2019 was a momentous year for the cannabis industry: Hemp-derived CBD had a heyday, Illinois made history, California got sticky, vapes were flung into flux, and North American cannabis companies received some harsh wake-up calls.
2020 is gearing up to be an even more critical year.
There’s a well-worn saying in the cannabis business that the emerging industry is so fast-moving that it lives in dog years. 2020 is barely a week old, and cannabis is already making headlines after Illinois kicked off the new year with recreational sales. Other states are inching closer to legalization this year — with several mulling how best to ensure social equity. Also in 2020, there’s the FDA could chill the CBD craze, and a move from Congress could change the game entirely.
The tumultuous past few months have set 2020 up to be a make-or-break year for some of the biggest in the business as well as the scores of lesser-known players priming to make their moves.
“There’s going to be a lot of movement in 2020,” said Chris Walsh, chief executive officer of Marijuana Business Daily, a cannabis industry trade publication. “Whether it leads to actual legalization in some states remains to be seen.”
The next US states to legalize cannabis
Fourteen US states and territories have legalized recreational cannabis sales for adults (although regulations aren’t fully fleshed out in places like the District of Columbia and Vermont). A total of 33 states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes.
Illinois will remain in focus, after it made history last year with the first legislatively-enacted recreational cannabis program. Critical aspects of itsprogram include social equity and social justice measures created to help people and communitiesmost harmed by the War on Drugs.
“Underserved groups are holding the industry accountable,” said Gia Morón, executive vice president for Women Grow, a company founded to further the presence of women in the cannabis industry. “And our legislators are recognizing that [social, gender and minority concerns] are a part of this now.”
New York and New Jersey have been flirting with legalization but have held off to navigate some logistics related to aspects that include social equity. The governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania convened this past fall for a summit on coordinating cannabis and vaping policies. New Jersey is putting a recreational cannabis measure before voters in November, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed Wednesday that New York would legalize cannabis this year.
Other possibilities for states to legalize recreational cannabis could be Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota, Walsh said. Even Alabama, Mississippi and South Dakota could become new medical cannabis markets and other states’ medical programs could see expansions, he added.
“If you look at the map right now of the US, we’re getting to the point where there isn’t that many [states] left that can legalize,” he said. “You can look at any of those and say there might be a chance in the next year or two for them to legalize.”