Cannabis News Update May 3, 2021
Today in cannabis news: The global cannabis market exceeds expectations in spite of the troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic; the Texas House of Representatives approves bills to decriminalize cannabis and expand its medical cannabis program; and cannabis advocates are calling out legislators and corporations for leveraging “social equity” for their own gain, but failing on the follow-through.
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** First up: While the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted industries across the board and across the globe, the cannabis industry has exceeded expectations and even seen growth as the world continues to battle COVID-19.
In a recent report, Micah Tapman, Chief Executive Officer of BDSA (formerly known as BDS Analytics), said: “Our previous forecast was conservative based on the expected economic fallout from the pandemic, but the industry not only survived, it thrived and legal cannabis gained considerable ground, exceeding our expectations in several markets.”
According to the report: “Global cannabis sales reached nearly $21.3 billion in 2020, an increase of 48% over 2019 sales of $14.4 billion. BDSA forecasts global cannabis sales will grow from $21.3 billion in 2020 to $55.9 billion in 2026, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 17%.”
** Next up: The Texas state House of Representatives has passed legislation decriminalizing possession of cannabis and greatly expanding the state’s medical cannabis program.
These are the newest advances in a period in which the chamber has seen several articles of progressive legislation advance, including different bills to minimize penalties for acquiring cannabis concentrates and to mandate the state to research the medicinal properties of psychedelics such as MDMA and psilocybin.
Rep. Erin Zwiener (D) sponsored the legislation that would decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis, rendering it a class C crime without the possibility of jail time. The measure would also eliminate the possibility of being convicted for low-level possession and enable individuals to escape prosecution through deferrals and dismissals.
The House approved a different medical cannabis extension bill with a 134-12 vote. The bill would expand the list of qualifying conditions for the state’s narrow medical cannabis system to include cancer, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The bill also allows the Department of State Health Services to use administrative rulemaking to introduce more qualified criteria. In addition, the THC limit on medical cannabis items will be raised from 0.5 percent to 5%.
Both bills are now on the way to the state Senate for consideration.
** Last up: While states in the U.S. have touted emphases on social equity as a selling point to passing cannabis legalization and corporations have been lauding their “diversity outreach” and social equity initiatives and panels, the statistics show that actual social equity in the cannabis industry remains, at least for now, a “pie in the sky” ideal.
Dissatisfaction with the sluggish implementation of equity policies has taken on new relevance at a period when the country is grappling with discussions and point-blank evidence of systemic racial injustice. Cannabis advocates have noticed that while state legislators and corporate executives have successfully leveraged the notion of social equity to advance their policies, they have been less successful, or willing, in the follow-through.
In 2018, Los Angeles, California began recreational cannabis sales as among the largest municipal markets in the nation. After being embroiled in a court dispute and then undertaking a significant overhaul, the social equity program is still in development, with the aim of protecting novice social equity licensees from “shark investors.”
Social equity licensees are sometimes subject to predatory contracts, with income and power held mainly by investors. Some have been outmatched in a competitive industry controlled by multinational corporations worth millions, if not billions, of dollars. In certain cases, states have been reluctant to develop and expand social equity programs.
Simply put: Cannabis business attorney Hilary Bricken says companies generally are out to make profits and build brands, not focus on a humanitarian mission.