On December 17, 2019 – just over a year after Canada’s historic Legalization Day – we’ll enter a new phase of cannabis legalization in Canada. We’ve been referring to it as Legalization 2.0 around the office. Essentially, Health Canada and provincial regulators will add new categories to the legal market this December. This will include edibles, concentrates and beverages. This is going to significantly change the landscape of this fledgling industry, and many are excited to see how it unfolds.

Based on insights from existing legal markets in the United States, we’re expecting dried flower sales to decrease once edibles and concentrates are available. Experts anticipate that concentrates will become the preferred mode of consumer consumption. We know that many customers are already very excited about concentrates – they can be consumed more discreetly than dried flower, purchased at a better value, and it’s a safer alternative to smoking.

Concentrates are refined – essential oils and cannabinoids are separated from the plant material, creating a smoother inhale when vaporized. There is already a wide assortment of ingestible oils and capsules available, but in this new chapter of the legal recreational market, retailers will be able to offer a more diverse consumption experience. Opening up the market to include concentrates means customers can get the simple and refined experience of an oil – terpenes and cannabinoids only – and still enjoy the experience of inhalation, which can be a private ritual or a shared social experience.

There is anticipation for three main categories in the vape concentrate category: All in Ones (ready to consume disposables),  Cartridges and Pens (created to be compatible with competitors’ pens as well), and Closed Loop options (devices with smart technology that can link to your phone for functions like “Find My Vape,” “Dosage Control” and more). I’m especially excited about what Legalization 2.0 will mean to our CBD category. Wellness is becoming increasingly important to consumers, so I think that CBD concentrate vaporizers will be particularly popular. CBD-dominant strains with little to no THC are already highly sought after in the health and wellness industry, and it’ll only increase in popularity once presented in concentrates’ quick and easy format which will taste better than oils and will have the same fast onset time as smoking dried flower, but with greater safety and discretion.

Edibles and Cannabis Beverages are the other new formats I’m looking forward to. With precise “per unit” dosing, these products will really allow new consumers to understand ingestible cannabis and its effects in a safe, controlled way. I expect to see all cannabinoid ranges offered in these categories, including customer favorites like High THC only, High CBD only, and balanced THC and CBD options. Taste, packaging, and value will be the major differentiators in the edible categories. Gummies and chocolates will likely be the preferred form, so licensed producers are paying special attention to their development.  

But it’s the cannabis beverage category that I think could surprise us most. With nano-emulsion technology leading the charge, consumers can expect very fast onsets, with the effects kicking in approximately 15 minutes after consumption and lasting roughly 90 minutes. Standard ingestible formats (oils and edibles) are much longer lasting; their effects can last up to 12 hours. Consuming these formats can mean that that you have to “clear your calendar” for the day, whereas this new type of beverage will allow the consumer to enjoy its effects over a shorter period. This could result in these products becoming options for special occasions, whether it be a happy hour pick-me-up or a holiday party. CBD beverages should also be a very strong option in this category, popular amongst those customers interested in wellness.

I’m personally looking forward to this new phase of legalization not only for the industry growth it will bring, but for what it means for social responsibility, which is a priority for all retailers. Introducing these new categories to the legal recreational market will be very positive for both new and experienced consumers. These categories allow for more discreet methods of consumption and present several options that are safer than smoking. Dried cannabis flower will always have a place within the adult recreational cannabis market, but these new forms will be great entry level options for new consumers. As always, new consumers should start low (THC) and go slow until they determine the dosage that helps them best enjoy cannabis’ many benefits, whatever the occasion.

By Grant Sanderson