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The 6,000-Year History of Medical Cannabis

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Visualizing the History of Medical Cannabis

The 6,000-Year History of Medical Cannabis

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Since the early 20th century, the use of cannabis for any purpose fell out of favor by both regulators and Western culture at large.

In the United States, a wave of regulations made access to cannabis more difficult starting from the late 1900s, ultimately culminating in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which effectively made cannabis use a federal offense. Meanwhile, prohibition in Canada lasted for 85 years until being lifted by recent developments.

Interestingly, however, this recent period of 20th century opposition is actually just a small speck in the wider 6,000-year timeline of cannabis. After all, the plant has been widely regarded for its therapeutic potential for many millennia by different cultures around the world.

6,000 Years of Medical Cannabis

Today’s infographic comes to us from MedReleaf, and it focuses on the medical uses of cannabis discovered by many cultures over time. With uses dating back to Ancient empires such as Rome, Egypt, and China, it helps to put into perspective recent legal and cultural developments regarding cannabis on a broader historical scale.

4000 BC: Pan-p’o village
Cannabis was regarded among “five grains” in China, and was farmed as a major food crop.

2737 BC: Pen Ts’ao Ching
Earliest record of cannabis as a medicinal drug. At this time, Emperor Shen-Nung recognized its treatment properties for over 100 ailments such as gout, rheumatism, and malaria.

2000-1400 BC: Scythians
Nomadic Indo-European peoples used cannabis in steam baths, and also burned cannabis seeds in burial rituals.

2000-1000 BC: Atharva Vedas
Cannabis was described as a “source of happiness”, “joy-giver”, and “bringer of freedom” in these Hindu religious texts. At this time, cannabis was smoked at daily devotional services and religious rituals.

2000-1000 BC: Ayurvedic Medicine
Open religious use of cannabis allowed for exploration of medical benefits. During this period, it was used to treat a variety of ailments such as epilepsy, rabies, anxiety, and bronchitis.

1550 BC: Ebers Papyrus
Egyptian medical papyrus of medical knowledge notes that medical cannabis can treat inflammation.

1213 BC: Ramesses II
Cannabis pollen has been recovered from the mummy of Ramesses II, the Egyptian pharaoh who was mummified after his death in 1213 BC.

900 BC: Assyrians
Employed the psychotropic effects of cannabis for recreational and medical purposes.

450-200 BC: Greco-Roman use
Physician Dioscorides prescribed cannabis for toothaches and earaches. Greek doctor Claudius Galen noted it was widely consumed throughout the empire. Women of the Roman elite also used cannabis to alleviate labor pains.

207 AD: Hua T’o
First recorded physician to describe cannabis as an analgesic. He used a mixture of cannabis and wine to anesthetize patients before surgery.

1000 AD: Treats Epilepsy
Arabic scholars al-Mayusi and al-Badri regard cannabis as an effective treatment for epilepsy.

1025 AD: Avicenna
The medieval Persian medical writer publishes “Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine”, stating that cannabis is an effective treatment for gout, edema, infectious wounds, and severe headaches. His work was widely studied from the 13th to 19th centuries, having a lasting impact on Western medicine.

1300 AD: Arab traders
Arab traders bring cannabis from India to Eastern Africa, where it spreads inland. It is used to treat malaria, asthma, fever, and dysentery.

1500 AD: Spanish Conquest
The Spanish brought cannabis to the Americas, where it was used for more practical purposes like rope or clothes. However, years later, it would be used as a psychoactive and medicinal drug.

1798: Napoleon
Napoleon brought cannabis back to France from Egypt, and it was investigated for its pain relieving and sedative qualities. At this time, cannabis would be used to treat tumors, cough, and jaundice.

1839: William O’Shaughnessy
Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy introduced the therapeutic uses of cannabis to Western medicine. He concluded it had no negative medicinal effects, and the plant’s use in a pharmaceutical context would rapidly rise thereafter.

1900: Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis was used to treat nausea, rheumatism, and labor pain. At this point in time, it is available over-the-counter in medications such as “Piso’s cure” and “One day cough cure”.

