“Social Cannabis consumption and the path to broad cultural relevance”
If there’s anyone left who doubts the market viability of cannabis consumer products, they’re not watching closely. For the rest of us, it’s time to start talking about this industry in terms of how it will reach broad consumer appeal both in existing markets and across the country (pending what seems to be the inevitable end to cannabis prohibition). How are we as society going to approach these brands and products – and how will they become a part of our lives and routine?
This really follows-on nicely from a panel interview we recently did with many industry leaders – and we’re lucky enough to have Erik Knutson, CEO and Co-Founder of Keef Brands back with us to really dig-in on this!
Erik, thanks so much for being with us today! Really excited to explore – and I think we’re all anticipating what you’ll be sharing with us next month at eBev.
Hey Seth! Happy to be on with you!
Absolutely! First off, drinking and smoking are historically two of the most popular social activities for adults, so if people have access to great tasting cannabis-infused beverages to enjoy with their friends, they can have the best of both worlds: the fun, social, celebratory experience of drinking, with the joys of cannabis. In addition, more and more people are looking for new and improved alcohol alternatives. Friends want to hang out and drink together without risking debilitating hangovers, getting out of control, and added calories. People are no longer just simply willing to accept the negative effects of alcohol. Carefully dosed cannabis-infused beverages can be the solution and when people enjoy them together in a social setting, it opens up the conversation of why cannabis deserves to be a pleasurable complement to everyday life.
When we say “social consumption,” are we exclusively looking at drinks & cocktails – or do you see a broader range of products and other types of cannabis consumption behaviors in the social/“on-premise” environment.
Well, we at Keef Brands believe that the most convenient, approachable and engaging way to enjoy cannabis is through beverages. Cannabis infused drinks are a new way to experience the simple pleasure of a good drink with friends. Drinking is social, mainstream, and celebratory, so those consuming cannabis beverages can stay part of the party (rather than stepping outside to smoke), join in the toasts, keep the conversation going and share in the moments that make for great times.
But, people can also enjoy cannabis-infused foods socially. I’ve seen everything from complex THC tasting menus prepared by trained chefs to simple but delicious chocolate bars with micro-dosed pieces that groups of friends can break off and share together as a snack. The possibilities are endless.
I’m certainly in agreement with the idea that this will be the lynchpin of rapidly maturing the cannabis market (and looks like you’ve given us a great handle on why that is)…but now I’m thinking about the potential venues and experiences in which this can be incorporated – and the culture(s) around each. What are some of the interesting things you’re envisioning or that come to mind?
In terms of venues, known as social consumption lounges, some places are already ahead of the curve and paving the way for the future. There are sophisticated bar and brasserie-like spaces for interactive cannabis use in certain areas including the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Massachusetts, Alaska and most recently, Colorado, with a new law permitting social consumption lounges beginning 2020. The potential benefits of these cannabis hospitality venues are immense, and include ensuring safety precautions, curbing the black market, economic and tourism boosts, and of course, destigmatization and fostering social connections. Licensed social consumption lounges with comfortable décor and a friendly pub-like ambiance can catapult cannabis in the mainstream and attract new, canna-curious users who may visit on their own or with more experienced friends. And as social consumption lounges develop, there may be opportunities to partner and collaborate with other industries and markets for more mass appeal and an overall trend towards normalization when it comes to cannabis. These possibilities include restaurant or food truck partners to provide on-site dining options, hosting trivia nights and live music, and more.
Stepping back a little, this has been a very fluid time for social consumption. Can you tell us about the limited current landscape (as well as any impending participants)?
Some may consider the current landscape to be limited because each legal state has their very own distinct and often convoluted rules and regulations when it comes to packaging and other factors, which may hinder innovation and getting new products to market. However, I am very optimistic and excited about the future of the cannabis landscape here in America and worldwide. As mentioned earlier, I think the increasing legalization of social consumption lounges will do wonders for the market and for the acceptance of cannabis to be solidified.
Looking specifically at your incredible journey the last 9+ years (and by this point you must be one of, if not the most omnipresent cannabis drinks brands in Colorado)…What have you learned about the way different people engage differently with the industry? Any insights you’re working against as you prepare for this new on-premise opportunity?
Consumers and the public as a whole have increasingly embraced cannabis as both a medicinal option and as something that can be enjoyed socially, interactively and responsibly. But unfortunately, governmental regulations have lagged behind this improving public perception. Cannabis businesses still don’t have adequate access to banking and are faced with outrageously high taxes because cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level. But I’m confident that if we as an industry continue to band together and advocate, things will change for the better and cannabis businesses will get the same respect and legitimization as other social consumption industries, like craft beer and wine.