Will CBD be even bigger than marijuana?

The Green Rush. The Cannabis Boom. The Marijuana Miracle. Call it what you want, but lead, follow, or get out of the way because, really, the best metaphor for the cannabiz right now is a Green Tsunami. A huge surge has washed ashore in North America, and Main Street USA is about to be flooded with waves of green.

Could CBD be even bigger than marijuana?

“Put it this way,” a spokesperson for Florida-based CBD company Diamond CBD told PotNetwork, ”you’ll be unlikely to find products containing THC in your local CVS or Walmart any time before hell freezes over. But CBD, on the other hand, if the Food and Drug Administration could get out of the way, will be on the shelves in every Walmart, CVS, 7 Eleven, and grocery store in America. If that happens, CBD will almost certainly surpass marijuana in sales.” (Full disclosure, PotNetwork and Diamond CBD are owned by the same parent company.)

[CBD has hit store shelves at America’s largest drugstore chain, CVS]

This is all thanks to the fact that Uncle Sam gave the go-ahead to legalize hemp and CBD nationwide. Sure, this could happen with marijuana, but you are still unlikely to find CBD’s counterpart, THC, in your next bottle of Coke, or in products such as shampoo, toothpaste, zit cream, and ten thousand other products that are likely to spawn CBD-infused versions.

A recent survey suggested that nearly seven in ten Americans have already purchased CBD products, pushing 2018 sales over the half-billion-dollar mark. Sales near $1 billion are expected for 2019. And industry analysts are projecting sales of CBD to skyrocket into the tens of billions in the coming years.

Recently, a report by industry analysts, Brightfield Group, trumpeted the headline, "Hemp CBD Market to Reach $22 Billion By 2022: Outpacing the Rest of the Cannabis Market Combined". Another industry think tank, Cowen & Co., projects sales of $16 billion by the year 2025.

Follow the money

Meanwhile, some of the biggest players in the global marijuana market are making big moves to invest in CBD. To give you some idea of what’s on the mind of the major players in the cannabis arena, let’s take a quick look at their actions as of late.

  • Tilray Inc. has announced the signing of a $100 million deal with Authentic Brands (Juicy Couture, Nine West, Jones New York, etc.) to develop and distribute CBD products.

  • Tilray also announced the purchase of the continent’s largest hemp foods company, Canada-based Manitoba Harvest for the low, low price of $318 million. Tilray plans to expand the brand to include CBD products.

  • Cannabis superpower Canopy Growth recently signed Martha Stuart to co-develop a line of CBD-infused health and beauty products.

  • Canopy Growth also recently set aside $100 million–$150 million to develop hemp cultivation and processing facilities in the U.S., with plans to increase that amount to $500 million.

  • SOL Global Investments Corp. recently announced a $30.6 million investment in Tennessee-based hemp CBD company Blühen Botanicals.

  • Beverage stocks often see huge gains after the slightest hint that they might be launching CBD-infused beverages. Coca Cola and Pepsi are rumored to be seriously looking at the CBD beverage market.

Where THC meets CBD

Tilray is a Canada-based licensed cannabis producer with a valuation in the billions of dollars. As we mentioned above, Tilray recently announced plans to acquire Winnipeg-based industrial hemp grower/processor Manitoba Harvest for $316 million.

It’s important to point out here that there are two very different types of hemp being farmed in North America. One type of hemp, known as industrial hemp, is grown for its seeds and fibers packed together in massive fields. It grows as tall as 12 feet or higher. The hemp used to produce CBD, on the other hand, is descendant of marijuana strains which have lost their THC. This phytocannabinoid-rich hemp, or PCR hemp as its sometimes called, is grown like marijuana and processed like marijuana. It’s seedless. Its value is in its cannabinoid-rich essential oils.

[Why you gotta love the Tilray/Authentic deal]

The point here is that up until now, companies in the hemp seed market didn’t mingle with companies in the marijuana market and vice versa. Manitoba Harvest does not currently produce cannabinoid-rich hemp or CBD oil, but rather produces hemp-seed products such as hemp granola, protein powder, and hemp milk. Here’s the kicker—the company’s hemp seed foods are currently sold at 13,000 stores including Walmart, Costco, Kroger, CVS, and Amazon. Now you likely see why industrial hemp is attractive to CBD companies.

Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy said in a public statement, "Tilray's acquisition of Manitoba Harvest is a milestone for the cannabis industry. It builds on the strategic partnerships we have formed with consumer brand industry leaders and demonstrates our track record of disrupting the global pharmaceutical, alcohol, CPG, and functional food and beverage categories."

That’s code for, “we’ll soon be adding Tilray’s CBD to our product line.”

There’s one more hurdle...

If CBD is going to make the transition from boutique sales to grocery shelves, there’s one particular roadblock that needs to be cleared. Until the FDA declares CBD safe for human consumption and allows its use as a food additive, CBD will remain relegated to local boutiques and online sales.

Sadly whether or not the FDA makes this move may depend on who stands to benefit the most—financially speaking. Sales of CBD products are going to cut into the sales of pharmaceutical products, one of the largest markets in the world, giving big pharma a stake in the game. The question is, how much money are they willing to throw around in order to pull enough strings to prevent CBD from being added to everything from Cheerios to Coppertone. Hopefully, they’ll take on an “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” attitude.

[FDA to hold a public hearing on the safety of CBD]

On the other hand, the explosion of interest in CBD products among consumers certainly seems to be unstoppable. And CBD companies don’t seem to be phased by the fact that the FDA is still in a holding pattern. They continue to pump out CBD edibles and topicals by the truckload as if nothing really matters.

If and when the FDA does give the all-clear to add CBD to food products, then we’ll see the arrival of that Green Tsunami we mentioned earlier. On that day, CBD will swamp marijuana sales and never look back.

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