Towards the end of 2020, we saw sweeping optimism in the headlines about the MORE Act and all the benefits that its enactment would bring. The cannabis industry held its breath hoping for better access to banking and funding, decreased taxes, and federal legality. Those hopes have now been thoroughly dashed, but there are emerging changes that offer glimmers of hope.
We’ve compiled a list of post-COVID-19 cannabis industry predictions that we hope will come to pass. While we don’t foresee federal legalization in the near future, there are other developments infusing renewed optimism into the industry:
Prediction 1: More states will legalize the recreational adult use of marijuana.
2021 was a landmark year for the legal recreational marijuana market, with Connecticut, North Dakota, New York, Virginia, Montana, and New Mexico enacting bills that legalized recreational adult use. New Jersey’s 2020 law legalizing recreational cannabis was signed by the governor in 2021, too. Meanwhile, medicinal use was legalized in Alabama and Georgia, while medicinal-use regulations were expanded in Texas, Minnesota, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Tennesee.
Going forward, we’re predicting the following states will (at least try) to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2022:
- North Dakota.
- South Dakota (following its former legalization being deemed unconstitutional).
- Rhode Island.
Hawaii is a contender for pushing legislation through in 2022. While the Governor will almost certainly veto any bill for legalization, the supermajority of Democrats in the House and Senate could override the veto. We are looking forward to seeing how this plays out!
If we look further into the future, I’d expect to see a legalized adult-use market in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Arkansas, Missouri, and Florida within the next 5 years.
We would also not be surprised to see medical-use legalized in Wyoming, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Nebraska in the coming years.
Prediction 2: The cannabis industry will get better access to financing via (more) traditional lenders.
While unrestricted access to traditional lenders is still a distant dream, we are seeing an increasing number of regional banks and credit unions starting to loan money to the cannabis industry. A milestone deal was reached between California-based cannabis retail chain Harborside and an unnamed bank in March, giving the retailer access to a $12 million revolving credit facility. Meanwhile, local lenders in California, New Jersey, Illinois, Seattle, and Massachusetts have quietly started to offer credit to marijuana-related businesses.
However, cannabis business owners will continue to face challenges accessing loans at competitive rates, including:
- Regional banks and credit unions are alert to the fact that repossessing a cannabis business is more expensive and more complex than a traditional foreclosure. You will likely face issues accessing the lowest rates due to the increased risk posed by cannabis industry foreclosures.
- You may not be able to access financing based on the ‘cannabis industry value’ of your assets. As a result of the inherent risk and the conservative nature of more traditional lenders, the bank’s valuation will typically reflect the lower of the commercial value vs the cannabis value.
- Many lenders will ask for a personal guarantee on the loan. While it’s not essential that you provide a guarantee, it is an obstacle you’ll need to overcome in your search for cheaper financing.
Despite these challenges, this is a step in the right direction for canna-business owners and operators. We are looking forward to seeing where the gradually increased access to loans takes the industry.
Prediction 3: We will see commercial markets pop up for other cannabinoids.
The primary cannabinoids we see on the market at the moment are THC and CBD. THC is legal in certain states for medical use, recreational use, or both. CBD is currently legal at the federal level if derived from hemp. But scientists have identified more than 100 other cannabinoids and, at the moment, there is no real commercial market (legal or otherwise) for those substances. We predict that there will be continuing (potentially even growing) interest in commercializing other cannabinoids.
Many of these cannabinoids are currently being explored scientifically but, so far, most strains have not shown properties that would get you high. There are some cannabinoids that have been earmarked for further testing and possible production at scale, including CBN and CBG.
Legally, this quite an interesting prospect because these other strains may offer a loophole of sorts that may overcome the FDA’s bar on labelling hemp-derived CBD products as ‘dietary supplements’. The reason behind this ‘exclusion rule’ is that CBD is an active ingredient in an approved drug. Since CBD is a drug, the FDA has taken the position that it cannot also be a food or dietary supplement. CBN and CBG, however, are not active ingredients in any FDA-approved drug, so this exclusion would not apply. These chemicals are also not banned under the relevant international drug framework, if derived from hemp, so they may offer potential for export to other countries, which would be a new development for cannabis.
This prediction won’t likely come to pass in the near future. Further research is required and, from there, we will need to work out how to commercialize the production of any strains with potential. But, it is a very exciting prospect for the industry and certainly one to watch.
For more predictions like these and deep insights into the cannabis industry in 2022, read our 2022 Guide to Cannabis.
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