7 Questions with Jen Bernstein, Contributing Writer and Former Managing Editor at High Times, President of Women’s Cannabis Club
7 Questions with Jen Bernstein, Contributing Writer and Former Managing Editor at High Times, President…
A look to the future: In a twist on our usual Q&A, Azuca’s CEO Kim Sanchez Rael and Founder and Chief Creative Officer Ron Silver provide their reflections on one of the most momentous years the cannabis industry has ever seen, and their predictions as we prepare to turn the calendar over to 2022. Get the inside scoop on the year to come, plus the latest Azuca headlines and an update on legalization progress across the nation.
What was the biggest change the industry experienced this year?
Kim Sanchez Rael: In the cannabis industry, the velocity of both change and growth meant that there was no “normal” before the pandemic, so unlike other industries there really was no “new normal” for us. The biggest change has been on the regulatory and legalization front, as new states and countries move to end the senseless historical criminalization of this healing plant.
Ron Silver: As in many industries, the pandemic forced us to get creative and find new ways to do things, both out of necessity and also because it gave us a chance to slow down and take a closer look at what was and wasn’t working. At a truly sink or swim moment, the industry stayed innovative, and really thrived. We’re coming out of the past year stronger than ever and are on track to continue that growth into the new year.
Looking ahead in 2022, please share your top prediction on how the industry will continue its roller coaster ride.
KSR: I think that the M&A activity in 2021 was the tip of the iceberg. 2022 will see an acceleration of consolidation in the industry with quality, scale and a solid track record of innovation driving valuations.
RS: The industry is really still settling in and I expect that in the coming year there will be a lot of consolidation as is often the case with a new industry. Through that, a lot of the noise will settle down and what is salient will rise to the top.
Fast-acting edibles continue to gain a lot of traction. How will this evolve in the new year?
KSR: I say it every day: Traditional edibles are dead just like dial-up internet is dead. Slow, painful, unpredictable; why would anyone put up with that today?
RS: Predictability, consistency, and high quality will win the day. People want to know what they are signing up for when they take an edible, so eventually all edibles will be engineered with an onset time.
Can you share any technological innovations you see in the future for Azuca?
KSR: We just launched a groundbreaking solution for fast-acting infused chocolate. It’s very easy for edibles manufacturers to incorporate into their existing process and tastes great. Onset varies depending on each individuals’ metabolism and tolerance, but approximately 60% of respondents reported onset in less than 20 minutes. 6 minutes for me personally. (I’m a low-dose consumer.) We are also about to release our second generation of TiME INFUSION which enables a 3X dosing or loading factor over our first generation, while maintaining ease-of-implementation for manufacturing. Innovation around the plant, delivering the goodness of cannabis to consumers, is what gets the Azuca team out of bed in the morning!
RS: We will continue to revolutionize the edibles marketplace, one specific thing we are looking toward is whole strain, fast onset edibles.
As more states legalize adult use and roll out their own regulations, how do you think the element of social consumption will impact the industry?
KSR: I think one mega-trend will be people replacing recreational alcohol with cannabis over time. Cannabis is a healing plant, not an addictive poison to our bodies like alcohol. In the future, we will be enjoying cannabis-infused elixirs and alcohol-free cocktails like we consume wine and margaritas today. The regulatory environment will have to catch up to consumer interest in healthier alternatives to alcohol, but I think we will get there in a few years.
RS: States that embrace social consumption will be the architects of the social environment for cannabis in the United States and the world. In creating a physical space for people to come together and enjoy the plant just like they would go out to a bar or restaurant, consumption lounges will go a long way towards normalizing cannabis.
Staying on the social side of things, how do you expect attitudes toward cannabis to change in 2022 with several states entering their first full year of legalized adult use and Federal legalization on the table?
KSR: The “normalization” of cannabis will continue, as will the understanding of the social injustices created by criminalization. Every day I hear at least one new story of someone whose life, or family’s life, has been dramatically improved by cannabis. These stories will change everything as they touch people’s lives.
RS: The stigma surrounding cannabis that has been manufactured over the past 90 years has already begun to disappear, and the more time that passes the more it will become a distant memory. That process of normalization will continue in 2022.
How do you think Federal Legalization could change the course of the industry’s evolution as it is currently unfolding, which is on a state-by-state basis?
KSR: The biggest mistake that Congress could make would be to “legalize” cannabis in a similar way that it “legalized” hemp in 2018. As implemented thus far, the 2018 Farm Bill created more problems than it solved, in my opinion. I see this as a states-rights issue, and the federal government should enable well-regulated state industry to continue to grow and serve our communities. Heavy-handed federal regulation and taxation would be a disaster, especially for current medical patients relying on cannabis.
