Emerald Road is a cannabis e-commerce platform founded by Justin Calvino that leverages blockchain technology – specifically smart contracts – to create an online marketplace for not just cannabis but cannabis lifestyle events, cannabis music events, and so much more. Currently only available in California, the Emerald Road will eventually be available worldwide when regulations allow.
For end users like myself: Signing up for The Emerald Road is completely free and comes with immediate member perks including:
- Invitations to VIP events
- 10% off offered cannabis products in California via Meadow
- Access to exclusive video content, NFT member clubs, and more
Think of Emerald Road as a blockchain backed cannabis app that you can use to explore cannabis culture and get access to the best cannabis and cannabis events.
Only it’s set up to be dead simple to use and you don’t need to know a thing about blockchain technology to benefit from signing up, Calvino emphasized that though the Emerald Road uses blockchain technology – it’s in the background and behind a “web2 veil,” what users see and interact with will be very familiar. He told THC:
“It’s a lot like your Amazon account.”
But with real cannabis.
The appeal to smaller, legacy, and social equity cannabis brands can’t be understated. In the current cannabis industry, one could say that there are simply too many middlemen for a craft cannabis farmer to truly generate the income that they deserve. By utilizing blockchain technology, Emerald Road will be able to help craft cannabis farmers programmatically benefit from all ecommerce transactions involving their products on the platform.
The beginnings of the Emerald Road
You might recognize Calvino as one of the featured farmers in Frenchy Dreams of Hashish – Or as a Ganjier councilmember – or as the founder of The Emerald Exchange. It’s also entirely possible that you’ve heard of the appellation projects that have formed to establish a framework to protect the Emerald Triangle and similar legacy cannabis producing regions around the world by proving terroir.
Suffice to say, Calvino is a well respected cannabis visionary and he sees Emerald Road as the logical culmination of all his previous works. I sat down on a video call with Calvino right before Christmas to chat about this new project that has taken him off the farm in the Emerald Triangle and on the Emerald Road.
He told me that Emerald Road started as a virtual event idea for the Emerald Exchange right before the pandemic. Suffice to say, a lot of things have changed since then.
Taking the Emerald Road online
Pre-internet, I’d argue that the Emerald Road was the 101, or the 20, or the 5, or the 80 – or whatever road your preferred smuggler would take to the Emerald Triangle. This would have been a journey that mainstream society would have frowned upon. The literal long and crooked path lined with steps carved into the cliffs, burned out RVs in pullouts, trimmigrants with their thumbs out, watchful eyes peering through the trees, and possibly even a blindfold for your first visit.
Yet, that was just the surface. Underneath, the road to the Emerald Triangle – both physically and in terms of whatever steps in your life lead you to seeking the best cannabis in the country – is rife with rich culture, unforgettable experiences, and a hell of a lot of education that can’t be found in the mainstream.
Now that legalization and normalization have taken strides and the internet has reached critical adoption, OGs from the Emerald Triangle are taking the Emerald Road online so the amount of people that can access it reaches billions instead of millions. The Emerald Road can be found at emeraldroad.io and eventually via a mobile app. Calvino showed me a demo of the Emerald Road’s mobile app so I could get a taste of what the journey would be like.
Along the Emerald Road, you have the Wellness Village, the Emerald Stage, the Emerald University, Farm Tours, and all of it leads to the Farmer’s Market. There’s even a phase 2 planned.
Everything on Emerald Road is free to browse. No money is needed unless you buy an NFT ticket to a physical – or digital – cannabis event or want to buy cannabis products to be delivered, just like in the real world.
Emerald Road Wellness Village
An example virtual cannabis event opportunity that could be found at the Wellness Village is Cannabis Yoga with Justine Lemos. Emerald Road users can buy tickets to the event using their account in the same UI/UX experience they’re used to from the web2 world. In the backend, though, a smart contract is activated and Emerald Road and Lemos split the revenue from that ticket by their previously accepted terms. Calvino expanded:
“We mint NFTs that allow for practitioners and artists to stream classes in the wellness world.”
Now instead of having a physical forty person cap in her yoga studio, Lemos can run a virtual Cannabis Yoga session with hundreds if not thousands of attendees.
Emerald Road Emerald Stage
Cannabis brands and well known performers can officially collaborate through the Emerald Road – say on an exclusive physical concert only available to Emerald Road members.
This is the way that major brands in other industries harness mindshare and media attention. It has been little used by cannabis brands in the past due to regulatory mire and limited reach on centralized (read: censored) platforms such as Instagram.
The ultimate goal, according to Calvino, is:
“Helping [to] build brands through network effects.”
The state of the cannabis industry is such that industry players need to get creative to stay ahead. Calvino illustrated a subscription box type example:
“You can take a high level artist and link them with a small batch cannabis brand that’s up and coming, and they can actually create a specific strain, [or] collaboration around delivery of a product on a weekly or monthly basis.”
“It really empowers the artists and the brands to use exclusivity and market effects as a marketing tool.”
Take the recent Phygital Market back on December 17th, 2022 as an example. Artist Elijah Banx partnered with cannabis company FarmJar to host a physical co branded music and cannabis event that was also livestreamable by all Emerald Road members.
Emerald Road Emerald University
The next stop along the Emerald Road is the Emerald University which will feature educational live streaming and video content. Think Substack but with video, or the Patreon model that many podcasters are using where certain videos are behind a paywall – except with more transparency on where the administrative fees are going.
