The Move Toward Craft Cannabis

by Katya Kowalski


With the legal adult-use cannabis industry continuing to expand across North America, speciality brands have begun to emerge. 

As the sector becomes increasingly mainstream, could craft cannabis be the way forward for diversifying and innovating the space?

Craft cannabis embodies uniqueness by being grown in small batches, cultivating unique flavours. Products are created with care, concerned with quality rather than the quantity of production. Parallels can be drawn to the craft beer and microbreweries, distinguishing themselves from the mainstream with a unique story behind their product.

Craft cannabis companies specialise in holding a high quality standard through every step of the production stage.

“Curing and trimming play a huge role in perception of quality, so the handling of the plant is of utmost importance. Consider it the antithesis of ‘mass produced. Tantalus embodies the Craft ethos through small batch production, recaptured rainwater irrigation and delicate care from cultivation through harvest and post harvest processes.’”

Dan Sutton, CEO of Tantalus Labs

“The post-production process is where craft cannabis specialises. We hand trim, dry and hand package our products. Many of these processes can be automated but we hand treat the product with the utmost care. There are lots of ways to grow cannabis but how you treat the cannabis after adds a massive element to differentiate it.”

Fabian Monaco, President & Director of Gage Cannabis Co.

Craft production is something that cannot be done to scale; small scale production makes it easier to control the inputs that contribute to the plant and final product.

Mass produced cannabis is quickly becoming well-established. However, many cannabis consumers are not interested in consuming the same flavours and strains all the time. This subset of consumers is looking for something new and refined, which is where craft comes in with a unique offer.

“The industry is moving in a direction where consumers want to know more about their product and what makes it special. At Gage we try to own that narrative. The innovative aspect of craft caters to the pursuit of novelty for the consumer and putting it in their hands.”

Fabian Monaco, President & Director of Gage Cannabis Co.

Like any other consumer goods industry, cannabis is making room for a level of refinement as consumers look for a greater amount of variety. Now we’re starting to see legal cannabis that stands out from the conventional.

“Craft growers are trend setters, carving out interesting new product niches with specialised genetics, process refinement, and value added processing like artisan hash. We push the culture to evolve, promising consumers the best cannabis they could imagine, and some they could never imagine.

Small growers lack the economies of scale to compete with mass production on price. Thus, to achieve higher margins on their smaller batches, they have to deliver novel genetics through breeding or phenotyping other’s seeds. Cannabis has massively diverse chemistries, and those unique combinations of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other psychoactive compounds deliver novel effects that are subjective to each user. Craft cannabis is rooted in cultivating experiences worth telling a story about.”

Dan Sutton, CEO of Tantalus Labs

Craft cannabis developing is contributing to a general move toward the legitimisation of the industry by defining a luxury brand in the sector. Parallels to these craft products can be drawn to fine wines in the alcohol industry; certain elements make a wine particularly unique with the vineyard, grape type and year – this attitude is spreading to cannabis.

Could this be an effective way of countering stigma associated with cannabis use? The refined nature of craft cannabis might be normalising use to the status of any other consumer brand or product.

As cannabis becomes a more widely accepted drug, consumers may feel a greater amount of freedom to express themselves through it. This freedom of expression can be manifested by consuming specific strains, brands or methods of production – just like we see with the alcohol industry (you probably have a favourite beer, brand of gin or type of wine). Of course, many frequent consumers will already have this to a certain extent.

As the industry expands, we can expect this craft element to continue developing. Craft products should help re-contextualise cannabis use with an association to speciality and luxury products much like we see with alcohol.

The move toward craft products is certainly a byproduct of the growing sector. With mass-scale production expanding, more craft products should be expected – just like with the wine and beer industry. As much as there will continue to be players that are interested in mass production, there will be small lucrative producers which have no aspirations to be massive. 

“With each step up, companies have to get more corporate and lead more with the financials than their passions. Small and craft companies are the single most important element to the cannabis industry. When you lead with your passion, you seek out others with the same passion to work for you. There’s a buzz around small cannabis companies because everyone is genuinely excited about all the cool stuff they’re making. We should absolutely strive toward more craft cannabis companies in the sphere. Big companies will always try to squeeze out the small ones and it’s on us as consumers to pay the extra few bucks a gram to support local, craft cannabis.”

J Gordon, Freelance Writer in the Cannabis Industry & Hemp Budtender 

There is no doubt that large players are dominating the industry space and normalising it. However, craft producers bring a unique and fresh angle to this space. Craft companies stay true to diverse cultivation roots, drawing in refined consumers that are looking for something new and different.

Katya Kowalski is Stakeholder Engagement Officer at Volteface. Tweets @KowalskiKatya

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