For years, the go-to method for consuming cannabis has been smoking, via joints, pipes, bongs or blunts, but with vaping and edibles use on the rise, how consumers get their medicine or highs may depend on age, tastes, health concerns, or even their ZIP code.
Cannabis concentrate sales — driven by vaping — jumped nearly 50 percent from 2017 to 2018, and are predicted to bring in $8.4 billion in the U.S. by 2022, according to a report by Arcview Market Research. Edibles are also becoming huge, with projected annual sales of $4.1 billion in the U.S. and Canada by 2022, according to ArcView Market Research and BDS Analytics.
“Concentrates and edibles have been rapidly gaining market share in legal cannabis markets where they're available,” said David Abernathy, vice president of data and government affairs for Arcview Market Research. “However, the size of the market is also growing very rapidly so while cannabis flower is making up a smaller and smaller percentage of overall sales, legal flower sales continue to grow in terms of absolute value.”
Abernathy thinks that flower sales will eventually drop “as increasing numbers of consumers opt for the relative convenience of other methods of ingestion.” That doesn't mean we'll be seeing the disappearance of raw flower, since there will likely always be a “connoisseur market,” according to Abernathy.
Changing Tastes are Regional
Marco Granillo, who lives in Tempe, Arizona, typically dabs because of his high cannabis tolerance. “When I first started it was only flower,” Granillo said. “But in the last couple of years, as concentrates have become more prevalent, I have slowly made the switch,” he said.
But he doesn't foresee the older methods of consuming ever disappearing. “Those are classic and classics never go out of style,” he said.
Spencer*, a 50-year-old woman from Laurel, Maryland, who has been using cannabis off and on since her teens, used to smoke it, the typical way she'd known to consume, but now vapes since she quit smoking tobacco. “It's easier on the lungs and more discreet,” she said.
It's not just personal preferences that dictate consumer choices. In states where cannabis is still illegal, smoking flower remains popular because of its availability.
Courtney*, a 26-year-old music teacher from the Midwest is interested in oils, dabbing, and edibles, but because cannabis is still illegal in her state, it's prevented her from easily getting her hands on these products.
“I'm sure that once my state legalizes marijuana, the convenience of being able to go into a place and pick out exactly what I need will change my habits,” she said. “If I was in a state that was legal, I think I would switch to edibles. I care about the health of my lungs, but right now flower is the only thing I can get my hands on.”
*Spencer's and Courtney's names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Evolution of Stoner Tools
When it comes to the iconic brands that have been associated with weed smoking since before the rise of legalization, glass artists such as Jason Harris of Jerome Baker Designs aren't going anywhere, either.
Harris has been blowing glass since the early '90s and has seen cannabis go from Public Enemy No. 1 to pop-culture phenomenon. His career has followed a similar path, from getting arrested in 2003 during the Operation Pipe Dreams sting to eventually creating the largest bong in the world, the 24-feet tall “Bongzilla,” on display at the Cannabition Museum in Las Vegas since 2018. His company is once again thriving and expanding into doing “small-batch” cannabis collaborations and other projects such as building giant hookahs.
“I can only make so much glass as one guy, but my connection to some of these top growers is allowing me to create collaborations in cannabis,” Harris said.
Harris thinks the glass business will likely see some consolidation and a surge in imported glass products that can be made cheaply and sold for less than those made by artists in the U.S. But there will always be a market for quality glass. “When you buy one of these pieces, you're buying into the artist,” Harris said. “There are a lot of people that are collectors.”
Besides the increase in concentrate and edible sales, there is also a rise in the sale of prerolls, according to Abernathy. “I suspect that there will always be a segment of the population who prefers to consume cannabis by lighting it on fire and inhaling the smoke,” he said.
It seems blunts, bongs, and joints have stood the test of time and will remain consuming methods for some folks, especially in light of their continued cultural cache.
“You don't see Snoop [Dogg] on Instagram vaping, so it may be 'hip' but it isn't as 'cool' as lighting up a fat blunt,” Courtney said.