All eyes are on Drug Enforcement Administration chief Anne Milgram in 2024, with the industry hoping for a watershed year of rescheduling and the elimination of Internal Revenue Code Section 280E. But even if the pessimistic view prevails and there’s no substantive policy change over the next eleven months, there’s still plenty of reason to be excited about the year ahead. Innovation across all sectors is ramping up despite external forces.
Some breeders are moving into what could be the next evolutionary leap with triploid seeds that promise massive, swollen terpenes, high yields, and an increase in secondary metabolites. Other breeders are pulling from genetic history with new F1 hybrids that promise stable uniformity and vigorous growth at an industrial scale.
The technology to support these ambitious genetics also is surging forward, with autonomous robotic devices packed with cameras and sensors that move freely above cultivation canopies to spot issues in real time. The latest innovations in packaging materials have the potential to let flower finish curing properly during storage and transit without the need to monitor or burp containers.
On the retail side, the customer shopping experience is going deeper into digital as companies implement new technologies to see, smell, interact, and shop. Virtual-reality developers are creating immersive online educational experiences in addition to virtual showrooms that can help brands develop products more efficiently and allow customers to interact with merchandise before making a purchase. Dispensaries are streamlining the in-store experience with QR codes displayed next to products, encouraging experienced customers to build a shopping cart on their phone and pay for everything without needing assistance from a budtender.
Even with virtual reality and artificial intelligence powering many of the year’s most promising innovations, firms are far from ignoring the standard in-store experience. In fact, improvements lie ahead in that area, too. Simple and effective multisensory product displays are rolling out to magnify the visual appeal of strains and bring to the foreground the aromatic bouquet that truly defines their magic. And, of course, product brands are launching intriguing items across the board. The engineers creating the machinery that helps brands bring new products to life are debuting equipment that incorporate artificial intelligence, robotics, and innovative new automation styles.
In short, all sectors of the industry are poised to overflow with innovation this year. Here are a few things to keep an eye on.
Bud Bar Displays Puffer Pod
Bud Bar’s new Puffer Pod is a simple, effective, and practical device for showcasing flower’s captivating aroma and visual allure. The device uses simple physics to deliver a generous whiff of terpenes. With the press of a button, air is released through two “micro holes” designed to block air movement until the button is pressed. Limiting airflow preserves flower’s seductive attributes. The device also helps extend shelf life by incorporating a humidity tray slot to hide an optional humidity-control pack.
Humboldt Seed Company triploids
Humboldt Seed Company introduced high-potency triploid seeds to the U.S. in January, offering home and commercial growers stable options with THC percentages up to 35 percent. Triploid breeding crosses a male containing two complete sets of chromosomes with a female containing four complete pairs of chromosomes. The seeds produce plants with shorter flowering times, larger buds, and more terpenes and cannabinoids as a result of larger cells in the plant.
Royal Queen Seeds Tyson strains
Despite an established reputation in Europe with retail locations in Amsterdam, Spain, and Bangkok, Royal Queen Seeds is still a bit of a newcomer in the U.S. The company caused significant buzz in November when it announced it had signed a deal to offer seeds from popular Tyson 2.0 strains and was named “Best Seed Bank” at the inaugural Emjay Awards. Royal Queen also released eight F1 hybrid seeds the company claims will deliver a stable, uniform crop every time.
ECOM provides an experiential in-store shopping experience allowing consumers to add products to their shopping cart by scanning a QR code with their mobile phone. Once finished shopping, they check out from their phone, alerting the fulfillment team to ready the order for pickup at the counter. The process is convenient for customers and reduces labor costs for the dispensary.
Grove Bags SafeVac
Winner of the 2023 Emjays Award for Best Packaging Company, Grove Bags expects to launch its latest innovation early this year. SafeVac, a direct replacement for food-storage bags and vacuum film, was designed to maximize flower potency and quality by maintaining optimal humidity and protecting against degradation. Composed of Grove Bags’ proprietary TerpLoc material, SafeVac allows flower to finish curing while in storage or transit without the need to burp containers.
Advanced Nutrients’ VR realm
Advanced Nutrients tapped Oscar-winning Industrial Light & Magic to build what founder and CEO Michael “BigMike” Straumietis calls “a conscious community in the virtual world.” The virtual-reality platform will track raw ingredients, provide strain-specific grow tips, and monitor every aspect of flower from seed to beyond sale, helping cultivators leverage data about local trends. Also included: immersive education, art galleries, meeting rooms, and a concert stage.
