If cannabis is the answer, what is the question?
This column originally appeared in DFNI*
Late last year, United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the production of industrial hemp as a “bright spot” for America’s embattled tobacco farmers.
It was a marked shift for the man who, in 2014, told a radio station that legalising marijuana would be “giving up”. But the tides are changing in favour of cannabis and hemp. In America, as McConnell acknowledged, that change is a lifeline for farmers struggling with falling tobacco sales.
Demand for the cannabinoid CBD, which is legal and found in products such as skin care oils and bottled water, makes hemp a lucrative business for farmers looking for a new outlet. Such is the appeal of this new market that Forbes reports some American tobacco farmers are already adapting their tools to cultivate hemp.
The product’s potential on the market is irrefutable. CBD products from snus to e-liquids and vapours featured strongly at the recent Tobacco Plus Expo and figures from Euromonitor estimate that the legal cannabis market is currently worth $12bn globally, with that set to rise to $166bn by 2025. The research company went so far as to brand cannabis “the ultimate market disruptor”.
As cannabis becomes better known and understood, other cannabinoids are also expected to find their place on the market. THC – which creates the high found in the drug version of marijuana – has been cited as a possible ingredient for new lines of snus and non-alcoholic drinks which can provide a “buzz” on a night out. In this context, many are suggesting that the future of cannabis in the consumer market will be driven by the potential of THC.
Euromonitor predicts: “No consumer market will remain untouched by cannabis as a functional super ingredient.”
What does all this mean for travel retail? The market likes to jump on board with a new and popular trend, but cannabis is not likely to become a big-hitter in duty free any time soon.
Every company I speak to admits they are monitoring and investigating the situation, but issues surrounding different legislation across the world remain an insurmountable barrier.
It would be nice to call on authorities to work together to find a workable answer, but if Brexit has taught us anything it is that that is easier said than done.
*This column was originally printed in DFNI during my tenure as the Tobacco Editor for the magazine