetic differences among [cultivars] to breed tailored cannabis strains,” says C.J. Schwartz, CEO of Sunrise Genetics.

Speaking to Marijuana Venture in July, Schwartz stressed how vital a full genetic map could be to the industry.

“The impact on the community and the sophistication of cannabis research and development will be substantially changed, bringing cannabis to the same level as other economically lucrative crops.”

Unfortunately, it’ll still be some time before these genetically bespoke products are on the shelves. But thanks to growing scientific investments, 2019 could be the year cannabis steps out of its agricultural roots and into the genetic age.

A taste for terpenes

Closing 2018, the Cambridge Dictionary crowned Nomophobia, “a fear or worry at the idea of being without your mobile phone or unable to use it”, the word of the year.

While this noun may affect certain analysts working with cannabis, if the industry had its own word of the year it would probably be terpenes.

Hailed as the plant’s new wonder compounds, and able to reduce the negative effects of cancer, malaria and inflammation (all while creating the venerated and therapeutic ‘entourage effect’ when consumed with cannabinoids), terpenes were some of the most researched compounds in 2018. Research that could shape the industry in 2019.

“In terms of lessons for breeders, the future of cannabis is going to be in very precise strains that have very well-defined oil profiles,” explains Dr Keith Allen, Director of Bioinformatics at Steep Hill laboratories.

Speaking to Analytical Cannabis, Allen outlined Steep Hill’s terpene databases and their usefulness for growers.

“There are a lot of these different terpene synthases to work with, but there are going to be limits to what you can breed,”

“We want to develop a marker that will tell you, ‘you’ve got an active or dead terpene synthase’. And that’s going to be a very useful thing for breeders to know about.”

With consumer spending expected to jump by 40% and industry leaders looking to diversify the market, 2019 could just be the year that terpenes take their place alongside THC and CBD and become cannabis’ next ‘must-have’ compound.

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Science Writer & Editor

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a Bachelor's in Biology from Newcastle University and a Master's in Science Communication from the University of Edinburgh.


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