NEW YORK (MainStreet) Every year, High Times magazine holds its Cannabis Cup, the largest marijuana industry event in the world. Companies, inventors and entrepreneurs gathered in Denver on 4/20 this year for the first legal event in the United States. Thousands of attendees drove in from all over the country to taste, tamper with, and tell their friends about all the latest and greatest products the industry has to offer. Here are some product highlights to look out for as marijuana makes its move to Main Street.
The edibles market has long been inconsistent. While some people report edibles made from cannabis getting them extremely high and drowsy, others complain that edibles never do anything for them. The High Times edibles panel explains this happens when people forget to heat the herbs prior to cooking them into the food. Without this important step, you won't activate the cannabinoids and will simply end up with a normal baked good that tastes like marijuana.
Also See: Marijuana Is Less Addictive Than Chocolate
GFarmaLabs is one of the gourmet edibles companies whose products mimic the effects of smoking or vaping marijuana without tasting like it. The Liquid Gold Delights I tasted were among the best chocolates I've ever tasted. This is because they are made by mixing quality Belgian chocolate and local ingredients to melt in your mouth like nothing Hershey's has ever put on the market.
The only competition for GFarmaLabs in the gourmet THC chocolate category is Infuzionz by Alan Mann. These chocolates are on the level of Russell Stover, and, like Liquid Gold Delights, Infuzionz edibles don't have that marijuana taste. Meanwhile Paul Kapral is hoping his Mary Jane Wines line of marijuana-infused wine will become the next premium vintage.
While many marijuana companies lack the business savvy it takes to become a household brand like Pepsi or McDonald's, quite a few companies fully understand that branding is their most important asset. Cheeba Chews, for example, has cannabis-doused Tootsie Rolls that replicate the iconic packaging without risking trademark infringement.
MarQaha by Timothy McDowell is another Cannabis Cup standout, providing a variety of THC-infused drinks, mists, tinctures and more. While the drinks are delicious, and the effects are quite strong, it's the MarQaha packaging that really shines. The products are simple, yet bright and colorful, resembling Sobe and Fuze, with a psychedelic ink blot butterfly representing the dosage effects. When marijuana is rescheduled and decriminalized on a national scale, MarQaha is ready for success.
Some companies, such as HRN Distribution Inc. and High Quality Packaging, focus entirely on the marketing aspect, choosing not to provide cannabis-related products but rather to print their brands on existing products. HRN, for example, is the North American distributor of Cones, Kush and the original Blunt Wraps. These two companies distribute smoking supplies to nearly every convenience store in the country, and they're responsible for promotional items, such as Snoop Dogg's branded rolling papers.
Arts and Entertainment
It's not just marijuana and smoking contraptions artists are involved in the marijuana industry as well. Nearly a quarter of all vendors at the Cannabis Cup were glass blowers who created custom pipes, bongs and other glass art. The BIG B2B wholesale show also featured over $2.5 million in custom glass, according to Formula 420's Gustavo Gonzalez, the event's organizer.
The most impressive pipes, however, were crafted by Mother Nature herself. Gavin Glatting, the founder of Ocean Tokes, turned ordinary seashells into smoking pipes. By polishing the shells and inserting a screen, Glatting created a clean smoking experience you can get high and hear the ocean with one device.
Other marijuana-inspired art included Vincent Gordon and The Infusion Project, whose art fuses Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Hunter S. Thompson and "The Simpsons," among other styles.
Gordon's booth was easily a showstopper. His group of artists has performed live art shows at a variety of live events, including Snoop Dogg's cannabis event last year.
The entire event was covered by "Radical" Russ Belville, President of Portland, Ore.'s 420 Radio and host of the Russ Belville Show. Belville is one of the first talk radio shows for the marijuana nation, and he kept the party hype up throughout the weekend.
Also See: A Marijuana Economy Primer -- Reefer Brief
Accessorize Your Cannabis
The best part about smoking marijuana is the variety of accessories, and there's no shortage of such add-ons in this budding industry. Local Colorado entrepreneurs have come up with some pretty useful items, such as Anonymous Bags. These bags are black, low-key, as strong as luggage, lockable, and smell-resistant. They fully conform to all medical and recreational dispensary exit packaging laws while providing a safe and secure way to store and transport your stash.
If your stash is too moist or dry, Boveda has the answer. The company's freshness packets are similar to the silica gel packets found in beef jerky, except in addition to drawing in moisture (drying out the other contents of the bag), they also release moisture. This ensures your herbs and buds remain at optimum freshness.
If the smell of your buds gets too strong, Kushley has the answer. The company's hemp-based candles, sprays, and lotions remove the smell of smoke from your hands, clothes, or the air. What's even more impressive is the strong minty scent of the company's products eventually fades to nothing. With all the strong-smelling products on the market, a product that overpowers the smell before turning both smells into nothing is quite the achievement.
Academia and Big Data
As marijuana moves closer to nationwide legalization, it's natural to be curious about the plant and the industry behind it. Not everyone involved is a grower or distributor of the actual drug.
Entrepreneurs of every type are racing for a piece of the pie.
Rather than growing their own drugs, the team members behind the Cannabis Commodities Exchange tracks the inventory of other dispensaries. They also track local laws in every state big data is their goal. By the time marijuana goes mainstream, these guys have the capability to overtake WeedMaps to become the Yelp! of cannabis.
The Cannabis Hemp Academy is aiming to become the first accredited marijuana college. Although the school is not yet accredited, it does offer six online courses, including Cannabis Medicine Making, Basic Indoor Cannabis Cultivation, and Cannabis Biology. For $420, you can receive a training certification in everything you need to know to join the marijuana industry, much like ITT Tech or Devry will get you a job in computers.
Marijuana isn't legal yet, but it's only a matter of time before it is. Entrepreneurs in Colorado and Washington are blazing the trail while other states continue fighting against anti-cannabis laws. You may not be able to grow your own product, but you can certainly enjoy the variety available in the industry. Whether you're a medicinal or recreational user, puff, puff, and pass the dutchie to the left-hand side.
Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. Penny is a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post, Lifehack, Cannabis Now, and Money Side of Life. He documents his experiences blowing the whistle on the banks and working with Anonymous on his blog.