1914: Harrison Act
Drug use was declared a crime in the U.S., under the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act in 1914.

1937: Marihuana Tax Act
The Marihuana Tax Act banned the use and sales of cannabis in the United States.

1964: Discovery of THC
The molecular structure of THC, an active component of cannabis, was discovered and synthesized by Israeli chemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam.

1970: Classified as Schedule 1 Drug
Cannabis became categorized as a Schedule 1 Drug in the U.S., which limited further research into the plant. It was listed as having “no accepted medical use”.

1988: CBD Receptors Discovered
The CBD1 and CBD2 cannabinoid receptors were discovered. Today, we know they are some of the most abundant neuroreceptors in the brain.

2000-2018: Medical cannabis legalization
Governments, such as those of Canada and various states, begin to legalize cannabis for medical purposes from licensed producers. Recreational legalization quickly starts to follow.

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How Consumers Are Shaping Cannabis Consumption

Cannabis consumers could spend up to $10.5B on concentrates by 2022—and they’re increasingly relying on the influence of branding to make their choices.

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How Consumers Are Shaping Cannabis Consumption

The cannabis industry continues to reach new heights, and according to market analysts, global legal spending on cannabis could reach $32 billion by 2022 — a majority of which is thanks to U.S. and Canadian consumers.

What’s driving the evolution of the market?

Cannabis is in the midst of a shakeup, and today’s infographic from Ionic Brands highlights how consumers are significantly shaping the landscape of cannabis.

Cannabis Concentrates: A New Frontier

For years, joints and blunts dominated the industry—but sales of traditional flower are swiftly losing ground to new products. Here’s how cannabis consumer spending looks across North America in a few short years:

Product typeFlowerEdiblesConcentratesOther
2017$4.2B$1B$1.9B$1.3B
2022E$10.5B$4.1B$10.5B$4.1B
% Market Share↓ 14pp
From 50% to 36%
↑ 2pp
From 12% to 14%
↑ 13pp
From 23% to 36%
↓ 1pp
From 15% to 14%
CAGR20%33%41%26%

Cannabis consumers are clearly moving away from simply smoking the product. Concentrates are the fastest growing industry segment, which is not surprising since they’re needed to make all sorts of products, from edibles to topicals and tinctures. Cannabis concentrates are also discreet, convenient, and more potent than other cannabis products, all of which contribute to their consumer appeal.

In fact, these changing preferences are disrupting other mammoth industries. Take JUUL Labs for example: the inconspicuous, smokeless device is chipping away at the tobacco industry, and now accounts for almost 73% of the e-cigarette market. JUUL’s growth is proof that consumers are driving the market, and this trend is also reflected in cannabis.

Among all cannabis concentrate types, vaporizers (vapes) overwhelmingly come out on top in established markets, accounting for 43% of sales in Colorado, 70% in Oregon, and 79% in California.

Concentrate Sales (2018, Jan-Jun)VapeWaxShatterLive ResinOilsOthers
Colorado$97M$17M$16M$29M$12M$14M
Oregon$60M-$10M$4M$5M$8M
California$282M14M$14M$21M-$42M

Branding is Everything in Cannabis

The cannabis concentrates space is becoming increasingly sophisticated. With more money to be made from less product, concentrates offer higher margins as well. But in a fragmented market, brand recognition is arguably the biggest factor guiding consumer demand.

Returning to JUUL’s example, the company’s branding played a big hand in its accelerated trajectory—and in grabbing the attention of major players like Altria, the corporate parent of Marlboro. Altria made a landmark investment into 35% of JUUL in December 2018, bringing the latter’s value up to $38 billion.

In the nascent cannabis industry, consumers are still wondering who they can trust. A recent survey revealed that 72% of cannabis consumers rated branding as somewhat or very important in assessing a product’s quality and safety. Branded cannabis products are on the rise, but they’re not as established as Starbucks coffee or Apple iPhones quite yet.

