In the ever-evolving landscape of legalized cannabis, cannabis entrepreneurs are continually being forced to up their game to stay relevant. As of November 2023, recreational marijuana use has been legalized in 24 states. While for many people in these states, this change has begged the simple personal question, “Could I become a cannabis user?” the cannabis entrepreneurs who’ve been fulfilling the market demand for edibles over the last umpteen years are facing a weightier conundrum: How do we compete with these big brand producers and dispensaries suddenly popping up on our turf?
Since 2012 when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, 22 other states along with the District of Columbia have joined their ranks. With cannabis laws changing rapidly and to varying degrees, it can be challenging to stay ahead of the edible game in your own community.
But with 38 of our 50 states now allowing at least the use of medical marijuana, one thing is certain: the future of the cannabis industry is bright.
Which states legalized cannabis recently?
In the last two years alone, Missouri, Minnesota, Maryland, Delaware, and Ohio have all made the leap to legalizing recreational cannabis. Here’s a closer look at what’s happening in each of these newest converts.
Missouri: Missouri, which has allowed medical use of marijuana since 2018, amended the Missouri constitution in 2022 to legalize adult-use cannabis. By May of 2023, Missouri surpassed $1 billion in medical and adult-use cannabis. This obvious demand for cannabis in the state is great news for microbusinesses who want a piece of the action. In addition to the 300 licenses that were issued to retailers in February 2023, Missouri regulators are required to issue an additional 144 microbusiness licenses through a lottery system.
Minnesota: Minnesota became the 23rd state to legalize adult-use cannabis in May 2023. License applications will become available for retailers in 2024 and sales are set to begin in 2025. However, Minnesota’s 11 sovereign tribal nations don’t have to wait for the state’s licensing system and have already begun operating dispensaries. Meaning, to some degree, it’s already game-on for micro-dispensaries competing for sales in Minnesota.
Maryland: Maryland, becoming the 20th state to legalize cannabis use in 2023, is in a unique position for retailers—literally. Many people expect Maryland to have booming success with cannabis sales in upcoming years due to the lack of availability in surrounding states. As of July 1, 2023, there were already 95 licensed dispensaries in Maryland along with an additional 41 licensed manufacturers and processors.
Delaware: Delaware enacted two bills in April 2023 that allow the personal use of marijuana. Notably, however, there will only be 30 retail outlets authorized in the state. These are set to begin operating around September 2024 after a competitive bidding process by the newly established Marijuana Commissioner.
Ohio: As of November 2023, Ohio’s vote to approve the use of recreational cannabis is still too fresh to have all the details. As of yet, there are no dispensaries legally selling non-medical marijuana but over the coming 9 months, as the Division of Cannabis Control adopts the necessary new rules, this will change. Current cannabis cultivator, processor, and tester labs in the state will each be issued a non-medical license along with an additional 40 cultivator and 50 dispensary licenses.
While spreading legalization may pass as front-page news, the demand for high-quality cannabis products, especially edibles, isn’t surprising to the cannabis entrepreneurs who’ve had a finger on the pulse even when it meant producing from our kitchens. This demand is well-illustrated by the sales value of cannabis edibles in the U.S. in 2022 which totaled more than 4.8 billion dollars.
Downsides of legalized cannabis
At first glance, cannabis becoming legal in your own state may seem like a huge win for an entrepreneur: the market will inevitably become less stigmatized, possession will become decriminalized, and the number of consumers will rise.
Unfortunately, the change also comes with potentially catastrophic ramifications for microbusinesses. Even well-prepared local cannabis entrepreneurs will suddenly be at a disadvantage compared to the national producers and dispensaries that will move in with their streamlined products and impressive storefronts.
With the competition suddenly skyrocketing, it’s more important than ever for the little guys of the edible industry to refine and perfect our products to stay relevant. And frankly, there’s no time for trial and error in this rapidly changing market.
Still, with a few well-designed tweaks, there is hope for local cannabis entrepreneurs to be successful in the edible industry even with the steep competition. Just look at craft brewers and coffee houses. With their ears to the ground in their communities and a commitment to high-quality products, these microbusinesses have all but taken over every street corner in the country.
With that being said, let’s go over the checklist for success as a cannabis entrepreneur in the increasingly competitive edibles market.
1. Define Your Niche
As you’re probably aware, every successful cannabis entrepreneur has a well-defined niche. What kind of edibles do you make? Who do you make them for? What makes your cannabis edibles unique and special? Knowing the answers to these questions and clearly defining your niche will help to avoid getting lost in the weeds as you move on to the next checklist items.
2. Perfect Your Recipe
It goes without saying that to succeed as a microbusiness, you need a stellar recipe. As competition rises, so will the consumer’s expectation for taste. If you don’t have the best edible in your niche in your city, you’re not doing everything you can to hedge your bets against an unforgiving market.
3. Focus On Quality And Consistency
Since you’ll suddenly be competing with big-name producers whose products are exact in size, shape, texture, color, taste, etc every time, it’s time to up your game with quality and consistency. Imagine opening a pack of Oreos and discovering that they were all slightly different in shape and color. Would you feel excited to pop one of those suckers in your mouth? Probably not. This is the level of quality and consistency we’re suddenly expected to uphold.
4. Be Creative and Innovative
One thing that you have as a microbusiness that those big guys can’t compete with? Connections to your community. You know what people want. Be creative. Experiment with new product flavors or formulations. Find out what the people in your community love and be the one to make it for them. If you need a little support in bringing those ideas to life, allow us to help! As food scientists with a focus on cannabis edibles, this is where we can help give you a leg-up on your competition.
5. Create An Excellent Customer Experience
Finally, create a customer experience that people want to come back for. Some of this will happen naturally from creating consistently high-caliber recreational cannabis products that the people in your community daydream about. Additionally, what kind of experience are the people in your niche hoping to have when they buy edibles from you? Create an experience for your consumers that, from beginning to end, leaves them feeling like they never need to visit any other dispensary apart from yours.
Hopefully, in this dog-eat-dog market, the spreading legality of cannabis inspires you to take your business to the next level. If you’re ready to step up to the plate, don’t waste your time trying to work out every kink on your own. These big dispensaries won’t wait for you to perfect your recipe. That’s where we can help! As cannabis food scientists, we can help you achieve your unique goals in a fraction of the time it might take on your own.
The flavor and consistency of your edibles have never been under more scrutiny by the consumer. Reach out for a free consultation with us today to make sure you’re ready to compete in the big leagues.