Cannabis in 2020: What 2010-2020 Tells us About the Next Decade
Ogden Memo and Bold Pioneers
October 19, 2009, saw the issuance of the only guidance or protection at the time for medical marijuana businesses — the Ogden Memo. This federal memorandum kickstarted the cannabis industry by giving bold pioneers — like our Founding Partners Diane and Jay Czarkowski — the confidence to start serving patients in medically-legal states. Diane and Jay opened their dispensary within a month of the memo’s release and signed a lease for a grow operation at the beginning of 2010.
“In 2010, the cannabis industry was barely in its infancy and had no formal state-regulated programs. By 2030, medical marijuana will be in every state — even Wyoming will have a dispensary.” – Jay Czarkowski
Cannabis was a cottage industry at the start of 2010, made up of small shops whose owners forged friendships and banded together as a means of support and encouragement. The industry was hardly even an industry at the time — people were making edibles out of their homes, there were no dosing standards, and labs specific to testing cannabis weren’t around. The early years were unpredictable and risky — many entrepreneurs got burned navigating uncharted territory — but help was on the horizon.
Cannabis Catalysts in Colorado and Washington
2012 turned out to be a pivotal year for cannabis, but it didn’t start out that way. Uncertainty was plaguing the industry — momentum was picking up, but the DEA was cracking down. Businesses within 1,000 feet of any school, daycare, or educational facility were being forced to close. Rules that negatively impacted cannabis businesses were being implemented in states where medical marijuana was legal. Cannabis operators like Diane and Jay got heavily involved in advocacy efforts to ensure protections couldn’t be taken away by legislative action. In November 2012, the historic passage of Amendment 64 in Colorado and Initiative 502 in Washington — both of which legalized adult-use — were a shot in the arm to the industry.
Fascinating Industry Firsts in the Twentyteens
Cannabis legalization in 2012 sparked industry evolution. Similar to our teenage years, the Twentyteens were a time of development, change, and growth for cannabis. Competitive state-based licensing began and Canna Advisors was born to help entrepreneurs get started in the burgeoning industry. Cannabis saw many milestones and notable firsts during this 7-year period, including:
- The first cannabis company went public
- The first multi-state operator formed
- The first major cannabis reform bill — the SAFE Act — passed in Congress
- Canada legalized adult-use nationwide
- A bill to federally deschedule cannabis — the MORE Act — passed the House Judiciary Committee
- A governor-elect ran on the platform of cannabis legalization and won
- Red states like Oklahoma and Missouri voted in favor of medical marijuana programs
- The 2018 Farm Bill was a monumental victory for the hemp industry
Turning Tides: Community Building + Political Mindshift
Rapid expansion of the cannabis industry throughout the past decade can also be seen anecdotally. The number of cannabis conferences held and people who attend them has skyrocketed in recent years. MJBizCon — which surpassed 35,000 attendees in 2019 — only saw around 350 people in an old building the first year it was held. Today, there are hundreds of cannabis events around the world, not to mention non-industry conferences — like SXSW — that have tracks specific to cannabis.
One of the biggest signals of anecdotal industry growth and acceptance is on the political front. Diane has participated in NCIA’s Lobby Days in Washington, D.C. since the first advocacy blitz was held in 2012. That year, only a dozen people traveled to our nation’s capital to advocate for cannabis reform. Early on, the list of politicians willing to meet and discuss the cannabis industry was limited. Meetings with Republicans seemed obligatory and most sent their lower-level staff instead of showing up themselves.
In recent years, mindsets have shifted — cannabis has drawn bipartisan political support and members from both sides of the aisle are sponsoring bills and initiating conversations. As the industry becomes more established and legitimized, many lawmakers have become interested and accepting of cannabis. In 2017, Diane was thrilled to share her cannabis entrepreneurial experience with current Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren at Lobby Days. With each year that passed, more and more people became advocates — 300+ people lobbied for cannabis reform at Lobby Days 2019.
The Roaring 20s — Again
Similar to a century ago, the coming decade is shaping up to be a time of tremendous social and political change. Defying (cannabis) prohibition, espousing gender equality by rejecting the status quo, and embracing new technology is on the horizon for the 2020s like it was in the 1920s.
According to a November 2019 Pew Research study, 68% of U.S. adults support the legalization of marijuana — a 20% increase from 2010. As we enter 2020, 33 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and 11 have legalized for adult-use. Those numbers are poised to grow — New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota, Mississippi, and other East Coast states have a good chance of changing cannabis laws in the 2020 general election. Many other state legislatures are working on cannabis reform — jurisdictions across the country will see definitive legislation changes in the coming years.
“Our hope for cannabis in the future is that it will be similar to the wine and beer industries — where both small and large producers play together to serve the interest and needs of consumers.” -Diane Czarkowski
2020-2030 Will Bring Research, Interstate Commerce & More Hemp Products
As cannabis industry pioneers who started building the industry a decade ago, our Founding Partners predict that the 2020s will see some sort of cannabis acceptance, rescheduling, and legalization on the federal level.
Federal acceptance will open the door for substantial cutting-edge research and scientific advancements — definitively proving the efficacy, but also answering why and how cannabis works in our bodies. Our knowledge about the different cannabinoids beyond THC and CBD in the plant and how they can be of use will also greatly expand. This much-needed research will change the way we medicate people and treat health issues with cannabis in the future.
Interstate commerce is another exciting prospect to look forward to that will make cannabis a more viable industry in the U.S. — offsetting supply bottlenecks and creating a more robust overall market. Trade between states will enable consumers to find unique qualities of cannabis in each region, similar to wine. Every state will have a medical marijuana program and many more will adopt adult use. Jay even predicts a dispensary opening in Wyoming, where THC in any form remains illegal.
The 2020s will also bring more hemp manufacturing to the U.S. We will likely see large production facilities open in order to support the burgeoning hemp industry. These companies will start making the innumerable hemp-derived products which are mostly being manufactured in China. CBD won’t be the only hemp product that goes mainstream — industrial hemp has huge potential and will be used in numerous other industries in the coming decade.
Practicality + Optimism for 2020-2030
It’s not too late to get in on the fastest-growing industry in the U.S. The cannabis industry is still relatively new and rife with opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs. We’ve only just begun to build on the foundation that started in the last decade. To create more local opportunities, Jay advises entrepreneurs to take a personal, active role in advocacy efforts and building community support — whether your state doesn’t yet have an active program or is considering expanding an established program.
Jay’s top recommendations for cannabis entrepreneurs in 2020-2030:
- Get involved
- Take action
- Stay compliant
Diane is optimistic about what the 20s will bring for cannabis entrepreneurs. She sees enormous opportunity and less risk than in the past — but, also cautions that there is a difference between having a great idea and executing an actual business. Diane advises conducting extensive research to find where you fit and ensure you understand the complexity of this rapidly-evolving industry. “Don’t expect there to be a magic seed for instant success and riches in cannabis. Find where you fit, work hard, and execute on great ideas. If you do that, there is tremendous opportunity to make an impact.”