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The Marijuana Connoisseur and Cannabis Marketplace
Published June 2010 at ICMag.com  Story and Images by DoobieDuck The Marijuana Connoisseur and Cannabis Marketplace    I have often wondered if the growing cannabis industry will ever splinter off a separate profitable market for connoisseur marijuana? One where small growers cater to the needs of refined smokers? In my mind; this market will become viable when there is enough demand for connoisseur marijuana that it makes it possible for producers to supply those consumers and make a reasonable profit. The wine industry, which was followed by the beer industry with micro, or as they are called now, craft brews, enjoy huge profits from segments known as specialty markets. These could be considered connoisseur buyers who purchase their finest products at sometimes exorbitant prices just to satisfy their various tastes and diversity. Specialty markets are filled with products that are tailored just for those who are defined as experts, whose views are taken as definitive -or- one who possesses great sensitivity to the beauty of art and nature, connoisseurs. Certainly Mother Nature plays a big part in the cannabis story and is in the hearts and minds of many of the growers and smokers I know. We all think the plant is beautiful, so possibly we are connoisseurs in that sense.    What do you think about this? Do you see it as I do? We are now on the edge of the creation of this new consumer market for elite connoisseur genetics. New strains, exceptional weed exceeding anything known before only to satisfy a growing segment of consumers? New flavors, tastes, and smells, a consumer that no longer cares for “Street Weed”. One who uses his finer senses, who seeks to find and refine their experience with marijuana not just get high?    The wine industry, for centuries, has flourished with growers and producers of fine wines. They refined their products along the way and created several distinct categories of consumers when doing so, one of those being the wine connoisseur. But it was not until and the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, when the California wines came into light, they were then noticed for producing fantastic quality wines. Wines equal to that of Old World wine areas. It is then that the California market started to grow the group of tasters that aged along blossomed. In my opinion; that was enhanced, or aided, a little by the 2004 movie Sideways, it brought the lifestyle of wine tasting to the public and emphasized the movement. The acceptance of these mid income consumers to the respected world of finer wines, in the movie, struck a chord nationwide. It was then baby boomers started to join the craze, a movement towards connoisseurism I felt. Many diverse products enjoy the high sales created when consumers are following a trend. California’s weed market might just follow in the footsteps of the fine wines. Today’s baby boomer market is huge and steadily growing, the consumers poised to diversify and explore. It just makes sense to me that the development of a connoisseur category for cannabis is inevitable, nearby in the future, if not upon us now.    My background, I was in the beverage industry for 35 years selling beer and wine for a California wholesaler. The major wine brand I promoted was Gallo. That brand, in my early years, was the volume of our wine sales, but had no clout as a fine wine. But later on, as the market for elite wines grew, these boys, the Gallo’s, even developed some very good wines winning many accolades and awards world wide. They then enjoyed profits from releasing those to a growing connoisseur market. They saw the trend and have followed it to this day. One way to look at it was to get a consumer to sample wine, if needed at a low price, and move the consumer up along the way. To a better mid-priced wine, then to a higher level, followed then by introducing them to the top shelf.   Beer--I was a Schlitz salesman at first—I then sold the Miller family of beers, at the end of my career the King, Budweiser. We had Heineken, Dos XX, and many other imports under our roof, the term micro-brew was unheard of. Out of nowhere, it seemed, the micro brew category appeared and those brews took off. The demand for them grew like wildfire. Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, followed by an onslaught of beers crafted just for the consumer and the specialty beer market. The beverage giants could only sit back for so long, as these small breweries and this market segment grew. They, Miller and Bud, started creating and crafting new speciality brews of their own. Michelob, Miller Special Reserve to name a couple, all aimed at a particular consumer and segment of the market. Trends can drive an industry and we may have a trend developing within the cannabis consumers.   It is no surprise to me to see the talk and evaluation of the finer aspects of weed being discussed more and more among users. More of my friends are refining their tastes, straying away from their favorites that they have smoked for years, and trying new strains that are just reaching the marketplace. I’m not sure they are comfortable with being called connoisseurs but they are experts in the field and evaluate it much you do like with any other product. Robert Mondovi once said ''Drink what you like. Like what you drink. And stand on your own convictions..'' I can easily see replacing the words drink with the word smoke in that statement, then hearing that very phrase from some of my colleagues. I think the cannabis industry is changing, it is now comparable to the wine and beer industry, driven by consumer demand, and trends do undeniably influence it.   