When done right, cannabis concentrates brands are able to capture quite a significant chunk of the market:

  • California
    Top 10 brands: 48.4%
    All other: 51.6%
  • Colorado
    Top 10 brands: 46.6%
    All other: 53.4%
  • Oregon
    Top 10 brands: 59.7%
    All other: 40.3%

In a budding industry, such brand market domination is an impressive feat. However, a few barriers still stand in the way of these brands’ ability to scale on a national level: cannabis and related products aren’t legal in every U.S. state, while diverse state regulations also complicate the process.

Cannabis consumer brands that can spread out into multiple states, and develop consumer trust, will emerge as winners in this new, dynamic market.

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The Allure of Craft Cannabis to Investors

Craft products are taking the retail world by storm. Find out why investors should be paying close attention to craft cannabis and its potential impact.

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The Investor Appeal in Craft Cannabis

They say if you do what you love, then the money will follow. In the multi-billion dollar cannabis business, that has certainly proved true for those who have been passionate about the plant for decades — otherwise known as craft growers.

Today’s infographic from Pasha Brands dives into the huge consumer demand for craft products, and why investors should pay attention to this trend as it extends into cannabis.

The Perfect Craft Product

Chances are, you may have encountered any of the following at least once: microbrewed beer, specialty coffee, premium wine, or organic food. They’ve become so popular, that craft versions of all these are steadily carving a valuable niche in their original markets.

 U.S. Market Size, 2017Craft Market Size, 2017Share of total
Beer vs Microbrew Beer$111B$26B23%
Coffee vs Specialty Coffee$32B$10B31%
Wine vs Premium Wine$80B$44.8B56%
Food vs Organic Food$898B$49.4B5.5%

Whether it’s introducing flavors into brews, slow-roasting beans, producing wine in small lots, or using a conscious “farm to table” label — what they have in common is the careful attention that’s paid to the process from start to end.

Craft cannabis bears a strong resemblance to all of these in that way, as growing it involves extra care, compared to large-scale producers. For example, hand-trimming is more labor intensive than using machines, but results in products with superior quality.

What are some other characteristics of craft cannabis?

  • Attention to detail
    A hands-on approach allows growers to personally ensure each cannabis plant is healthy.
  • Sustainable practices
    The use of organic farming to save energy, creating a smaller environmental footprint.
  • Social responsibility
    Smaller growers typically leverage local connections, creating employment opportunities.
  • Artisanal branding
    Sophisticated and modern packaging helps appeal to different types of craft cannabis consumers.

It’s clear why consumers care about craft cannabis. But what does it offer investors?

Making the Case for Craft

Investors should be paying close attention to craft cannabis for three key reasons: a higher price point, a focus on quality, and access to the retail market.

Upscale Price Tag

On average, organic cannabis has a higher price point attached to it, compared to regular grade cannabis.

  • Industry average: $9.02/ gram
  • Organic average: $11.40/ gram

Using organic methods to grow cannabis means that the final product on shelves boast an enhanced potency and effect. Since craft cannabis is also grown organically, it’s clear that consumers are willing to spend more to secure a premium product.

Promise of Quality

It might not come as a surprise that the most famous craft cannabis regions are also where the biggest volume of legal cannabis sales come from. California and Canada accounted for nearly 38% in global market share in 2017:

  • Worldwide sales: $9.5 billion
  • California sales: $3 billion
  • Rest of U.S. sales: $5.5 billion
  • Canada sales: $0.6 billion
  • Rest of world: $0.4 billion

These two areas have a foothold in cannabis sales, and with recreational legalization unfolding in both – and 75 million people living between the two jurisdictions – it will only continue to grow.

Opening the Doors

Following nation-wide legalization in Canada and an increasing number of states in the U.S., the continent is facing a cannabis shortage. Why? As it turns out, while craft growers are abundant, they still face regulatory hurdles in order to move from the “gray” underground market into launching legal operations.

Craft cannabis could be a cornerstone for industry growth, but its growers have been in the shadows for a long time. As cannabis gains momentum, tapping into the huge network of craft growers will be key for success.

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