As legalized weed becomes massive business, California's small cannabis farmers have been left in the dust by vertically-integrated brands and national conglomerates. Now, in a move that resembles the strategic alignment of the craft beer movement a decade ago, these independent farmers are banding together to save their craft.
The solution is a Web3 platform that aims to connect growers directly with consumers via a crypto-exclusive POS ecosystem. It's called Emerald Road, and the marketplace is the brainchild of legacy farmer Justin Calvino. Part brand store and part consumer-brand interface platform, the dream is to let customers interact directly with their favorite farm, take a tour, talk to growers, and buy products that are delivered via Organic Kind, which has signed on as the platform's delivery partner.
"Large verticals affect small producers by driving down the cost of production, which allows them to sell their own products at a much better price point," Calvino told ZDNet. "The bigger issue isn't necessarily the competition of value, it is the lack of education for consumers about what makes quality cannabis."
Calvino added that "small batch cannabis produced by legacy farmers is much higher quality than large-scale overproduced, homogenized cannabis put out by corporations."
This is an interesting story from the front lines of the pot business, but it's also a good illustration of how crypto is breaking through via consumer-facing marketplaces. Weed seems to be finding something of a special niche with emergent blockchain technology. Delivery company Greenlyght just held an initial coin offering, and cannabis company Higher Life CBD recently launched a metaverse dispensary on Cryptovoxels, a virtual world built on the Ethereum blockchain.
Calvino, an entrepreneur in Northern California's so-called Emerald Triangle, believes the technology can help save the small cannabis farmers and artisans of the region using blockchain technology. It does that by creating a digital version of a sustainable, local economy -- one that is backed by a broader consumer reach than is normally available to local producers.
"With the burdensome regulations around cannabis and finance, everyone in the industry is ready for a shift," said Calvino. "The Emerald Road will allow producers to control their own currency and to build their own community around that currency. As for the member (consumer), they will be incentivized to purchase directly from brands on the blockchain through unique, exclusive offerings -- discounted prices, member-only products/drops, promotional goods, access to special events, and access to educational materials produced by brands. We believe this can only be done through a Web3 solution on the blockchain in a decentralized environment."
A number of local brands have joined the effort, including Emerald Spirit Botanicals, a family-run operation, and Sunroots Farm.
"The small craft growers we are targeting are ready for a solution," Calvino explained. "The current status of the market is rather dire for small producers in California. Although blockchain is relatively new, these farmers are really excited about participating on the platform because of all of the features that will allow them to market and build community.
He added, "We are not asking anything of brands currently other than for them to provide us with content. We are also making sure that they are a licensed brand and able to distribute in California."
In a sense, the concept takes a page from craft brewing's book. Local tasting rooms have emerged as bastions of local music, art, and culture over the last couple decades. In a similar vein, the Emerald Road aspires to use Web3, blockchain, and crypto to create a digital bazaar that allows users to engage with brands, artists, creators, teachers, and practitioners. This is all via web/mobile devices and live events, simultaneously creating a marketplace for small producers that runs on emerging currencies, including NFTs.