Big Money and Tech Advances in Vice Products / Reblog: Huffington Post

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post

Big Money and Tech Advances in Vice Products

Technical and scientific advances are driving forces in everything from phones, computers, and cars to wellness and medicine to vice products, such as gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis.  And some of the newer companies to launch in the vice arena are being compared to creative forerunners in computers.

A CNBC article said the vaporizing industry has taken a page from Apple’s playbook, meaning many vaping and cannabis-related companies are offering new products every year, with each product intended to better its predecessors in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and design. Everyone agrees that marijuana (medical or otherwise) and vaporizing has become big business, with legal pot sales reaching $46.7 billion in 2016 and vaporizing products sales ringing up to at least $2.6 billion.

Business Insider reports more than 8500 vaporizing industry companies have launched since 2008. And in Washington State alone, more than 740 cannabis-related companies have sprouted. Mary H. K. Choi in The Atlantic claims vaporizing companies saved the tobacco industry, while Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog expects “U.S. use of e-cigarettes and vaporizers to overtake combustible cigarettes in 10 years” (though the verdict is still out if this industry will be hit by Big Tobacco type of lawsuits that we saw in 1994 and beyond).   

Choi furthered the high-tech comparison started by CNBC by describing legal cannabis stores as a cross “between an Apple flagship and a Danish lighting boutique except there’s a security guard with a gun and a brown-haired girl who checks your ID and card and buzzes you through.” Selection of product can be overwhelming, as the choices seem limitless. Hundreds of products themselves, their strengths and strains, ways to consume or partake and then options on possible partaking devices can confuse customers.  

For example, if one wanted to consume nicotine or cannabis, one might choose a cheap cylindrical e-cigarette or vaping “pipe” for $6-$20 depending on where one purchases it, or one might decide to invest $399 in a Loto Lux by Loto Labs, the world’s first induction vaporizer. (Loto Labs is a Silicon-Valley company whose website states their mission as “engineering the most advanced vaporizers in the world to relentlessly promote wellbeing.”) Both of these vaporizer would result in a completely different consumption experience.   

Neeraj Bhardwaj, President and CEO of Loto Labs, said,  “We formed our company in Redwood City, California, where all of us met a through our love of recreational ice hockey. From there, we discovered that none of us were happy with the vaporizers we used. We soon realized that all four of us had lots of experience in different fields that when put together would create an ideal company to make the best possible product out there. And, of course, cashing in the burgeoning industry would be an added bonus.”

And cashing in is exactly what many states and the District of Columbia are trying to figure out how to do. Twenty-nine states and counting have legalized medical marijuana and determined ways to supervise it and tax it. Private auxiliary companies are also finding ways to capitalize on this vice industry (with everything from delivery service and “budtender” apps to child-resistant bags to event planning and tourism), and consumer appetite seems insatiable. Only time will tell if a bite gets taken out of the industry by negative health or societal effects or by lawsuits.