By Fred Gardner  June 4, 2021

Medical marijuana is truly a marketer’s dream. The plant can be bred to produce various combinations and permutations of cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. The extraction process —alcohol, butane or CO2— alters the effects of a given strain. So does dosage level and the delivery system ­—edible, vape pen, etc.— employed by the patient/consumer. And each patient has a unique genome and microbiome and endocannabinoid system that makes them respond uniquely to whatever they ingest! The marketing can be done in the name of scientific research, “personalized medicine,” and even political activism.

With the advent of legalization for adult use, ganjapreneurs have been able to emphasize the number-one selling point of old: mood elevation.  A recent front-page story in the New York Times was hedded, “Not Quite Pot, This High Slips Past Most Bans.”  It focused on Lukas Gilkey, who runs Hometown CBD in Austin, Texas, and is making big bucks selling products containing Delta-8 THC, a cannabinoid created when Delta-9 THC is degraded by heat or age.  Gilkey, writes Matt Richtel,  is “offering products with a chemical compound — Delta-8-THC — extracted from hemp. It is only slightly chemically different from Delta 9, which is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana… Under federal law, psychoactive Delta 9 is explicitly outlawed. But Delta-8-THC from hemp is not, a loophole that some entrepreneurs say allows them to sell it in many states where hemp possession is legal.

“The rise of Delta 8 is a case study in how industrious cannabis entrepreneurs are pulling apart hemp and marijuana to create myriad new product lines with different marketing angles. They are building brands from a variety of potencies, flavors and strains of THC, the intoxicating substance in cannabis, and of CBD, the nonintoxicating compound that is often sold as a health product.”

My intention, when I broke the CBD story in Synapse all those years ago and ballyhooed it in O’Shaughnessy’s, was to advance the continuing medical education of pro-cannabis doctors and consumers (myself included), and to hasten the end of prohibition. I somehow forgot Mel Brooks’s dictum that the greatest force in the universe is merchandising. When a multimillion-dollar corporation called Cannacraft hijacked Project CBD and turned it into a stealth marketing device for their “Care By Design” products, I was too demoralized to protest.

Seems like only yesterday that Jack Herer was proclaiming, “The emperor wears no clothes.”  Today the emperor has a robe made of the finest hemp. We have met the emperor and he is us.