I spent my formative years on the road with legendary author and activist Jack Herer. His 1985 book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” educated millions of people about how marijuana had historically been used for food, fuel, fiber and medicine. It unveiled the government’s racist, unscientific and absurd efforts to enact and continue prohibition. His rallying cry, “Hemp can save the planet,” still rings in my ears 20 years after retiring from the road.
The scale of cannabis legalization in California and Canada rapidly brought change to the cannabis landscape. It came with a form of commercialism and capitalism that the existing industry was unprepared to compete against. Big business was everywhere, looking for a way into the Green Rush. Many cannabis business owners took the golden parachute, selling their brands and companies. Others found partners looking to fund people willing to stay and run their companies. Preexisting small cannabis businesses felt the burden of high regulatory costs this year, leaving them less able to compete and making them acquisition targets for bigger companies.
I can hardly be impartial about this, sitting in Oakland, Calif.—ground zero. We saw a massive decline in small businesses here, driven out by the high taxes, fees and near impossibility of finding a compliant facility. It’s been heartbreaking to watch.
The good news: The cannabis community is not afraid of hard work. We fought the feds, educated our families and friends, and put prohibition on the run. Evolving the industry’s ethos will take time, yes, but if done right, we may accomplish our goals and create a kinder and more compassionate society. Finding our footing in this new era of big business may take longer, as stakes are high and competition is tough. But one thing is certain: 2019 will be a stellar year for the industry, especially for those who thrive on grit and grind.
Here is a list of five strengths to keep in mind for the new year.
1. Cannabis is a legit, billion-dollar industry. Consumer spending in the legal cannabis market will reach $11 billion in 2018, according to Arcview Market Research/BDS Analytics, and it will more than double by 2022 to more than $23 billion. There is growth in all cannabis sectors, except flower. According to New Frontier Data, flower prices across the industry have tapered off at retail, but its value has grown as a base commodity.
2. Support for legalization is higher than ever. According to an October 2018 Gallup poll, 66 percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization. (It was only 12 percent when Gallup first asked Americans in 1969.) Even the majority of seniors are pro-cannabis. Of respondents 55 or older, 59 percent support cannabis law reform in 2018, up from 50 percent the previous year.
3. Teen marijuana use is down. California’s biennial Healthy Kids Survey, last conducted in 2017, shows the overall prevalence, frequency of use and heavy use of marijuana is down 3 percentage points or more among ninth and 11th graders since 2015. Ninth graders showed a 4-point drop in overall use; 11th graders showed a 3-point drop. This contradicts what prohibitionists have predicted with their unsupported claims that legalization would increase teen access and use.
4. States have started clearing criminal records. States are starting to pass laws expunging old marijuana “crimes” from people’s records. California passed its law late this summer, joining Vermont, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The city of Seattle, and the states of Oregon and Colorado have laws that seal old misdemeanors. Let’s all push for this to spread in 2019.
5. The feds are starting to make sense. After promoting an anti-cannabis agenda for years, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein finally strongly supports cannabis legalization. President Trump, when questioned in June 2018, said he will “probably end up supporting” Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner’s (R-CO) STATES Act, legislation that would end federal prosecution of state-legal cannabis businesses. Even banking is improving. A United States Treasury Department report showed there were 486 banks serving the industry as of September 2018, up from 340 at the start of 2017. It’s not out of reach to imagine having both banking access and some form of federal legalization in 2019.
This story was originally published by Cannabis Dispensary.