Everything you need to know about CBN, a trendy cannabis compound that’s chasing a $1 billion-plus market dominated by melatonin and CBD

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    • Meet cannabinol (CBN), the latest trendy wellness compound that comes from the cannabis plant.
    • Some companies are now gearing up to launch products with CBN, claiming they help people sleep better.
    • CBN is made from THC, the compound in cannabis that’s responsible for its signature high. CBN makes you want to fall asleep immediately, companies tell us.
    • There’s been an explosion in marketing of cannabis compounds as wellness products recently, because the technology to extract them from the plant is getting better. You’ve probably already heard of ones like CBD, but lots more are on the way.
    • Prices for CBN are expected to be around $20 per gram: 4 times more expensive than THC and 7 times more than CBD. But as more companies get involved in producing CBN, and the demand for this cannabinoid grows, costs are expected to come down.
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Get ready for the next trendy cannabis-linked wellness compound.

Cannabis companies are gearing up to launch products containing cannabinol, or CBN, claiming they can help people sleep better. They’re aiming to capitalize on the success of CBD, another cannabis component that’s widely touted as helping you relax, and that’s been added to everything from cupcakes to lattes.

The market for CBN could be significant. Millions of Americans have trouble sleeping, and some already turn to CBD or melatonin for help. Melatonin is a natural supplement that in 2016 had a market size of $851 million, according to a report from Statista. By 2021, this number is expected to skyrocket to $1.5 billion. Sales of CBD could reach $2.75 billion this year, according to Nielsen.

Kat Merryfield, the CEO of CBD company Kat’s Naturals, said the target demographic for CBN will be people who use melatonin or CBD to help them sleep. Using CBN is supposed to make you feel very relaxed and fall asleep quickly.

Companies are gearing up to market CBN to help you sleep

“I believe that CBN will be the new melatonin,” Merryfield told Business Insider. “It’s going to help with those sleep cycles, but without messing with the actual serotonin receptors that are creating that melatonin in your bodies.”

Her company plans to launch a product with CBN in the coming months, she said.

Papa & Barkley, a California cannabis brand known for its CBD products, has been researching CBN because they’ve found so many of their clients use their products to aid sleep. 

But CBN is “notoriously tricky to process consistently,” Adam Grossman, Papa & Barkley’s CEO, told Business Insider. Currently, the company is focusing on how it can produce CBN effectively in order to blend it into their current formulations to help clients fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep once they are sleeping.

In most cannabis plants, CBN only exists in trace amounts. In order to produce the molecule on scale, producers need to first extract and process THC, which takes around 4 separate steps, before putting that compound through two more steps to create CBN. It takes about 5 milligrams of THC to produce 1 milligram of CBN, Grossman said.

cbd oil product lineup


CBN can cost $20 per gram, a whole lot more than CBD or THC

That also makes the cost of CBN quite high, at roughly $20 per gram, cannabis companies looking into the CBN market told Business Insider. CBD prices vary, but in the national hemp market, it usually averages $2 to $3 per gram whereas, THC fetches up to $5 to $6 per gram.

Despite these challenges, Grossman expects future CBN products to bring in around $40,000 a month for Papa & Barkley—the company’s benchmark goal for a successful new product—once they get enough of the product into dispensaries.

The legality of CBN is in a murky grey zone in states where adult use of cannabis isn’t legal.

One company told Business Insider that it plans to sell CBN nationwide. Another said that if the CBN comes from THC, it can only be sold in adult-use states, whereas CBN from hemp can be sold nationally and internationally. A third said that because CBN is mildly psychoactive, there are still regulatory risks for companies that attempt to put it on the shelves nationally.

‘You just felt like you wanted to melt into a couch’

CEO Kat Merryfield said that the effect of CBN can be similar to the experience of taking cannabis that’s been “stuck in your car and left for a while” since THC becomes CBN when exposed to heat or oxygen.

“You smoke it and you just felt like you wanted to melt into a couch,” she said.

There hasn’t been much scientific research on CBN, in part because THC is federally illegal in the US. That means we don’t know a lot about how it works inside your body.

According to Professor Carlyn S. Buckler, who teaches at the School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell University, CBN works on the endocannabinoid system, the receptors in your brain and body that also react to cannabis and compounds like THC and CBD. But there’s a need for more research, she said.

“We have a lot of catching up to do,” Buckler told Business Insider.

Dr. David Bearman of the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine, an association of clinicians and researchers involved in the cannabis field, is interested in the studies on CBN, but told Business Insider he remains skeptical that any single cannabis compound will be the “silver bullet” that unlocks all the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant. 

By researching individual cannabinoids, Bearman said, we’re likely to discover new things about the plant. He said he thinks that consuming all the elements in the cannabis plant together is still likely to bring about the greatest benefits. That view is known as the ‘entourage effect.’

Companies aren’t waiting for the research to launch their products. And CBN, though a small part of the overall cannabis market now, is growing in demand.

The demand for CBN is already growing

Mary’s Medicinals, Green Revolution, and Kikoko are the top CBN brands now, according to cannabis data company Headset. The total sales of CBN-containing products within recreational stores in California, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington grew by 70% from December 2018 to December 2019, outpacing the total market by a significant margin.

Tinctures, or cannabis concentrates that are taken orally, make up 49% of all CBN sales, followed by topicals (30%) and then beverages (15%), according to Headset.

Jetty Extracts, a company that specializes in craft, small-batch, cannabis products, is looking to launch a new CBN line soon now that the technology is available to extract the cannabinoid in scale. 

Nate Ferguson, Jetty Extracts co-founder, said that up until a few years ago, the technology available allowed them to convert a little bit of CBN from THC, but now the equipment and techniques have evolved to the point where they are able to get a considerable amount of CBN into products and out into the market.

And though the prices to produce CBN now are quite high, Ferguson told Business Insider that as manufacturers create more of the compound and more products begin to hit the market, he believes that there will be a spike in demand that may mirror CBD in terms of market size. 

“I love the whole plant experience,” Ferguson said, referring to the entourage effect that Bearman noted previously. “And that might really work for somebody, but if you’re really trying to target a specific symptom or specific feeling, then you can isolate these cannabinoids and get exactly what you want.”


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