According to various sources, humankind has used cannabis for at least 12,000 years. However, in 1997, a hemp rope from almost 29,000 years ago was discovered in the Czech Republic! There is also evidence of marijuana being a part of ancient Chinese funerals. As the centuries passed, different cultures began to find new uses for cannabis and hemp.
For the ancient Scythians, the height of cannabis innovation involved throwing seeds at red hot stones and inhaling the vapors! Various cultures seemingly used weed primarily for medicinal purposes, though we’re sure the intoxicating high helped the herb’s popularity to grow! Cannabis spread around the world and became part of medicine in Western Europe and North America by the 19th century.
Sadly, the likes of Harry Anslinger helped demonize the drug, and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 banned cannabis in the United States. By now, America was already well on the way to becoming a global superpower. It used its influence to ‘encourage’ other nations to follow suit, and prohibit weed. This set of circumstances ensured that marijuana innovations were kept on ice for decades.
Yes, illegal growers had to work hard to find new ways to cultivate weed in secret. However, there is no question that prohibition greatly stymied progress. Finally, California legalized MMJ in 1996. This helped pave the way for new inventions and innovations. Since then, we have had the portable bong, vaporizers, weed wine, cannabis lube, topicals, sublingual strips, and so much more!
Cannabis’s momentum could soon become unstoppable, and it is now fully legal in Canada and Uruguay, with Mexico destined to follow suit. Though marijuana remains federally illegal in America, companies in its industry continue to innovate. Let’s take a look at some incredible recent weed-related creations, divided into industry sectors.
1 – Consumer Products
The modern-day cannabis consumer is exceptionally fortunate. Just a generation ago, the best they could hope for was moderately-strong weed smoked in a joint. These days, there are topical creams, edibles, and vape juices. We’ll soon reach a point where there are hardly any gaps in the market for cannabis-infused items.
‘Nanotechnology’ has become a recent buzzword in the marijuana industry. Within the last couple of years, a growing number of CBD and THC sellers claim their products utilize it. But what does it mean? Nanotechnology is a way of absorbing non-water-soluble ingredients in medication. It involves the use of nanoparticles, which are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Proponents claim it can lead to faster effects and a higher bioavailability rate.
Imagine a situation where you can discover the ideal cannabis strain and method of consumption for your needs. This Utopia isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. There is now talk of a saliva test to determine the best weed and form of consumption for MMJ patients. Rather than smoking White Widow, you could consume it as a gel capsule. Yes, you could see a scenario where cannabis becomes a legitimate medication!
We need the herb to become legalized for that to happen, but it is a possibility within a generation or so.
2 – Cultivation Innovation
Before California legalized MMJ, would-be growers had no choice but to operate in the shadows. They tried their best to grow weed in secret. Each completed harvest was a success in its own right, regardless of the quality of the product. Fast forward a few decades, and today’s marijuana cultivators are utterly spoiled for choice.
As the finest minds in the industry continue to tackle burning issues such as the use of energy, water efficiency, and making the most of space, some great ideas have come to the fore. The practice of vertical growing seems sure to gain in popularity. As you can probably guess, it involves stacking layers of plants on top of one another to maximize cultivation space. Previously, growers only used a fraction of the available space with horizontal cultivation. Here’s a quick look at other ways that cultivators are getting the most from their grows.
Less Water, Higher Yield
In 2017, BLH Aqua Technology finally completed its masterpiece, the Aqutonix. It is a water-treatment machine that breaks down water molecules and makes water easier to absorb for plants. According to BLH, the results include higher yields with less water used. The Aqutonix is a small machine at just four feet tall. You can connect it to any irrigation system, and it handles a maximum of 50 gallons of water per minute. This is enough to irrigate seven acres of cannabis.
The machine uses high-voltage electricity to weaken water’s hydrogen bonds, so they pass through aquaporins. These are sub-membrane proteins in plants and are responsible for the absorption of water. The above process increases a plant’s ability to absorb water. Those who have used the Aqutonix say it has reduced water usage by 40%. One small issue is the price. The machine costs over $26,000!
Experienced growers know that even the best indoor lights pale in comparison to natural sunlight. However, LED lighting is gaining traction because it offers many of the same spectrums as sunlight. One of the best recent innovations regarding lighting came from UbiQD. The Los Alamos-based firm created UbiGro, a quantum-dot film that converts sunlight into the red-orange spectrum light your plants want when in bloom.
According to the company, the UbiGro increases THC production by 5%, and terpene production goes up by an impressive 14%. The company refused to provide a quote publicly (you need to contact it). However, it says you’ll save compared to the $100 per square foot it costs for under-canopy lighting in greenhouses.
The Appliance of Science
We have now reached the stage where breeders can tailor cannabis to a customer’s needs. Today, it is possible to use technology to sequence DNA to create cultivars with distinct flavors. Already, breeders are developing specific CBD-rich marijuana strains. There will inevitably come a time where attention shifts to other cannabinoids such as CBN and CBC.
