The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the cannabis industry — and the world as a whole — into much uncertainty. With federal marijuana decriminalization put on hold, you may have been tempted to wait and let some of the uncertainty settle before trying to expand or start your cannabusiness.
Now that things seem to be moving forward again, there are a number of state and national developments to keep your eye on in the coming year or two. You’ll want to be prepared to take action as quickly as possible to set yourself up for your best chance at success.
Here are some upcoming state and national marijuana decriminalization and legalization trends to help you decide what actions to take on your cannabusiness in 2022.
Currently, Delaware is legalized for medical-use only. However, their adult-use bill, HB150, is set to be voted on in 2022. According to Marijuana Policy Project, the majority of Delawareans support both marijuana decriminalization and legalization, so it seems very likely this bill will pass.
Bill HB150 was actually set to pass in 2021, but Delaware legislators appear to still be working on its amendment. Instead, it has been pushed to the next session in January of 2022.
If HB150 does pass, it will move pretty quickly. Just 19 months after the effective date of passage, the state will already be issuing licenses to 30 retailers (15 for social equity), 60 cultivators (20 for social equity), and 30 product manufacturers (10 for social equity and 10 for microbusinesses).
The process is going to be highly competitive, applications will be scored, and the application window will likely be short, so start your application as soon as possible.
Revisions to North Carolina’s medical marijuana bill, SB711, were approved in August of this year by the Senate Judiciary Committee. However, the bill still needs another full vote, and then it will need to clear the health care and operations committees to reach the Senate floor for a final vote.
Regulations will include a large physician’s role, and applicants will have to have been state residents for at least two years. For the regulatory authority, North Carolina will likely follow Alabama’s example and create a nine-member cannabis production commission.
Most people in North Carolina seem to support cannabis for medical only, not marijuana decriminalization and legalization for adult-use. Although the bill is slow moving, for a southern state and a new medical program, SB711 isn’t as restrictive as some areas are in terms of qualifying conditions.
Currently, no southern states have any type of adult-use program, and none are likely to in the next few years, except potentially Florida.
If Wyoming gets enough signatures by its February 14 deadline, residents will have the chance to vote on a medical cannabis bill to support marijuana decriminalization in 2022. But it will still likely be a slow rollout for the medical program, and there isn’t a lot of information yet on what the program would look like.
Keep your eye on Wyoming throughout the beginning of next year for further developments.
Other States to Watch for Future Developments
If one year seems like too short a timeline, and you’d rather have a little longer to get your feet under you, here are some states to keep an eye on for marijuana decriminalization and legalization developments in late 2022 or 2023.
It’s a good idea to start preparing in 2022 for Virginia’s adult-use program, even though applications aren’t going to be accepted until sometime in 2023. When those applications do open, Virginia will allow as many as 400 retailer licenses for under 50 cultivations and 16 manufacturers.
Marijuana decriminalization and legalization in Virginia will likely lead to increased competition and a shorter application window, so start getting everything in order now. That way, when the state does start accepting applications, you’ll be prepared.
Oregon’s moratorium on cultivation licenses is set to end on January 2, 2022, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will open an application window.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will have the final say on whether they want to add more cultivations and accept cultivation licenses, as well as how many they will accept and what that would look like.
If the state does open applications, it will likely be similar to what Denver has done with their social equity applicants in limiting it to people who have lived in the state for 15 years.
Alabama’s application window is set to open September 1, 2022. The market is going to be very competitive and connection-based, so now is the time to start building relationships with the right people.
Connect with the community and local representatives by attending city council meetings to gauge the level of interest and acceptance of marijuana decriminalization and legalization. Also, talk to other local business owners and express your interest in opening up a cannabusiness there.
As you form these connections, look into whether you qualify for social equity and who can be on your team for social equity. Much of preparing to open in Alabama will rely on convincing the people of your municipality that your business will be an asset to the community, so these connections are crucial.
Federal Marijuana Decriminalization
While the economic side of federal marijuana decriminalization would be beneficial, there are other priorities at the moment. Democrats seem to be playing the next four years very safe, and President Biden likely doesn’t want to be the president to legalize — or even decriminalize — cannabis.
Too much is uncertain right now, especially with COVID-19, so marijuana decriminalization at the federal level has been pushed to the backburner. Still, many legislators continue to propose bills and lobby to get them passed. And although lobbying took a dip due to the pandemic, it’s beginning to pick back up.
If you’re looking into opening up a cannabusiness and are waiting on federal marijuana decriminalization before you do so — don’t. It’s better to start doing your research, find a state, and get in now, because there’s no way of knowing how long you’d be waiting for decriminalization to happen.
In the cannabis industry, it’s all about proper planning and solid connections. Get in touch with HYC to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance of success in this highly competitive market.