I’ve never been to Amsterdam, but the clubs there seem very similar to me as our beer pubs and wine tasting rooms. Just recently when in Lake County, a wine growing area in Northern California, my wife was visiting a wine tasting room at a winery as I was outside doing some tasting of my own! These places provide a spot where different individuals with differing tastes and pallets can meet, share their experiences, evaluate and discuss the products, them voice their personal appreciation of them. It’s at places likes these, and don’t get me wrong, even in living rooms, that trends for new products start and flourish. Places where people feel safe to share their opinions as everyone there is doing very much the same thing. A lot of people I know would be happy consuming the same weed forever if it weren’t for people like me poking something new in their face every once in awhile. It’s only then when prodded that some people will try something new. People don’t easily change brands and tastes, I learned this working in the industry, they need prompted by price or advertising to move them to a new product. Better yet, word of mouth, a personal recommendation from a friend to buy it. Connoisseurs are a different group, they will readily try new products every day. With enough money and advertising a trend can actually be created, then promoted, and strengthened by a producer as well.   So as a consumer segment grows, the leaders in that industry listen, adapt, then create new products, if need be, to supply the consumer with what they desire.   Some of us cannabis consumers fancy, take pleasure in, and enjoy diversity. We adore sitting around tasting, smelling, feeling, admiring, and appreciating good weed. Judging all its physical and aromatic characteristics.   But there is an effect cannabis has, it being an intoxicant like alcohol, that beer and wine don’t often get judged upon. How and what type high one gets from using it. I guess one might say, how strong it is and of what kind of intoxicating effects it has on the user. Or simply, just how stoned does one get when smoking it? This effect may have been discussed with beer and wine at one time in our history, but nothing I’ve heard when discussing alcoholic beverages in my lifetime critiques its effects like we do with cannabis. Unless you consider remedies like- you need a beer the next morning to cure a hangover, a little of the hair of the dog that bit you! Then again there is that occasional moonshine that “kicks your ass”. You just don’t hear people evaluating the buzz they got off their evening martini like you do with weed. They might mention the next day how drunk they got the night before, but with marijuana smokers they seem to appreciate and enjoy many more aspects of the experience. That smoking experience, for long time smokers, seems to be an acquired and refined one, one that takes years of enjoyment to fully understand.   Many legal medical marijuana smokers are searching now for particular medicinal values in cannabis. How do we characterize and categorize differing strains with these properties in mind. Weed affects many metabolisms very differently. Since most medical users are “Treating Themselves”, many are searching the Internet and relying on it for information on which strains will be best to treat their illnesses, which best suits their own individual and personal therapeutic needs. They are relying on the Internet to publish their findings as well. I think these medical users may just help drive the market towards connoisseur weed as their opinions may place strains in many differing categories each because of their own unique medicinal properties. Possibly one will look at it as-- a certain Kush provides appetite stimulation as a medicinal effect, it is placed in that category, then categorized as to flavor, aroma, after taste, etc. At the moment, in most smoke reports I see, evaluations given by the users of weed, the medicinal values are included but one of the least concerns of most marijuana connoisseurs. Yet the quality of the high, how long it lasts, and other properties are very important to the advanced smoker, at the top of the list. These reports are published often on the Internet and drive the demand for certain elite strains.   Some local growers I’ve visited with recently want to grow nothing but purple this summer, they claim the demand will be for purple this fall. This too has to be considered as an influence in the producer/consumer relationship. A large volume of one variety, flooding the market, can diminish the diversity that is available to the end consumer.   Time will tell as this fast growing industry develops and settles in around the world whether or not it will have a viable verifiable connoisseur market and followers. I do believe you are seeing that develop now, a market for High-end products. One where the growers can demand top dollar for their hard work in developing and refining their quality products and connoisseurs will be the judges of that. DoobieDuck
2010 ..may have been a little ahead of the times with this one?
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