Purpl PRO portable potency tester
Purpl Scientific’s Purpl PRO uses near-infrared spectrometry to create a “molecular fingerprint” of each sample. The company says accuracy is about +/- 2 percent when analyzing THC and CBD in dry flower. The device also provides instant test results for water activity and moisture. The pocket-sized THC tester lets cultivators, distributors, manufacturers, extractors, dispensaries, and consumers turn their cell phones into portable labs rendering reliable results in as few as three clicks.
LS Packaging VR dispensary
LS Packaging & Retail Solutions Managing Director Tim Wilson spent a decade managing global packaging production for Walmart. After witnessing brands utilize virtual-reality showrooms to speed up the product approval process, he launched a similar service for the cannabis industry. The solution saves time and money during production cycles. Virtual showrooms also allow retail buyers and consumers to view and interact with products.
Neatleaf’s Spyder is an autonomous robotic platform that moves freely above a cultivation canopy, capturing millions of data points and translating them into actionable insights. The cable-based multisensor system is mounted at four points and functions like a football stadium camera, moving dynamically up and across the field to monitor and track growing conditions. Working in tandem with AI-powered software, the device keeps track of every plant, regardless of the grow room’s size. Neatleaf’s dashboard provides real-time status reports for each zone, summarizing everything from CO2 and relative humidity measurements to leaf and air temperature. Other features like heatmaps can identify microclimates and systematic issues in a room, providing a comprehensive spatial understanding that helps growers identify issues quickly.
WARPD Labs consumable products
WARPD Labs takes an uncommon approach with its seven experiential product moods. The company offers fast-acting standard and extra-strength live-resin gummies, infused pre-rolls with ceramic tips, and proprietary vape pods and batteries in one of seven “dimensional experiments” like Dream, Groovy, and Giddy. The reusable QuantumPortal Battery features a ceramic heating element that delivers 2.5mg precision dosing with three adjustment levels for personalized control. Pods are available in one and two grams. The hemp line launches nationally in February, with THC products expected by the end of the first quarter in Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
SevenPoint Interiors multi-sensorial display
The latest component in SevenPoint Interiors’ fixtures line is meant to increase display interactivity and return visits, even among those who don’t buy flower. Resembling a retro wall-mounted phone, the as-yet-unnamed proof-of-concept device enhances the experience of bud-sniffing by integrating a light source and fan into the base of the unit. When a consumer lifts the bell-shaped wand from the base, the light and fan come on, providing a clear view of the enclosed bud and delivering its fragrance directly to the consumer’s olfactory system. Place the wand back in its cradle, and the light and fan shut off, protecting the flower from heat and exposure to air, which can degrade trichomes and potency.
Chubby Gorilla LockFit case
Chubby Gorilla this year will launch a highly customizable case that eliminates the need for excessive molded inserts. The rigid-body LockFit is durable and reusable, with nearly limitless internal configurations to hold a range of small products and devices. The LockFit also features a tamper-evident and child-resistant closure that’s mindful of the needs of older adults.
Vape-Jet dab dispenser
Set to debut this spring, Vape-Jet’s single-operator dab dispenser automatically detects empty jars and begins a new cycle. Certified for accuracy by the National Conference on Weights and Measures, the device handles most cannabinoid-rich concentrates. A pharmaceutical-grade pump and nitrogen-pressurized reservoir protect against oxidation and allow low-temp operation.
CCell’s newest vape represents another step forward in technology and form factor with the introduction of a dual-tank design and a version made specifically for liquid diamonds and live resin. Voca and Voca (LD) incorporate a medical-grade stainless-steel center post, food-grade mouthpiece, and clog-free vents. Both versions employ the company’s patented ceramic heating core. Available in 0.5ml and 1ml tank capacities with a rechargeable battery and customizable surface texture.
NBi FlexPack child-resistant stand-up pouch
NBi FlexPack’s new child-resistant stand-up pouches are made in the U.S., allowing quick turnaround times for manufacturing and shipping. Each incorporates a 4.5-mil recyclable high barrier designed to keep products fresh and kids out. The barriers and pouches comply with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards and exceed government requirements for poison-prevention packaging.
Sorting Robotics Stardust
Billed as the world’s first automated kief-coating robot, Stardust brings automation and consistency to “fuzzy”-style joints, cones, blunts, and straight-tube pre-rolls. The patent-pending robot handles distillate, fully decarboxylated concentrates, cigar glue, and simple water formulations. Diverse coating options include dry-sift kief, bubble hash, crushed THCa diamonds, and powdered cannabis. The single-operator design not only streamlines production but also minimizes labor costs and loss tolerances by combining cutting-edge technology with human oversight.