The Future of Cannabis in the U.S. & Emerging Markets in the Industry
As the saying goes, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. However, when it comes to the future of cannabis in the U.S., an experienced prognosticator can help predict the next state likely to launch a legal cannabis market or provide insight to help you win an industry license.
The country’s cannabis climate is evolving rapidly as populations in red, blue, and purple states embrace legal cannabis in some form. Between 1996 and 2003, eight states approved medical cannabis. California was the first. It took nine more years for seven additional states and the District of Columbia to follow suit.
In 2012, Colorado and Washington took a dramatic step forward when they expanded the scope of legal cannabis by passing the first expanded-use (adult-use) cannabis laws. Alaska and Oregon were next in 2014. Since then, momentum has surged. In 2016, eight states passed laws legalizing cannabis — five for medical use and three for recreational use.
Cannabis advocates are no longer tilting at windmills. Currently, 33 states have medical cannabis programs. Vermont, Michigan, and Illinois have become the 9th, 1oth and 11th states, respectively, to legalize expanded-use cannabis. However, passing a law is just part of the story. We’re here to help you find the facts and identify opportunities.
Who’s Who in the Cannabis Industry
Step one in the cannabis entrepreneur’s journey is identifying who handles what within a state or locale. In many states, multiple agencies oversee the licensing and regulation of cannabis. For example, California has three separate agencies that regulate their cannabis industry.
In the new Illinois adult-use cannabis market, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) awards dispensary licenses. The Illinois Department of Agriculture grants licenses for cultivation.
Meanwhile, in Michigan, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) oversees the recreational and medical cannabis markets. In Arkansas, by contrast, the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) board governs dispensary and cultivation operations while the Medical Marijuana Commission (MMC) controls licensing.
Figure out which agencies deal with what and then study up to be sure you’re following the proper procedures. While legal text can be dry and wrought with long sentences, it’s worthwhile to read through proposed bills or existing statutes to be best informed.
How States Go Green
The future of cannabis in the U.S. is being carved out one state at a time. Moneyed opposition, voter ambivalence, and poorly written laws often send legislators back to the drawing board when it comes to legalization.
In Arizona, a ballot measure to legalize adult-use cannabis narrowly failed in 2016. However, the state’s Smart and Safe Arizona Act appears poised to win over voters this fall.
Illinois made history in 2019 when it became the first state to legalize adult-use cannabis — and its cultivation and sale — via a legislative vote. Vermont’s legislature legalized possession and home cultivation of cannabis for adult use in 2018 though sales are prohibited. The state is currently hashing out a bill to create a legal market.
In California, where expanded-use cannabis became legal in 2018, a majority of municipalities currently ban brick-and-mortar sales. Many cities in Michigan’s new recreational market have adopted a “wait and see” approach.
Follow Local Politics
There’s a lot of truth in the saying that all politics is local. Local newspapers are a premier resource for keeping up with relevant cannabis conversation. Not only can you get to know who the movers and shakers are — they’ll make sure their names get mentioned — but also what the “temperature of the room” is relative to policy.
Keeping up with local news can put you ahead of the curve as communities, including many in California, will likely come to embrace cannabis markets within their borders. Stay abreast of proponents and detractors as opposing views may eventually congeal into a path forward.
Independent news sources may be more reliable than those backed by big political donors. For example, in Nevada, the Nevada Independent is a paper that sticks to the facts no matter how inconvenient for either side of an issue. The Marijuana Policy Project is another good outlet for up-to-date cannabis policy news.
Cannabis Laws Aren’t Created Equal
It takes a lot of effort to flesh out the intent of cannabis laws in actionable regulations. To say that states vary widely in terms of what they allow and how they manage their markets would be a gross understatement. Fortunately, with so many states now on board, there are several example-worthy templates for potential newcomers.
One evolving aspect of the industry is social equity programs. The cannabis industry is still young with an opportunity to create a more just and inclusive atmosphere. Most industries bid their way into an area by touting job creation. States and municipalities can choose to walk a different, more equitable path with cannabis.
By building in policy that supports ownership and participation by women, minorities, veterans, and those disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, there’s a chance to create a socioeconomic opportunity in the cannabis community that doesn’t exist in the economy at large.
We Don’t Just Predict, We Inform
At Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting, we identify the next states to legalize well before they open their licensing application period. By tracking legislation, regulations, agencies, and timelines we help clients avoid potential roadblocks to success in the industry.
We don’t just predict where the industry will expand next, we’ve also helped states and countries shape and write their cannabis laws.
With partners like Green Rush Indexed Data, we’re able to stay ahead of the game while putting massive amounts of valuable, collected data to use for our clients.
If you’re interested in any aspect of the cannabis industry, we can provide you with ample insight gained through experience.
We’re here to help you navigate the future of cannabis in the U.S. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.