You may have noticed that none of The Emerald Road is actually gated behind an augmented reality or virtual reality metaverse with associated specialized hardware required to access it.
Calvino explained why:
“We decided to instead of the augmented reality route, go the high definition video route because it’s more believable.”
It’s not just more believable – it’s more accessible and easily digestible. The University is where you’d also find educational information by cannabis brands such as videos highlighting a particular farm and what about the farm’s location and microclimate or farming practices makes them different – a part that I’m particularly looking forward to.
Emerald Road Emerald Experiences
Many parts of the Emerald Road are still being developed, but one part of the app that is well on its way is the Emerald Experiences section. An area where you can take some virtual experiences or book physical experiences on partner farms around the Emerald Triangle like tours and more. Destinations that really aren’t just available to the public like that – or maybe they are listed on a bud and breakfast site, too. The brands and service providers themselves ultimately have control on how their products are offered on the platform.
Emerald Road Farmer’s Market
At the end of the day, the Emerald University, the Wellness Village, the Emerald Stage – are stops along the Emerald Road to the main attraction: The Emerald Road Farmer’s Market. Which can be fondly thought of as an expanded and more accessible Emerald Exchange.
This is where the Emerald Road leads to.
Emerald Road users will be able to browse through different “stalls” where brands can show their wares – just like at an IRL (in-real-life) farmer’s market. The digital format will allow brands to showcase stuff like farming methodology or SAP (Systemic Assessment Protocol) scores or tasting notes provided by Certified Ganjiers.
Every brand knows that the future is selling direct to consumer – with as few middlepeople taking fees as possible. In the current legal cannabis market, cannabis farmers make a pittance on a full priced product. A customer at a dispensary might pay $60 for an eighth and the farmer will make less than $5 on that. The rest went to middlemen and taxes. That’s why it’s so important for brands to be able to sell direct to consumer. With Emerald Road, Calvino wants to provide legal access to a direct to consumer farmer’s market for both the farmers and the consumers. Calvino emphasized:
“We really believe in helping the brand go direct to consumer.”
Thanks to a partnership with Meadow, The Emerald Road’s vision is already happening in parts of California. Users can order product through the Emerald Road app and Meadow will handle everything from compliance to delivery.
Cannabis brands that can ship across the country because their products are considered hemp-derived via the US Farm Act of 2018 can use Emerald Road to reach consumers from all over. In fact, Emerald Road is working with Fiddler’s Green which recently announced such a d2c hemp delivery service.
As the regulatory framework evolves for the better, Calvino’s envisions a future where everyone in the world can use The Emerald Road:
“Eventually the Emerald Road will be not just the state of California but all of the United states and eventually the world.”
What’s behind the web2 veil
So how does cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, smart contracts, NFTs, DAOs and the like figure into it all?
Emerald Road will use an onsite utility token – formally an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum blockchain as its cryptocurrency.
Think Chuck–E-Cheese tokens, but better for the environment. They aren’t fundraising tokens, they definitely aren’t a security because it easily passes the Howie Test. The Emerald Road ERC-20 tokens are simply the necessary tokens for the real web3 functionality that’s needed: smart contracts.
The Emerald Road Token (ERT) will be pegged to a liquidity pool managed by Emerald Road. Calvino emphasized that the ERT will only be usable on the Emerald Road app:
“[It’s an] on site utility token only. It is not meant to be listed on any exchanges.”
Emerald Road users will access their wallet via the “My Road” section of the Emerald Road. However, all these interactions will occur in front of the web2 veil. Pay through your account, and the ERTs will be allocated in the backend to whichever NFT ticket or cannabis product you wanted to buy. The “wallet” would show your collection of NFTs – which can be thought of as your chosen path along the Emerald Road.
For the maxis out there, I did ask Calvino if he was “married” to the Ethereum blockchain or if The Emerald Road would continue exploring other blockchain technologies to see which ones would be able to offer full fledged smart contract and NFT functionality – to which Calvino happily replied:
“Emerald Road remains Chain agnostic.”
Essentially, the Emerald Road is applying web3 principles, on whatever blockchain is most efficient, to help the cannabis community.
What’s further along the Emerald Road
To breeders and farmers, going past the web2 veil is required. After all, it’s the blockchain component of this that makes it possible for the first time for cannabis breeders and growers to set their own terms via smart contracts.
The one floor elevator pitch that Justin Calvino tells prospective cannabis farms is:
“We’re going to put your strain on the chain.”
The specifics are still being fully fleshed out, but the fact that this side of cannabis IP protection is advancing so fast gives me immense hope for the future.
Emerald Road Phase 2
Calvino also provided some information on his hopes for The Emerald Road’s phase 2 once the project is chugging along. The smart contracts behind the e-commerce platform will ensure that a known portion of each transaction is deposited into a general fund. What’s more, Emerald Road members can participate in voting on how to use money in a general fund similar to an REIT.
“We actually put your money back into the [organization] and general fund.”
“And you can vote on how we use that. Be it subsidizing production for a group of farmers in a particular region or be it supporting a brand going to market with a business plan and model to get a small business loan or even just pay for marketing.”
A real blockchain backed cannabis e-commerce platform is soon to be here: it’s no longer the stuff of fantasy.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; Hello Emerald Road.