Photo: Cavan Clark – Sonoma Hills Farm

Next year will be a big year for cannabis as recreational legalization in California will take effect on January 1. This is certainly a big step forward for the industry and one that will also shine a light on the medicinal cannabis industry that has been operating here since 1996. Despite more than 20 years of legal medicinal cannabis, the stigma around the plant unfortunately still exists, but that stigma comes from a lack of understanding. If people are willing to re-educate themselves about a topic that has been surrounded by misinformation for decades, the possibilities for the cannabis plant are endless. For perspective, 10 years ago when I had my first smartphone, I couldn’t have even conceptualized half the apps that are on my phone today. I look at cannabis the same way – there are all kinds of different microcosms and impacts it’s having, uses and benefits that we don’t even KNOW about yet, which to me is what makes it so exciting.

Here’s a look at what the next 12 months should have in store for the cannabis industry:

Education on the endocannabinoid system in humans

Research is consistently showing that cannabis has a profound effect on the human body. Why? Because the endocannabinoid system in humans is perhaps the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health. This article explains it best: “Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment. Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond and research continues to prove the medicinal benefits of cannabis in humans.”

It’s not about the high, it’s about the healing

We already know that cannabis has proven positive impacts in people suffering from a multitude of ailments, from cancer, to Alzheimer’s, to Parkinson’s and epilepsy, to depression and anxiety, and so much more. It still baffles me that I can walk into my doctor and get Benzodiazepines and opiates (which are proven to be dangerous) with no effort, but am still restricted in so many ways from alternatives to that. Instead let’s evaluate people for what they are deficient in and see how cannabis can help, whether through a topical treatment, a CBD-rich solution that has little to no psychoactive effect, etc. Again, focusing on the healing properties of the plant and integrating cannabinoids as a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle.

Innovations of all kinds

The most beautiful thing about the cannabis industry is that it spans everything, from pharma to the wine and hospitality world and potentially everything in between. This year will bring cannabis innovations of all kinds, such as artistic expression through food and beverages, to targeted therapeutics for specific illnesses and ailments, and much like my app analogy at the beginning of this post, so many things we can’t even fathom today. Unlike other innovations and markets the world has seen, the cannabis industry has the potential to apply to nearly everything.

We have an interesting year ahead. One that is sure to be fraught with challenges and hopefully some victories around helping to re-educate people about cannabis, working to remove the “stoner” stigma and finally giving this plant the respect it deserves.