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In a cannabis industry projected to rack up $43 billion by 2025, grassroots practitioners such as Luminous Botanicals find themselves struggling to survive in a cannabis market that values commerce over craft. Even though they took home their fifth 1st place finish in Willamette Week’s 2022 Best of Portland reader poll, their dream to build an exemplary cannabis company that made the best quality medicinal cannabis tinctures became nearly impossible. In an email to their subscribers and friends, co-founders Devan and Sally pointed to the reasons why they find it difficult to operate as craft producers in and increasingly commercialized recreational cannabis market. At this writing, they are still in operation.

The Oregon cannabis market is in a troubled state, suffering from a convergence of factors including massive oversupply, unconstrained market manipulation by out-of-state operators, and the unfortunate economic reality of a global pandemic and the inflation that has followed. 

In an increasingly commercialized market, how can consumers select those cannabis and CBD products that put people over profits? 

Connecting with the cannabis community 

Tiffany Watkins, CEO of Vanguard Media Online recommends cannabis consumers start by connecting with their local community resources starting with their neighborhood dispensaries. “Get to know your budtenders and patient advocates in your local dispensary so you can find someone that you can have a good rapport with that can provide you with  good, honest information.” 

 As CBD products offered at cannabis dispensaries have to jump through far more hops than those offered at a grocery store or gas station, Cannabis advocate, activist, and reporter Brooke Burgstahler notes how this process will yield a more intentional product. “Hopefully, this will yield a more intentional outcome in your body.” She recommends purchasing CBD products labeled full spectrum as these products contain all the different terpenes and cannabinoids in the plant (including less than 0.3% THC), thus allowing for a fuller experience. For those who need a THC-free product, she suggests obtaining CBD products marked “broad spectrum,” as they contain the majority of the terpenes and cannabinoids in the plant sans any THC.  

Social equity and the cannabis consumer

In Burgstahler’s estimation, cannabis is a plant that is representative of social justice, environmental, and human rights movements. Hence, she strongly urges people to look for cannabis products that are grown in the sun using sustainable recyclable packaging. 

In addition, as Watkins observes, “A lot of lip service paid to social equity, where it’s now viewed more as a buzz term rather than an actionable item.” When researching cannabis products, be wary of companies that do not honor the contributions of LGBT people, women, and people of color within the cannabis space. 

While a qualified budtender can answer questions regarding which products are best suited for particular ailments, Burgstahler adds that cannabis and CBD are not for everyone. For example, those with any pre-existing conditions such as a history of psychosis should check with their doctor before beginning a regimen involving cannabis or any other plant-based medicine. “The capitalization of cannabis and psychedelics starts to really send us down a dark pathway as there’s a lot of peer pressure to try a substance,” she opines.

Photo credit: Pixabay

If you are in a state where dispensaries allow consumers to smell the flower, smell the buds. Let your nose draw you towards those flowers whose fragrance appeals to you. 

Watkins suggests getting to know who the farmers are in your region. The packaging for any cannabis product should contain the name of the farm where the cannabis was grown. Research this farm and learn about their farming practices and their connection to the community, and choose those products produced by those farmers who align with your values. 

How to select quality cannabis/CBD products

Burgstahler recommends going online to find those finding brands, packaging, branding, assets, and agricultural practices that are aligned with what you think is good and right in the world. Along those lines, Degelis Tufts Pilla, CFA – CEO, of Tribe Tokes, a self-described girl-powered company that creates and distributes CBD products, offers these suggestions for those looking to purchase a quality cannabis or CBD product. 

  • Check the Certificates of Analysis (COA). This is a lab test that documents the purity and potency of a given product. Remember, lab tests can be faked or photoshopped. So even if you see a lab QR code but the brand has no website, it might be fake. When in doubt, call the lab listed on the form. Give them the test number and they can verify if the COA is legitimate or not.
  • Skim online reviews. A quick scan of independent reviews on a given brand can give a snapshot of overall consumer satisfaction with this particular product. 
  • Check the ingredients before purchasing any product. Any qualified company will have their ingredients listed on the product packaging. If you cannot find a complete list of ingredients, don’t purchase this product. 
  • When purchasing vape cartridges, avoid products that contain PG (Propylene Glycol), PEG (Polyethylene glycol), VG (Vegetable Glycerin), and MCT Oil. Some of these ingredients are safe to eat or use topically, but shouldn’t be vaped. For example, PG is the main ingredient in lubricating eye drops, and MCT oil is “healthy fat.”
  • In choosing an edible, avoid any product that contains high fructose corn syrup or artificial food colorings. Just because synthetic coloring is allowed doesn’t mean it’s safe. Products containing these items can cause inflammation and allergic reactions, or even promote cancer growth. 
Photo Credit: Pixabay

When it comes to disseminating information about CBD and cannabis products, many lifestyle blogs can be a double-edged sword. True, a site like Goop can help normalize the use of natural plant medicines. However, their “experts” tend to promote products that have an affiliate relationship with this website. This fiscal connection tends to color their reviews. Hence, the items highlighted on this blog are often not representative of the best brands available on the market.   

When looking for clinical data on new therapies, focus on those sites that publish clinical trials from sources like PubMed and Project CBD.

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As a freelance writer with dual MDiv/MSW degree from Yale Divinity School and Columbia University, I focus on the rise of secular spirituality, religious satire, spiritual health & wellness, faith...