California Cannabis Dispensaries: What to Expect in the Coming Years

Contributor: Mark Bishop

Overview of California’s cannabis dispensary industry

California was one of the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use, and since then, the industry has continued to grow and mature. As the market evolves, cannabis dispensaries have become an integral part of the cannabis industry, providing consumers with safe and accessible options for purchasing their products.

In this article, we will look at the current state of California’s growing cannabis industry, and explore what changes and developments we can expect to see in the coming years. From new products and technologies to changes in regulation and consumer demand, we will provide an in-depth look at the future of California’s cannabis dispensaries.

Number of dispensaries in operation

As of 2023, there are 866 licensed dispensaries in California, along with 374 licensed marijuana delivery businesses, providing consumers with easy access to a variety of cannabis products, including flowers, concentrates, edibles, topicals, and more. 

Overview of products and services offered

Dried marijuana flower is easily the most popular offering, making up nearly 50% of transactions. The most popular strains are OG Kush, Girl Scout Cookies, and Green Crack, but the most competitive dispensaries will offer a wide variety of options.

Edibles make up around 13% of the transactions. These cannabis infused gummies, baked goods, and other snacks are popular for those who can’t or don’t smoke.

Marijuana delivery services do exactly what you think they do – they’ll bring marijuana products directly to your door, saving you a trip to a dispensary.

Consumer demand and purchasing trends

In California, consumers are shifting away from flower, concentrates, and tinctures in favor of vape pens, edibles, beverages, and pre-rolls. 

Changes in Regulation and Licensing

The California Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) has announced they’re proposing to the state of California a plan to “streamline and simplify” the existing regulations and licensing process.

Changes to licensing requirements and procedures

Curbside pickup, which was started during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow a socially-distanced method of purchasing from dispensaries, is being extended.

Distributors will no longer need to carry printed copies of test results in an effort to make the cannabis industry more green.

Other proposed changes include altered requirements for cannabis events, certificate of analysis, and video surveillance. For a complete list of current regulations, check the DCC website.

Growers, distributors, dispensaries, and delivery services still need to follow the Metrc California track-and-trace program.

Impact of changes on the industry and consumers

Still, small farms are struggling due to high taxes and fees, acreage caps, and an oversupply of marijuana on the legal market with few places to sell it. Without the possibility of bank loans or agricultural aid programs, many local and family farms are going to go under in the years to come, especially if the cultivation tax stays as high as it is.

Innovations in Products and Technologies

Not only is the industry and the regulations around it changing, but the products and services themselves will be changing quite a bit in the coming years to meet expanding consumer demands and to take advantage of novel technologies.

Introduction of new products and forms of consumption

More edibles and beverage options will surely arrive in 2023 and beyond, being very successful and positively trending options for attracting new customers to the cannabis market. Novel forms of marijuana infused snacks and environmentally-friendly, clean vapes will see an uptick in demand as well, so dispensaries will be prepared with a bevy of new products.

Advancements in packaging and labeling

Because the product is strictly regulated, in order to achieve compliance with Metrc, loss protection measures are a necessity. Thanks to new technology like adhesive tamper resistant tape, tamper-indicating ink, and RFID tracking chips, security will be added at the packaging level.

Smart labeling with QR codes makes it easier for consumers to access the information they need about their purchases.

 The role of technology in the industry

AI is going to revolutionize the entire economy in the coming decade. For the marijuana industry, it’ll come in several different forms:

  • Customer service – AI chatbots, mobile apps, and help websites will provide a better experience than talking to someone in a call center overseas, eliminating tens of thousands of jobs and saving valuable time and money in the cannabis industry.
  • Personalization – Increasingly, online retailers are taking advantage of personalized search, product recommendations, and advanced data analytics to create a better customer experience.
  • Smart Harvesting – AI will not only provide data analysis that can help keep crops healthy, but it will improve the crops through unprecedented insights as to optimal production and yield conditions. This will allow cultivators to engineer new strains with higher cannabinoid percentages that are more resistant to pests and disease.

Final Thoughts

Things are shaking up in California, with new regulations, new customers, more competition, and a business landscape that’s being radically disrupted by new technologies. Change is coming and the companies that are prepared for it are going to be the ones that stick around going into the future.

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