There is no shortage of New Year's predictions for the cannabis industry. Having just wrapped up a tumultuous year that saw a bloodbath of job and financial losses in the United States and Canada, there have been a cavalcade of reports, articles, and blog pieces predicting what we can expect in 2020.
Aside from the certainty that we we’ll have an entire month legitimately deemed “4/20,” what follows is a compilation of everyone’s best guesses as to what will occur. If the cannabis industry has taught us anything, it’s that the plans it makes are frequently considered by all deities as a “Hold my beer” type challenge.
More states will legalize cannabis: As more states establish adult-use cannabis programs, those without such programs are seeing growing support for creating them. Be they motivated by the myriad social-justice benefits that such programs can provide, increased tax revenue, or both, organizers across the United States are increasingly hopeful this is their year. As of January 1, recreational cannabis programs are active in 11 states plus the District of Columbia, while 33 states have a program in place for medical.
Illinois recently passed its adult-use program through legislation voted on by lawmakers, rather than through the more traditional method of a signature-driven ballot initiative or referendum, ading a twist to the process. According to Forbes, a remarkable 16 states could see the choice placed before voters: Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Nebraska, and South Dakota. CBS News believes Virginia could be added to that list.
Federal legalization is not happening: Yes, legalization would be the best thing for the industry, consumers, and those impacted by the war on drugs, and it remains the greatest prize. But there isn’t much optimism that it’s going to happen in 2020. Tremendous thanks and praises go to Oregon’s Representative Earl Blumenauer, who worked tirelessly with other Democrats (and some Republicans) in the US House to get groundbreaking legislation written and passed in 2019. But Republicans in the Senate, headed up by strident pot prohibitionist and Southern mayonnaise turtle Mitch McConnell, are not in any hurry to see federal descheduling of cannabis. Although polls consistently show that a growing majority of Americans would prefer to see the feds legalize cannabis, unless Democrats capture the Senate or someone replaces McConnell, this won’t be the year. Even if that were to occur, such a monumental action would take extensive time to write and implement, making 2022 feasibly the first year it could go into effect.
You will be assimilated: Consolidation of cannabis brands looms large for 2020. Last year’s heavy financial losses have widely chilled investor interest, and some analysts expect larger brands to greatly accelerate buying up smaller brands at deep discounts, in addition to giants merging with each other. Throw in some bankruptcy filings, and this year could result in a noticeable reduction in brand choices—especially small craft producers. While such mergers could potentially provide lower prices for some products, it’s rare that the quality improves along with it. As with all agricultural products, supporting craft cannabis keeps small farms operating and independent. Know your grower and spend your money accordingly.
Consumers are wising up: We still know relatively little about cannabis, but what we do know is starting to become of greater importance to both consumers and product developers. Buyers have more information and experience when making purchases, and have begun asking not only about THC content, but terpene content as well. Developers are addressing newly empowered buyers by focusing on products with particular cannabinoids and compounds such as CBG, CBN, and THCV, all of which offer specific benefits. Microdosing is morphing into precision dosing as consumers demand particular effects.
Producers will also take extra steps to ensure quality control, especially with products such as vaporizers. “Vapocolypse” has brought producer transparency to the forefront, resulting in innovative steps that will allow consumers to track their cannabis from farm to dispensary.