RS: When it comes to federal legalization, it could go two ways. The additional regulations could either create uniformity by making things sane and understandable to all, or they could be overreaching and damaging to existing businesses that have thrived under the current setup. It’s also important to understand that this is a pivotal moment in our history. The prohibitive laws that would be cast aside were brought on by pure racism. The pointless laws, pointed rhetoric, and the damage they have caused to myriads of individuals, families and communities are coming to light, and this is our chance to stop the damage.
What are some untapped markets where legalized cannabis could thrive?
KSR: I think that great-tasting, fast-acting cannabis-infused beverages are the single-largest untapped market, though already growing rapidly in the current regulatory environment.
RS: There are a host of them. One significant area is medical and therapeutic usage, including chemotherapy, pain management, post surgical recovery as well as for treating depression and PTSD. There are thousands of answers I could give.
Azuca has announced a breakthrough innovation for infused chocolate, Azuca Chocolate Activator™ powered by TiME INFUSION™. The patent-pending infusion process is a cost-effective and scalable solution for manufacturers; and a fast-acting, great-tasting option to enhance consumers’ edibles experience – made to take effect in less than 20 minutes. Learn more here.
Azuca was recently featured in two pieces on Forbes:
5 Cannabis Leaders Weigh In On The Fast-Acting Future Of Edibles
CEO and President Kim Rael, along with Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Chef Ron Silver, weigh in on the future of fast acting edibles and how Azuca’s TiME INFUSION™ technology helped shape the industry and the customer experience. Read the full article here.
60% Of Cannabis Users Say They Would Get High With A Grandparent
Azuca’s ‘Americans and Cannabis Consumption Survey’, which examines consumers’ behaviors and habits surrounding cannabis use, also made headlines in Forbes. Learn how the use of cannabis products is being integrated into daily life as legalization continues to spread across the nation.
Edibles manufacturers are getting more sophisticated. Azuca’s Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Chef Ron Silver, recently spoke with MJBizDaily to give insight on how manufacturers can provide products that taste great without a distinct cannabis flavor or aftertaste. You can read more here.
Each day, millions of Americans struggle to make healthy dietary decisions. Now, Wana Brands will help them get a handle on their cravings and build healthier habits with the introduction of Wana Optimals Fit Gummies, powered by Azuca TiME INFUSION™. These fast-acting, first-of-their kind gummies harness the power of THCV, a rare cannabinoid that can help disrupt unhelpful eating habits and put you back in control of your diet. The THCV in Wana Optimals Fit Gummies has been shown to enhance focus, lift energy and actually curb appetite, all without any intoxication. Wana Optimals Fit Gummies are now available throughout Colorado. Learn more here.
The Green Solution (TGS), one of the largest vertically-integrated cannabis operators in Colorado, is introducing a new NectarBee edible, a bananas foster caramel, powered by Azuca TiME INFUSION™ technology. Fast-acting distillate caramels, combined with high-quality hash oil from TGS flower and top-quality ingredients, give NectarBee a smooth and buttery vanilla and banana flavor. NectarBee is available now across TGS’s 20 dispensary locations.
Looking for the perfect dessert to bring to your holiday gatherings? Everest Cannabis Co has you covered with their new Fast-Acting Sugar Cookies! Powered by AZUCA TiME INFUSION™ technology, each cookie in this 10-pack offers 10mg of fast-acting THC. These delicious cookies are now available at Everest locations in New Mexico. Check out the menus for your local dispensary locations here.
In case you missed it, Azuca was in Las Vegas last month for MJBizCon and MJ Unpacked, sharing the latest from Azuca with the cannabis community. See photos here.
Federal Update: A group of Republican lawmakers introduced a bill this month to federally decriminalize and tax cannabis, while allowing businesses in states where cannabis is legal to continue operating under those conditions The bill was sponsored by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) as an alternative to more far reaching Democratic proposals for major marijuana reform, and less comprehensive GOP-backed efforts to deschedule the drug. The bill satisfies some key points for Democrats including expungements, while also featuring an excise tax that would gain support from key Republicans.
Ohio: Senators have filed legislation that represents a broad revision of the state’s medical marijuana system. Among the changes is language expanding access to the drug if a physician “reasonably” believes their patient’s symptoms would be relieved or they would otherwise benefit from marijuana. It’s being called a potentially massive expansion of eligibility after years of smaller additions to the list of qualifying conditions.
New York: New guidance from the state Department of Labor prohibits New York employers from testing employees for marijuana use, becoming the first state to do so. Workers can still be penalized for possession or consumption while on the job, but strict rules must be followed before an employee is punished for active impairment.
We are committed to help make the CBD and cannabis community a fair and equitable place for all. Azuca is proud to support Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit working to bring restorative justice to the cannabis industry and dedicated to releasing those incarcerated for cannabis and helping them rebuild their lives. Stay tuned for more details on our new partnership. Learn more and support this great cause here.