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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

A Legal Taboo: How the Cannabis Industry Continues to Scale

 Less than a decade ago, marijuana farming was illegal in all 50 states and there a substantial stigma clung to users. Today, it’s legal in 29 states (at some level) and the legal industry is growing at a rapid pace.

There’s also an expanding sense of acceptance, even among conservatives who were staunch opponents of legalized marijuana in the past. All these factors are converging to predict a promising future for the industry in the coming years.

Cannabis Industry Shows Potential 

Research from Brightfield Group indicates the international market for cannabis is projected to hit $31.4 billion by 2021 … with the U.S. currently driving more than 90 percent of worldwide sales. That share is predicted to drop to 57 percent in the near future, but this will be more a function of increased global adoption than a domestic drop-off.

As innovation within the cannabis industry occurs, marijuana (and other related products) isn’t just becoming decriminalized; it’s also becoming de-stigmatized. In order to assess the growth of this industry and where things may ultimately be headed, it’s worthwhile to look at the essential trends.

  1. Increased Popularity of CBD

The most significant fact about CBD is that it contains very little THC: the illegal substance that most states continue to prohibit. Despite that difference, CBD yields many of the same benefits and effects as traditional marijuana.

This makes it highly attractive to people who seek the health benefits, but prefer to avoid the THC content and the resulting high.

  1. Decline of Beer Sales

According to a recent report from Cowen & Company, research indicates that beer sales have gradually declined in states where recreational marijuana has been legalized. In three states in particular — Colorado, Washington, and Oregon — total beer sales have dropped by 2 percent.

Furthermore, 27 percent of beer drinkers in the US have declared they would switch to marijuana if it were legalized where they live. These findings are in line with separate research that shows 51 percent of millennial cannabis users select marijuana over alcohol when given a choice.

Now, there isn’t much chance of the beer industry slipping away entirely, but these data points show the appeal of cannabis and the opportunity for the growing industry. 

  1. Potential for Cannabinoids in Healthcare

The use of cannabinoids in healthcare can only grow in the coming months. “Medical marijuana patients still outspend recreational users nearly 3 to 1, demonstrating the effectiveness that many patients see when using medical marijuana,” industry insider Jeffery Stamberger writes for Medical Marijuana Inc.

“Increased enrollment and sales in state medical marijuana programs last year hint toward continued growth in the future.”

Although US Attorney General Jeff Sessions remains adamantly opposed to federal legalization of marijuana, sentiment among many other conservatives on this point appears to be changing. Give it a couple more years and we could see even more states pursue legalization … at least for medical purposes.

“If medical marijuana were legal in all 50 U.S. states, it could cut into the pharmaceutical industry by $4 billion annually,” Stamberger points out. “Additionally, some companies are developing cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs, further expanding the role of cannabinoids in healthcare.” 

The Significance of the Coming Decade

The cannabis industry has come a long way over the past decade, but the next decade will truly determine the potential size and longevity of this fledgling but exploding industry. Over the next 10 years, we’ll probably see mass legalization (in all 50 states), increased regulations (for better or worse), more technological innovation, and a continued liberal shift in public attitudes.

If history is any indication, these factors will coalesce to create an even larger and more influential industry that changes the face of the American marketplace.

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