Maybe we will get to the point where we can grow a cannabis strain according to our tastes. Weed with 25% THC that tastes like a chocolate milkshake and provides a sedative high sounds pretty good!
3 – Payment Processing
As cannabis is still legal on a federal level in the U.S., companies that operate in the sphere have real issues with payments. There are hardly any banking institutions in America willing to work with a weed firm. This is because they are afraid of being punished by the government, and potentially even losing their license.
As a result, marijuana organizations, especially dispensaries, face serious issues when it comes to transactions. Up until recently, they could only accept cash. As a result, they had vast amounts of currency on-site, which made them prime targets for robberies.
Fintech to the Rescue
Fortunately, we live in an age where Fintech is sophisticated enough to help. Indeed, companies in the niche are falling over themselves to assist. Why wouldn’t they? The marijuana industry is a multi-billion dollar one and continues to grow. Firms such as Dama Financial are attempting to make the entire payment flow, from retail to supplier and tax payments, electronic.
Closed-loop Blockchain technology is also likely to become more popular. It provides a secure and automated transaction for customers and businesses. You can register payment cards to complete instant online or in-store payments for your marijuana purchases. Already, cashless systems are rolling out in Louisiana and Hawaii. It is inevitable that cannabis companies in every state will eventually benefit from this new way of handling money.
4 – Sales & Marketing
The marijuana industry operated underground for decades. It only recently became legal in a handful of states, but dozens more followed suit in quick order. Despite being a late starter, it is already a massive industry but also a goldmine of untapped data and analytics potential. Challenges remain because it isn’t federally legal in the United States, but ambitious marketing firms are unperturbed.
Tracking & Analytics
There are now seed-to-sale programs capable of managing a company’s inventory and streamlining the complicated regulatory process. This software can even record the level of consumer demand. By simplifying this data into easy to digest insights, organizations gain valuable insight into what customers want.
The aforementioned process of digital transactions also means businesses get essential demographic information on customers. This includes spending habits and the products they prefer.
In many states, you couldn’t get cannabis legally just a decade ago. Once it finally became legal, you often had to drive for an hour or more to find a dispensary. In certain states today, you can have cannabis delivered to your door like a pizza! Cannabis apps help you find the nearest dispensary and can tell you if they offer delivery. Pick the products you like, pay, and wait for the knock on your door. You might as well order pizza while you’re at it!
5 – Cannabis Extraction
As much fun as it is to smoke cannabis, a lot of flower gets wasted. You also burn off many of the cannabinoids and don’t get the full benefits of weed. However, manufacturers have created ways to get practically all of the cannabinoids and terpenes from a hemp or marijuana plant. The resulting cannabis concentrate contains a considerable amount of THC or CBD.
The Rosin Press
Cannabis rosin is extremely popular, as it is high in THC, and you can extract it at home using a pair of hair straighteners and a couple of other tools! However, manufacturers need a more sophisticated method to justify the prices they charge. Enter the Access Rosin Machine! Companies have used it for years to increase production significantly.
According to its creator, Access Rosin, the machine can quadruple the production of rival presses. The design features upside-down pyramid plates to enable the oil to drain straight into a catchment. It applies 1,900 pounds of pressure per square inch, well above the average of 1,000 pounds that rival machines are capable of.
When you buy black-market marijuana, there is always a danger that the weed contains contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals. Given the lack of regulation in the industry, especially the CBD market, brands need to show third-party lab reports for all products.
The cannabis industry enjoys better regulation on a state-by-state basis. As a result, there is a greater emphasis on producing ‘clean’ products. The DrainDroyd is a prime example of innovation arising from necessity. It is a stainless-steel device that removes waxes from marijuana-extracted oils faster than the usual dewaxing equipment.
In general, a company dewaxes weed by dissolving the oil in ethanol and cooling it at a sub-zero temperature. The cannabinoids then reside in a solution that is filtered to get rid of waxes. However, the solution warms up because the process is so slow. As a result, the wax re-dissolves in the ethanol. When this happens, it becomes necessary to filter more than once.
However, the DrainDroyd speeds up the process and uses wider funnels. It is capable of processing up to five liters of oil in just 30 minutes. Conventional equipment with the narrower ‘Buchner’ funnels takes hours for the same amount of oil. The machine costs up to $20,000 but sold over 1,000 units within a year of its release.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana Innovations and Inventions
It is an incredibly exciting time for the cannabis industry. The herb is entirely legal in two countries, with a third (Mexico), set to follow in a year or two. It is also permitted for medicinal use in at least 30 countries around the world.
Already, it is a multi-billion-dollar industry, but its potential for growth is enormous. As its value grows, more enterprises will seek to jump aboard the money train. These organizations will continue to invent and innovate to ensure they remain ahead of their rivals. Consumers will hopefully benefit enormously from this new era.