A year-old startup called CannaKorp announced last week it's developing the world's first single-serve, pod-based marijuana vaporizer system. Dubbed the CannaCloud, it's essentially the Keurig of cannabis.
The CannaCloud could bring a level of precision and ease to marijuana consumption that could help elevate pot above its crunchy, hippie stigma, if the device finds mainstream success.
Here's how CannaCloud works: The user inserts a pre-measured cup of marijuana into a travel mug-like cannister. With the press of a button, the cannister heats the marijuana and fills with vapor in less than a minute. A plastic mouthpiece opens a one-way valve that releases the vapor. Voilà.
While the comparable Pax 2, dubbed the "iPhone of vaporizers," boasts minimalist design and an incredible build quality — users have to pack the devices themselves. The CannaCloud system is possibly the first to offer scale-weighted, pre-packaged dosages of Mary Jane.
If using the CannaCloud sounds as easy as popping a K-Cup into a Keurig machine, that's because CannaKorp has two former executives from the leading single-serve coffee maker company sitting at the helm.
Dave Manly, chairman and CEO of CannaKorp, tells Tech Insider that his only marijuana industry-related experience was "being in college in the '70s." He retired from Keurig as a senior vice president in 2014, after serving 13 years growing the company from annual revenues of $50 million to over $5 billion.
For Manly, it's not so great a leap from caffeine to cannabis.
"Keurig has standards for what coffee went into their K-Cups. It was very consistent from cup-to-cup, so every time you had a K-Cup from a Keurig machine, it tasted the same," Manly says. "That kind of consistency is exactly what we want to bring to the marijuana industry."
While CannaKorp won't grow marijuana, it will hand-pick manufacturers across the country to supply bud for the system's pods, called CannaCups. The company will then work with labs that specialize in determining marijuana product potency, ensuring those growers use quality strains and package accurate dosages. A cannabis overdose can't kill you, but it can be extremely uncomfortable.
Users will be able to select the strain and strength of the CannaCups at one of CannaKorp's 50 partnering dispensaries across the country, and may eventually be able to buy a subscription through the company website.
This is good news for anyone who lights up, from patients to recreational stoners.
Many marijuana products now come labeled with ingredients and an exact THC dosage, which prevents users from consuming an amount that makes them feel uncomfortable. But research shows these labels can be inaccurate. Lab tests on various edible marijuana products, for example, have shown the amount of THC can be far higher or lower than what is promised on the label.
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So, a user may pick up a pack of pot cookies from her local dispensary and either not know the dosage, if it's poorly labeled, or not trust it.
Two Colorado laws have attempted to address these issues. One law, passed in 2014, requires makers of edibles to have their THC content tested and verified by independent labs; another passed in 2015 mandates that edibles sold recreationally be wrapped individually or marked in increments of 10 or fewer milligrams of THC.
Still, the legislation changes constantly and varies state-by-state. Even California lacks a statewide labeling law. While many manufacturers and dispensaries tout their use of labs to ensure quality, CannaKorp's high-tech system could introduce an unprecedented level of consistency.
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"When you pick up one of the pods, you're able to read the brand, strength, and strain. Every time you do it, it's going to be the same," Manly says. "We'll be working with testing labs, so that we'll be the consumer's best friend in this industry."
This kind of luxury comes at a premium. The CannaCloud will retail for $149, roughly half the cost of the Pax 2 vaporizer. But a single-use pod, which contains only 0.4 grams of marijuana (the amount you'd find in a pre-roll joint), will run $9.99 each.
That's about double the cost of a pre-roll joint in California.
CannaKorps is currently seeking $10 million to jump-start production. If the company raises the cash, Manly says CannaKorps could roll out in all 27 states where medicinal marijuana is legal next fall.
"One of our dreams is that someday you'll go into your CVS or Walgreens, and CannaCups will be right there on the shelf, much like cough medicine," Manly says. "We may be a ways away from that. But I think as things evolve and people understand cannabis better, I think it could be mainstream and we'll be right there with a consumer product."