From concerts to virtual dispensaries: how web3 could revolutionize the cannabis industry
It’s high times in the metaverse. Here’s one company’s vision for the virtual future of cannabis.
Web3 could solve some of the marketing and financial challenges that cannabis dispensaries currently face / Adobe Stock
The US cannabis industry has skyrocketed in recent years; it’s expected to reach a valuation of around $40bn by 2030, per Grand View Research. But the booming business is fraught with complications. Cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 substance by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), meaning that it has no officially recognized medical benefits and a high potential for abuse (despite a growing body of evidence pointing to the contrary on both counts). As a result, cannabis dispensaries in states where the plant has been legalized still face a litany of serious challenges. They’re not allowed to advertise on social media, for example, nor are they able to make deposits with most federally insured banks.
Web3 could potentially resolve many of those issues, thereby ushering in a new era for the US cannabis industry.
This, at least, is the theory behind Cannaverse Technologies, a company that describes itself as “the pioneering cannabis metaverse platform that assists companies entering the new web3 and the metaverse.” In May, Cannaverse announced the launch of ‘Cannaland,’ a virtual cannabis marketplace where customers can shop for and learn about cannabis, and where brands can experiment with new marketing strategies and expand their customer bases.
That’s the long-term vision. Cannaland, like the metaverse itself in which it will be based, is still in its developmental stage. But Matthew Morgan, a longtime entrepreneur in the cannabis industry and the co-founder of Cannaverse, is confident that that vision will come to fruition, thanks to the help of a suite of emergent technologies – including virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) – that are central to the evolution and adoption of web3. “The immersive shopping experience of web3 ... [is] going to feel like you’re in the dispensary, like you’re in the cultivation. You’re going to be able to pick things up and look at them and spin them around. And hopefully we can digitize the buds so it looks very close to real life ... it [will give] the consumer confidence in what they’re getting, what’s going to be sent to their house.”
Time for a virtual education
Morgan – who was born to “a very conservative family” and who was taught from a young age “that people who smoke pot are criminals” – also envisions Cannaland as serving as an educational resource. “A lot of the issues we’re dealing with today are from lack of education,” he says. “If people understood the plant on a deeper level, we wouldn’t have a lot of the mass hysteria and confusion that we deal with today.” Visitors to Cannaland, he says, will eventually be able to learn about everything from cultivation, to baking cannabis-infused brownies, to which kinds of products are best for optimizing sleep.
What about entertainment, you ask? Not to worry – Morgan pictures eventually hosting virtual concerts in Cannaland, featuring stoner culture icons such as Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg.
The anonymity of the metaverse, Morgan says, will also enable brands to attract new customers – the types of “high-level professionals” who normally wouldn’t want to be seen shopping in a brick and mortar dispensary. “Think about some prominent brain surgeon [walking into a dispensary] – it’s not a good look, because of what the government has done to this plant. It still has negative connotations ... but if they can have a great shopping experience from their own home, and nobody knows about it, that’s a beautiful thing.”
Crypto accepted here
Crypto is also envisioned as playing a central role in Cannaland. Morgan plans to build a virtual token called Canna that can be used inside the virtual space, which he says “will operate similarly to the way that Mana operates inside Decentraland.” He hopes that Canna will also eventually be accepted at brick and mortar dispensaries – “almost like Apple Pay inside the dispensary” – which he believes would “solve all the banking issues” that those businesses currently face.
While aiming big for Cannaland, Morgan acknowledges the unpredictable nature of the metaverse, which remains mostly a theoretical concept. “My crystal ball is no better than anyone else’s,” he says. Uncertainties aside, he envisions the metaverse eventually becoming a marketing game changer for cannabis brands: “Branding cannabis is fun, marketing cannabis is a nightmare,” he says. “I’ve had 100 different social media pages deleted and shut down. You can’t use Google AdWords, you can’t advertise in most magazines ... it’s a disaster. They basically handcuff you at every turn. In Cannaland you’ll be able to market this however you’d like ... there are really no handcuffs here. Let your imagination run wild.”
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