Optimism is strong for cannabis markets in 2022 as more states implement frameworks for medical and recreational-use cannabis.

Even though there’s consensus in the industry that federal legalization is years away for the U.S., state programs continue to mature as the market grows. Cannabis edibles suppliers also continue innovating and offering new food and beverage products.

In this blog from ImEPIK, four industry experts weigh in on the trends that they say will shape the future of cannabis edibles.

David Valliencourt, CEO and Founder, GMP Collective

Valliencourt said in 2022 that cannabis edibles manufacturers will focus on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and food safety programs to mitigate risks from inconsistent dosing and product homogeneity. In addition, as COVID-19 continues to disrupt global supply chains, he said companies will work to control supply chain programs.

David Vaillencourt

David Vaillencourt

“Companies that invest in supply chain programs, inventory management, and more will be better suited to understand and respond to customer demand with higher quality (consistent) products, Valliencourt said. “That translates to safer products and a marketplace with more integrity.”

More cannabis edibles companies will also adopt Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) to reduce recalls and product mix-ups.

Other industry trends Valliencourt said to keep an eye on include:

  • An increase in recalls;
  • Maturation of state markets;
  • An alignment in best practices across states through the Cannabis Regulators Association; and
  • Cannabis organizations developing industry standards and becoming more valuable to regulators.

Holly Bell, Director of Cannabis, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Bell oversees Florida’s hemp/CBD program, which limits THC content in products to 0.3% as outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill. The state has a medical marijuana program, but recreational use remains illegal.

Bell said that while gummies dominate the edibles category, she is seeing more innovation as manufacturers expand their product lines.

Holly Bell

Holly Bell

“I see a trend in alternative products, what I would call alternative delivery methods,” Bell said. “I’m seeing this a little bit in (medical marijuana) dispensaries, too — unusual products that aren’t your typical gummies.”

This includes sublingual strips that dissolve under the tongue, distributing the drug directly to blood vessels instead of being absorbed via the digestive tract.

Ampoules containing various concentrations of marijuana and hemp are also becoming more popular, she said.

“It’s very easy to transport, very discreet,” she said. “These types of alternative delivery products are a lot easier to transport and have available.”

Another trend is CBD-infused beverages. Bell said she expects airlines to allow these beverages aboard flights by the end of the year, even as carry-on alcohol remains off-limits.

One trend that regulators will continue to fight in 2022, Bell said, is any attempt by manufacturers to boost THC levels past the 0.3% limit.

“It is nothing new in the food industry,” she said. “We saw it coming, we knew it was going to happen, and we’ve put some things together legislatively to try to corral that.”

Merril Gilbert, CEO and Co-Founder, TraceTrust

Expect to see a focus on current Good Marketing Practices (cGMPs), including food safety and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point training, in 2022, Gilbert said.

Merril Gilbert

Merril Gilbert

“The overall industry is still behind in requiring food safety standards for cannabis,” she said. “Without national standards requirements for testing and product safety, each state has adopted its own guidelines.”

Gilbert said TraceTrust has been advocating for unified standards since 2017 and is making

headway with collaboration from the National Cannabis Industry Association and ASTM International.

She also said the pandemic would continue to affect the supply chain in the short term, primarily due to workforce disruptions.

“For the cannabis industry to really meet its potential, it must be treated like all other industries that have safety and standardized oversight in place,” she said. “Consumers must have trust that however they use these products they are safe and reliable.”

While federal legalization is not on the immediate horizon, Gilbert said banking regulations for the cannabis industry could be adopted.

Kathy Knutson, Food Safety Expert and Cannabis Industry Consultant, ImEPIK

When it comes to food safety and the edibles industry, Knutson said the basics would continue to be critical: training and education, and cleaning and sanitation.

She said as the industry continues to wait for federal oversight by the Food and Drug Administration, it’s as if it’s being treated “like a younger sibling.”

Kathy Knutson

Kathy Knutson

However, the food industry could learn from certain cannabis business best practices. For example, Knutson said the cannabis industry’s security protocols, including video surveillance, scrutinize the facility more closely than what is mandated by the FDA’s food defense rules.

With the lack of federal edibles safety oversight, Knutson said there would be regulatory inconsistencies from state to state. From produce and other foods to dietary supplements and pharmaceuticals, which fall under the purview of the FDA, the public has trust in the food safety system.

“I think the best (edibles) companies are implementing quality management programs and GMPs, but I think the majority of the companies are just meeting what their state requires,” Knutson said.

ImEPIK offers food safety training specifically for the cannabis edibles sector

Help your company adopt food safety best practices with the three-part Cannabis Edibles Safety Course. The courses are 100% online and designed so that participants may proceed at their own pace. Contact ImEPIK today to begin your food safety journey.