Sin City’s Fastest-Growing Industry (Where You Can Keep Your Clothes On)

This piece was co-created by Michelle Janikian and Catherine Goldberg.

Move over Denver, the “Green Rush” is coming to Las Vegas, creating jobs, improving quality of life and making medical breakthroughs.

Nevada recently legalized adult use cannabis during the November election, but instead of waiting until 2018 like California, Maine and Massachusetts, Nevada is working overtime to have cannabis available this summer.

Las Vegas is an international tourism hub, so it’s no surprise companies in the cannabis space here are taking things up a notch, displaying for the whole world how advanced the American cannabis industry is quickly becoming.

Regulations in Nevada are also the strictest in the country, requiring flower and other cannabis products to pass rigorous evaluations. Cindy Orsen, Ph.D and chief science officer at Digipath Labs explained, “Visual inspection, moisture analysis, potency (cannabinoids), terpenes, screening for pesticides, heavy metals, microbes, mycotoxins and residual solvents for extracts made with solvents” are all required by Nevada state law before cannabis products can be sold.

On top of that, Digipath Labs also offers microbial DNA testing and plant genotyping. This benefits consumers dramatically, ensuring products in the state are high quality, free of nasty pesticides, molds and bacteria. It also gives consumers the power to predict, customize and control their cannabis experiences.

The cannabis industry is taking recent innovative technologies, like 3D printing and apps like Uber, to create a “hybrid” industry, employing people with all different types of backgrounds. Cannabis is projected to create 280,000 jobs nationwide by 2020, and in Nevada that’s already underway in multiple sectors, including manufacturing, cultivation, marketing, PR and technology.

One of the biggest hurdles in the industry right now is guaranteeing a product is consistent, providing the same experience use after use.

Manna Molecular Science is changing that. Manna makes transdermal patches, worn on the skin like a nicotine patch, for extended and discreet relief. But what distinguishes them is how they make them—by using a 3D printer of their own design, playfully named “MannaBot.” MannaBot prints a programmed amount of cannabis extract onto transdermal patches, ensuring a uniform and reliable dose every time. Recently launched in Nevada, Manna patches are available at all Nevada dispensaries and were recently featured in HIGH TIMES as one of the best inventions of 2017.

Manna’s received more than industry attention; on May 3, the U.S. Congress is holding its first Congressional Conference on Marijuana called the Marijuana Big Thinks Talk and Expo on the Hill, and they’ve asked representatives from Manna to speak. Predictable products like Manna’s 3D printed patches will drive legalization in the U.S., create jobs, help a ton of people find relief and push cannabis past the tipping point into the mainstream.

Manna was created by bigwigs in the pharmaceutical world with the help of MIT scientists—but what about jobs for the rest of us?

The cannabis industry is also creating a great deal of “ancillary” jobs, in which employees never actually handle marijuana but offer services nationwide. A sector creating a lot of this kind of work is marketing and PR. In fact, it was a PR campaign that made marijuana illegal back in the 1930s, and it’ll be PR that reverses the stigma and makes cannabis mainstream.

Take the Vegas-based agency Social Media Unicorn, for example. This woman-owned digital marketing company is changing the way the world views weed, with its unconventional, ‘round the clock service. In fact, rather than being called a “marketing agency,” they prefer the term “relationship agency” because they’ve been involved in the Nevada medical marijuana scene since 1998 and are connected to all the major brands, dispensaries, cannabis celebrities and local consumers.

Founder and medical marijuana patient, Krista Whitley, is actively involved in the Las Vegas Medical Marijuana Association and is even a moderator at their monthly panel Millennials in Marijuana.

“Sharing the stories of the young leaders in our cannabis community is important because it highlights the diverse backgrounds of cannabis enthusiasts of all ages,” Whitley said.

Back in the day, it was mostly men branding and marketing alcohol and tobacco, using a not so subtle “sex sells” mentality. But this is 2017 and women-run marketing agencies are the ones who will change your mom and grandma’s perceptions of cannabis, not with naked girls but with facts, figures, fun ads and reliable products. Some projects that Social Media Unicorn has worked on include launching the social media campaign for Snoop Dogg’s cannabis media organization MERRY JANE and creating brand awareness for the luxury edible brand Altai.

Then, of course, there’s also the hands-on cultivation side of things.

Since Nevada’s landscape doesn’t lend itself to outdoor grows, cultivators in the state have to rig the finest indoor facilities. A great example of this is Tahoe Hydroponics, winner of all three indoor categories at the 2016 Jack Herer Awards, they are a “craft” cannabis cultivator that doesn’t take any shortcuts. From hand trimming and whole plant “vine” curing to breeding their own exclusive new strains, their mission is to create the best cannabis possible—regardless of their desert location.

“With hydroponics, you are able to get extremely high quality product, producing an extremely high yield, at least in our process. And you’re able to do it hand over fist per flower room,”said Mark Bruno, co-founder and COO at Tahoe Hydroponics. “I believe anyone can put a flower out—but what we pride ourselves on is this: from the minute the plant is cut down, to the point when it’s bagged to go to retail, the curing and dry trimming process is the most vital part of creating. We truly believe in a slow-cure process, and a number of other things as well,” .

Last but not least, the industry is also creating opportunities for techies and coders with cannabis-related apps and websites.

In Las Vegas, the app Cannabis in Vegas is a cross between Amazon, Uber and weed, connecting users with dispensaries and smoke shops across the city. Like the Eaze app in California, Cannabis in Vegas delivers all your marijuana-related needs, from flower to glassware, in less than an hour.

“Cannatech” is not just for millennials.

According to Eaze’s “State of Cannabis” report, baby boomer use of the delivery app in California has risen 25 percent over the past two years. Plus baby boomers spend an average of 36 percent more than millennials per month on cannabis, making them the fastest growing demographic in the industry.

While baby boomers are becoming more interested in cannabis, many are still not willing to enter a “brick and mortar” location. Apps like Cannabis in Vegas—with it’s layout very similar to Amazon’—help baby boomers feel comfortable in the cannabis space.

These brands are setting the standard for the budding industry, creating innovative, reliable and consistent services, products and experiences.

New companies will be able to apply for licensing in Nevada in 2018, and if they follow the “top shelf” standard set by existing brands, Las Vegas will soon be the new international home of cannabis, creating diverse work in an exciting new industry.

  1. Keep up with all of HIGH TIMES cannabusiness news, here!

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