Many of the legacy cannabis growers who built California’s flower market are in trouble, facing wholesale price compression, high taxes and a still-thriving illicit market with no way to compete against the larger operators in the state’s volatile marketplace.
Justin Calvino has set out to bring larger margins back to the state’s smaller farms with the launch of Emerald Road, a cryptocurrency-exclusive, blockchain-backed e-commerce platform that allows consumers to interact with farmers and purchase product for delivery through Organic Kind, a licensed cannabis delivery service in the state.
“Boy, are we resilient,” Calvino told Cannabis Business Times. “We’re just reinventing ourselves every day.”
Emerald Road is hosted on a web3 platform, a new iteration of the internet centered on decentralization and token-based economics that can support blockchain technology.
The marketplace allows consumers to connect with cannabis farms to take tours, chat with growers and buy exclusive product drops.
“Our platform really gives you the chance to meet and identify with the farmer and the farming community itself, which is pretty unique for an e-commerce platform,” Calvino said. “Then, you match that with the ability for blockchain integration and for the farmer to control their own currency and their own community around blockchain. … They’re keeping their money inside of their accounts, and then they’re releasing it when they need that money. That helps a little bit with the market.”
Emerald Road has nine participating farms lined up for its May 12 launch, including Native Humboldt, Emerald Spirit Botanicals, Sunroots Farms, Marytjuana, Arcanna Flowers and Pacific Cultivation.
Other participants include a handful of cannabis brands, 12 practitioners, six educators and 10 musicians.
Just as people want to know where their food comes from, many cannabis consumers want to ensure that their products come from safe, sustainable sources, Calvino said, and Emerald Road aims to meet this need.
The platform features three-dimensional farmer’s market booths that consumers can engage with to learn more about the farms and their wares.
“You can click on one of the booths, and a video is going to pop up with a farmer that’s a brand ambassador, telling you all about the brand and showing you product,” Calvino said. “In a lot of cases, we’ve shot b-roll of the farms.”
For customers looking to make a quick purchase, Emerald Road offers a “shop” tab that operates as a traditional e-commerce platform.
To purchase product from the site, customers must create a Coinbase Wallet and buy NFTs, which can then be used to purchase not only cannabis products, but also admission to various virtual yoga and wellness classes.
“You use your credit card to essentially purchase your tokens, and then you can go onto the site and play around,” Calvino said. “If you keep the tokens in your wallet, they’re going to be gaining in value. The more people using the platform, the more value is being created. You’re actually making a little bit of money when you keep money in your wallet. So, the farmers, instead of keeping money in the bank, they can keep their money in their wallet, and they’re going to be making more money.”
Farmers can sign up at any time, and Emerald Road is initially not charging farmers to participate in the platform or advertise on the site.
During onboarding, Emerald Road will send a video crew out to the farms to create the content for the platform.
Calvino and crew are also working with hemp farmers in New York on a hemp CBD marketplace.
While May 12 marks Emerald Road’s initial beta launch, what Calvino calls the “metaverse reality site” will launch in full in August.
“I do believe the consumer is going to benefit greatly from being able to integrate and understand what it means to be a cannabis farmer and what it means to produce and consume quality cannabis in the market as a medicine and as a wellness product,” he said. “That’s where we came from, and that’s where we’re going."