Select brand’s website.

News and notes from the cannabis industry, curated and crafted for high-minded professionals in the Midwest and beyond. 

State of the art vape hits dispensaries in Michigan and Illinois

Cannabis entrepreneur and executive Cameron Forni, who sold his Select brand of concentrates to Curaleaf for nearly $400 million in February, recently toured through the Midwest as a Curaleaf executive touting the company’s new Select Elite Live cartridge.

More than 60 pot shops in Michigan along with 14 dispensaries in Illinois offer Select products. Connoisseurs as well as cannabis executives whose job it is to track what is selling locally and across the country eagerly anticipated the Elite Live rollout. 

Forni, who co-founded Cura (creator of Select) in Oregon and now is based in Las Vegas, serves as president of the Select division of Wakefield, Mass.-based Curaleaf, which acquired Chicago-based Grassroots Cannabis for $840 million earlier this year.

On a Zoom video conversation with Grown In shortly after his Midwest visit, Forni, 33, enthusiastically described how to configure the cartridge and its oils to deliver an optimal buzz for the end user sans coughing. A hybrid personality between Steve Jobs and the English professor portrayed by Donald Sutherland in Animal House, Forni’s view of the industry today is significantly higher than 35,000 feet. 

He did have a few things to say about the Illinois market, however, where Curaleaf is awaiting ownership transfer of 10 of the 16 Greenhouse and Windy City Cannabis dispensaries still owned by Grassroots Cannabis 

His first observation about Illinois is that, “Demand continues to exceed supply and there will be supply shortages for some time until cultivation meets demand.”

When asked about the finite number of dispensaries in Illinois due to the slower than anticipated roll-out of social equity dispensaries, Forni said, “People are still going to get cannabis, they are driving further to get it.”

CBD beverages the choice of a new generation, survey finds

More consumers are buying beverages infused with CBD since the pandemic, but particularly those in Generation Z and Millennial categories, according to a recent survey conducted by Chicago-based market research firm High Yield Insights.

More than 4,000 CBD users across multiple age groups (21+) and demographics were surveyed between September 25 and October 14. The nearly 1,200 who partake in CBD beverages said social consumption is common. Relieving anxiety, nausea, insomnia and depression were among the primary reasons they reach for infused bottles. Many also cited CBD’s positive effect on workout recovery. 

As the ingredient means many things to many people, developing brand loyalty is a challenge for consumer product goods companies entering the category. The survey revealed that among 4,200 CBD users surveyed, only 28 percent reported having a go-to product, brand or form factor. 

“The CBD market is ripe for innovation and brand building,” said HighYield CEO Mike Luce, who detailed three different approaches brands are taking to the normalizing category.

At the “entering” stage are upstart brands like Recess, which is CBD exclusive and sold in six different flavors as, “an antidote to modern times”. 

In market brands like Vita Coco and Life Aid are now in the process of “extending” into CBD with new offerings. 

Pepsi’s Driftwell enhanced water beverage is an example of a major corporation “aligning” with CBD by emphasizing functional and relaxation-based properties. Given the existing federal ambiguity around hemp sales and consumption, however, big brands remain on the sidelines as newer entrants with less to lose occupy more shelf space. 

“Coke and Pepsi are not going to engage in CBD until there is a 110 percent green light from the DEA,” Luce said. 

The Empire State Sparks Back 

After punting on advancing legislation to legalize recreational cannabis in the spring during the onset of Covid 19, New York state appears to be on the fast track to approving adult use sales.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, citing a desperate need for additional revenue, earlier this month told WAMC radio that the state “is going to get there this year”. 

A Democratic-sponsored bill in March called for the establishment of a chief equity officer monitoring the program, as well as low and zero-interest loans available for social equity applicants. 

New York’s current medical program is dominated by nine vertically-integrated multi-state operators which to date are limited to having four dispensaries across the state. Chicago-based MSOs Green Thumb Industries and Cresco Labs entered New York last year via acquisitions. Pharmacann, also based in Chicago, won a license to operate in New York in 2015.

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.