With dispensaries popping up like, well…weeds from one coast to another, the legal cannabis industry has reached a level of visibility and acceptance that seemed almost unthinkable a decade ago. But here’s the thing: For every retail dispensary you see, there’s an untold number of businesses working behind the scenes to keep the industry supplied with products, compliant with local regulations, and looking forward to the next stages of legalization and growth.
Who are these “cannatech” companies? In today’s post, we’re going to introduce you to a select handful of them, ranging from innovative delivery services to cutting-edge marketers to data-wrangling software designers and others still. So without further ado, here’s our list of the cannatech companies to watch in 2021.
Foottraffik’s Cannatech Companies to Watch in 2021
When it comes to sheer clout, this cannabis-compliant software supplier is the one to watch. With its platform in use by more than 1000 cannabis dispensaries and their partners, Flowhub’s seed-to-sale solutions help retailers simplify and automate their processes and offer a simple and transparent interface, all while helping to keep products off the black market. After receiving a hefty $23 million investment in 2019, the company currently processes over $3 billion in sales annually.
Despite cannabis being a roughly $24 billion business in the United States, many dispensaries are in a bind when it comes to how they accept payment for their products and services. Colorado-based CanPay aims to break the cannabis industry’s cash-only bind with a simple debit card that links dispensaries to customers’ band accounts. At present, with service in nearly 30 states and the District of Columbia, the company is the best solution we’ve yet found to cannabis’ cash problem.
We’ve written about programmatic advertising here before; it’s the next wave of intuitive and flexible ad management that’s already changing the way the marketing industry does business. But today we’re shining the spotlight on another leading marketing agency: California-based MediaJel. Using the truly game-changing power of AI to analyze consumer data and behaviors, MediaJel helps its clients in the cannabis, help, and alcohol industries connect with customers the smart way. (Note: MediaJel recently acquired Foottraffik.)
The fields of testing, certification, genetics, and R & D are among the least visible (but most crucial) in the legal cannabis world. And Steep Hill—self-described as the world’s leading cannabis science and technology company—actually lives up to the hype. Having opened the nation’s first commercial cannabis lab back in 2008, the company is currently preparing to expand into Mexico as well as multiple locations in the EU. Steep Hill’s work may be largely invisible to the consumer, but believe us when we say it’s a backbone of the entire legal cannabis universe.
Once upon a time, cannabis farming was a strictly handcrafted industry. These days, of course, it’s anything but, with well-capitalized growers and processors accounting for the lion’s share of tillable acreage. And in California—the world’s largest legal cannabis market—one of the undisputed giants is Los Angeles-based Loudpack Farms. Boasting no fewer than eight facilities where staff grow, process, package, and ship cannabis, it’s a prime example of how the power of vertical integration can be brought to bring massive quantities of high-quality, lab-tested cannabis to the masses.
Then there’s the question of how all that cannabis is actually consumed. And our next entrant—San Francisco-based Pax Labs—has been redefining how people enjoy cannabis since 2007 with their sleek, high-tech but easy-to-use vaporizers. The brand’s flagship Pax 3 features aircraft-grade aluminum, a Bluetooth connection to link with the company’s proprietary app, and intuitive interface. It’s no exaggeration to say that the company has done a great deal to shape cannabis’ image, bringing it out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
Compliance may be the least-sexy aspect of the legal cannabis industry, but it’s the one on which all the others depend. Billed as the most successfully deployed regulatory cannabis system in the world, Metrc currently partners with some 16 states to provide real-time seed-to-sale tracking data. With over a billion events tracked and counting, Metrc is an absolute backbone in the industry, and the pace-setter when it comes to cannabis compliance.
Thus far, we’ve focused mainly on products and services designed to serve cannabis consumers (and those who market and sell to them). But drug testing for employers is a vital part of the equation too, and by focusing on creating a fair, accurate, and consistent drug test, Hound Labs is moving the issue in the right direction. Described as “one billion times more sensitive than an alcohol breathalyzer,” the company’s Hound Marijuana Breathalyzer is just now being released in limited numbers for employers, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders.
We write a good deal about cannabis delivery here at Foottraffik. And no mystery why: Even before COVID-19 arrived to throw a wrench in everyone’s plans, cannabis delivery services were on the rise, both for brick-and-mortar dispensaries and fleet delivery-only services. And out of the second group, Blackbird has emerged as one of the leading players in the industry, especially since former front-runner Eaze imploded and was forced to retool into a vertical integration model. Based on the concept that cannabis should be purchased online like any other product, BlackbirdGo simply connects consumers with local retailers who offer pickup or delivery. It’s a one-stop-shop approach to cannabis that’s looking to redefine the game.
Even with full-scale national cannabis legalization picking up steam, it’s useful to remember that non-psychoactive CBD is far more readily available, for instance in states that currently prohibit greater than trace amounts of THC. That’s where Colorado-based Caliper comes in: They’ve dedicated impressive R&D into formulating fast-acting CBD powders that can be added to any food or beverage (or simply dissolved on the tongue). Whether or not the company’s products will catch on at the retail level is debatable; what isn’t is that an increasing number of foodservice formulators and wholesalers are offering CBD-enhanced products, and Caliper is perfectly positioned to help them succeed.