Marijuana Business Magazine January 2020

Marijuana Business Magazine | January 2020 42 L ight years. Dog years. The first inning of a nine-inning baseball game. The speed at which the marijuana industry grows has been measured with many idiomatic units— justifiably. Every new year brings seismic shifts in markets, consumer behavior, technology and political and regulatory policy that have left unprepared, slow-footed cannabis businesses behind, while those that anticipated and prepared for changes are prospering today. As a new decade begins, cannabis entrepreneurs, investors and professionals can expect 2020 to be at least as eventful as any year in the past decade. New major marketplaces have just launched or are launching—including large recreational markets in Michigan and Illinois, and medical markets in unexpected states such as Missouri and Arkansas. Add to that the potential of voters and/or lawmakers approving new recreational markets in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and other states. Internationally, Mexico is moving toward legalizing recreational cannabis, and medical markets from Australia to Italy are gaining steam. In the year ahead, more nations are likely to legalize the plant in some form. In short, the market map will look radically different a year from now. At the federal level in the United States, fewer politicians are opposed to marijuana reform, making passage of the SAFE Banking Act and federal legalization plausible in the next few years. And even if SAFE cannabis banking and federal legalization don’t happen anytime soon, enough progress has been made for many more financial institutions and others to feel comfortable providing services to marijuana businesses. Looking back, the cannabis industry looks far different in 2020 than it did in 2010. And as the curtain opens on the new decade, cannabis businesses should brace themselves for fresh dramas. Consider hemp: Facing a CBD glut, hemp farmers are diversifying their production options by sourcing genetics that will allow them to grow novel or minor cannabinoids, including CBG, CBN, CBD-V and others that are in high demand. Cannabis investors, for their part, are becoming more tightfisted with capital. Cash-strapped cannabis companies, in response, have slashed hundreds of jobs and scrapped or revised merger deals. Looking ahead, a combination of consumer impulses, regulatory changes and technological advances will spur product innovation and how customers shop for cannabis products. What remains the same is the need to anticipate and prepare for that change. In the following pages, members of Marijuana Business Magazine’s editorial staff—based on research and interviews with industry pros—lay out the key trends and developments that will affect cannabis businesses this year and in the years ahead. This forward-looking package is intended to help businesses and entrepreneurs prepare and get through times that will almost certainly be turbulent—but no less full of opportunity. Anticipating change is critical to any business, especially in an industry evolving as quickly as cannabis. Executives in the cannabis sector can expect several new trends to affect their companies in the coming months. Here are key developments to anticipate in 2020: • Capital is getting more difficult to raise because investors are increasingly tightfisted. • Layoffs are likely to continue at North American cannabis companies. • Governors in the U.S. Northeast are teaming up on cannabis legalization efforts, which could produce a more uniform regulatory framework between states. • New markets continue to emerge in the United States and abroad, bringing with them novel business opportunities. • Political opposition to cannabis is receding in the United States, but major marijuana banking reform is still far from a sure bet. • Consumers worried about the vape crisis are seeking out solvent-free products that deliver potency and convenience. • Hemp farmers are switching to less- well-known cannabinoids, including CBG and CBN, amid a CBD surplus. • Cannabis businesses are increasingly embracing online shopping platforms. • Consumers are demanding marijuana that is organically grown and pesticide-free. • Edibles manufacturers are responding to the call for more rapid-onset cannabis products. FORESIGHT OPPORTUNITY A DECADE OF Cannabis executives welcome an era of expanded legal markets while anticipating challenges by Omar Sacirbey