Reading the Tea Leaves: Everyone's seeing dollar signs

Young Kwak

The future of cannabis is a hard thing to pin down. As the drug becomes normalized not only through its medicinal roots but also as an alternative to alcohol, there are new ways cannabis is being sold to prospective users daily.

The $13 billion industry is expected to grow to $32 billion within the next five years. If you ask alcohol marketing kingpin Bill Newlands, Constellation Brands CEO, the cannabis industry could balloon to even greater heights.

"Our view is that in the next 10-plus years, this is going to be a $200 billion business worldwide and some would argue [that's] understating the case," Newlands said at Jim Cramer's Boot Camp for Investors last week.

During the event, Newlands and CEO Bruce Linton of partner company Canopy Growth highlighted the expansive list of industries and markets that could tap into cannabis' growing applications.

click to enlarge Constellation Brands CEO Bill Newlands
Constellation Brands CEO Bill Newlands

The two highlighted the benefits of cannabis when it came to alcohol, sleep aids, appetite enhancement, sports drinks, neuropathic aid and even pet care.

"All of the sudden you start adding these categories together and that is a huge... segment of business," Linton said.

The technology for cannabis is constantly expanding. Phone and computer apps not only help users trace their bud and its effects, but also help farmers look at what strains and growing styles maximize harvest cycles and yields.

"The stoner stereotype is not exactly what the cannabis consumer looks like today and definitely not what the cannabis consumer looks like tomorrow," BDS Analytics President Liz Stahura told CNET. "It looks very much like the target consumer for just about any other consumer product."

And that evolution of the industry will force consumers to consider what they are looking for at recreational stores. In a supply chain like Washington's, which supports mass production farms over smaller grow-ops, it's easy to see a future of Walmart-like goods. Consumers chasing high THC levels for the cheapest amount could potentially exacerbate that sort of optimized farming.

For those passionate about cannabis, educated consumption may be as vital in the pot market as it is in grocery and clothes shopping. ♦