New technologies have paved the way for ecosystems where users can have a fully immersive experience on the internet. For instance, the diffusion of blockchain technology already used for cryptocurrencies has created a market for non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items, and videos.
But in recent years, tech, business, and finance experts and enthusiasts have dusted off "the metaverse," a buzzword already known in the internet era. Generally speaking, the metaverse is a virtual space where people can work, play, shop, socialize, or do any of the other things they like to do together in real life. The concept behind the metaverse is that you feel like you're really there in the virtual space and feel like other people are really there with you.
A form of the metaverse already exists in multiplayer online videogames, but as technologies closely associated with visions of the metaverse—such as virtual reality (VR) headsets, augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies—have matured, the metaverse has recently evolved and come into the spotlight.
Several brands have already begun betting on the metaverse, including Meta-Facebook, Nike, Gucci, and Coca-Cola. The evolution of the internet has similarly pushed the cannabis industry to start a process of digitalization. Therefore, some cannabis businesses have started their journey into the metaverse as well.
In December 2021, Higher Life CBD became one of the first cannabis brands to open a CBD dispensary in Cryptovoxels, a virtual world in the metaverse built on the Ethereum blockchain, offering customers a gamified digital shopping experience.
In February 2022, Creso Pharma, an Australian medicinal cannabis company, secured a parcel of land next to American rapper Snoop Dogg in the Sandbox metaverse. There, the company is planning to replicate the experience of its indoor cannabis-growing facility and will be launching limited edition NFTs in collaboration with influencers and brands in the cannabis industry.
Other THC and CBD stores are popping up as well, allowing consumers to shop in an online market and have the real products delivered. For the cannabis industry, the metaverse represents an innovative way to provide a unique experience for their customers.
Due to its immersive experiences, cannabis companies that join the metaverse could place billboards in various digital worlds to advertise their products and services or create digital pop-up events to demonstrate their products. Furthermore, cannabis companies can more effectively educate consumers on cannabis to normalize the plant and move the industry forward.
The metaverse is a different way to interact with people using e-commerce, creating a fully immersive way to buy products and services online. However, the transition from the internet that most of us know today to the metaverse is more complex than you might think.
Although the metaverse is a decentralized online ecosystem based on the blockchain, this doesn't eliminate the risk for cannabis businesses running into state marketing and age-restriction regulations. Furthermore, each digital world has several regulations and policies that users must follow. Therefore, it is crucial for companies to pay attention to such restrictions before purchasing digital land parcels.
From the users' perspective, enjoying the cannabis industry in the metaverse can be an engaging experience. They can find new ways to learn more about cannabis products, get more immersive information about the plant and its products, and interact with other enthusiasts in a completely new way
However, there are several limitations to consider as well due to the nature of the industry. Cannabis is a product that triggers most of our senses. For instance, many consumers that want to buy cannabis flowers wish to see the buds, touch them to see the consistency, and smell them before finalizing their purchase. Such tactile experiences are not possible in either the metaverse or the e-commerce ecosystems. This can be a limiting aspect to those enthusiasts that have always bought cannabis products from dispensaries or the legacy market.
Of course, this approach is not valid for everyone. The rise of the cannabis e-commerce and delivery services first and the COVID-19 pandemic second have put many consumers in a spot to adapt their needs to make the right choice when it comes to their cannabis flowers. It's important, then, to remember that flowers are just one of the many products we can make from the cannabis plant. Products such as oils, edibles, THC-infused beverages, and resins don't require such a high level of attention when making a purchasing choice, and those products may be better suited for the virtual space.
It's still too early to say whether the metaverse can effectively bring the cannabis industry to a new level, as the metaverse today is still in its embryonic stage. Many famous brands, though, feel confident enough to bet on this new way to provide a unique experience to their customers.
The cannabis industry can find in the metaverse an innovative place to market their products and services without being limited by the tech giants' policies against cannabis due to its illegal status at the federal level.
In the world of the metaverse, cannabis companies could also accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment or even design their own tokens to avoid dealing with an enormous amount of cash, as many businesses still cannot open a traditional bank account. Furthermore, those cannabis operators that want to join the metaverse could launch cannabis-related NFT projects for marketing purposes, widen their consumer base, or diversify their revenues.
However, the overall experience of cannabis consumers in the metaverse may be limited due to the physical and highly sensory nature of cannabis. Buying cannabis products in the metaverse is not so different from using any random legal cannabis marketplaces; it just holds the potential to be more immersive and gamified. In other words, buying cannabis in the metaverse still requires leaving the metaverse.