Is Consolidation Key to Cannabis Industry’s Next Growth Phase?

A wave of consolidations is highly expected in the coming years, with some of the bigger players acquiring specialized startups.

The cannabis industry has been one of the biggest standout markets in the last few years. It has witnessed massive developments, including a rapid rise in the number of states that have legalized the use of at least one of its products in the U.S. Nearly all of the 50 states have legalized the use of cannabis in its medicinal or CBD oils varieties while more than a dozen now allow growing or the recreational use of marijuana.

Many startups have been inspired by this change and are now exploring alternative ways to invest in the industry. As such, there are now several small players in a market that is rapidly expanding, which means that it is only a matter of time before bigger players begin to show interest. Therefore, a wave of consolidations is highly expected in the coming years with some of the bigger players acquiring specialized startups while some smaller players form mergers to try to withstand the threat of the giants that join the market.

Mergers and Acquisitions deals are coming in hot and fast

Canada-based Aurora Cannabis  (ACB[NYE] – $7.77   ) has already set the tone for things to come in the next few years with its acquisition of MedReleaf (another Canadian cannabis producer) for CA$3.2 billion — $2.3 billion in USD. This is the biggest cannabis acquisition to date, which makes Aurora Cannabis a mammoth of a company in the industry. According to reports, the newly created company is now “capable of producing 570,000 kilograms of high-quality cannabis per year at a cost of less than $1 per kilogram.”

In another deal, Las Vegas’ largest marijuana dispensary and cultivation operation, Essence Cannabis announced in November last year that it was selling the business for $290 million to Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries. Essence, whose parent company is Integral Associates will provide Green Thumb Industries with an extended footprint in Nevada’s burgeoning cannabis market.

In general, last year, was one of the busiest for the cannabis industry with M&A activity more than doubling from the previous year while startups raised more than $4 billion. And in 2019, companies are expected to continue on this trend with more startups seeking capital to finance growth while others are acquired by their giant counterparts.

This wave of M&As seems to be what is likely to prepare the cannabis industry for the next growth phase. Just a few years ago, cannabis could have easily landed you in jail or in some legal battles in the United States. And while there is no federal legalization yet, things have improved dramatically with nearly all US states now having some form of legalized cannabis.

North of the border, Canada is setting all the standards following the federal legalization of cannabis. American cannabis companies will be looking to pounce on the opportunity created up North as they wait to see if federal legalization in the US will come. One major benefit of federal legalization is that it opens up cannabis businesses to the world of stock markets, which gives them more access to capital.

What sections of the market are companies looking to invest in?

The biggest attraction currently is medical cannabis. This section of the cannabis industry is attracting all the big players including UK-based pharma company GW Pharmaceuticals  (GWPH[NSD] – $139.11  ), whose cannabinoid drug Epidiolex received FDA approval in June 2018 for controlling seizures in people with difficult-to-treat childhood-onset epilepsy. More pharma companies will be eager to ride on the success of Epidiolex by launching their own cannabinoid drugs.

One drawback to this section of the industry is that companies are required to spend a lot in research and development, and must go through several clinical trials before they can finally receive approval from relevant authorities. This requires a significant investment, and it explains why some players in the space are seeking to merge or be acquired by a company with a strong financial position.

Recreational marijuana: while medical cannabis may have caught the eyes of the big players, recreational marijuana seems to be resonating well with small and medium-sized businesses.

Cannabis dispensaries are now being launched left, right and center to provide both medicinal and recreational marijuana products. A good example, in this case, is Essence Cannabis, which provides cannabinoid health products for both medical and recreational use by patients.

Industrial hemp: This is yet another segment of the cannabis industry that is expected to witness tremendous growth in the next few years. Industry research reports estimate that the global industrial hemp market will grow at a CAGR of 14% to a value of $10.6 billion in 2025.

In order to capitalize on this expansive growth, major players are integrating vertically by acquiring hemp plant firms and forming partnerships with industrial manufacturers, which include among others, the textile industry. They have also created a network of both physical and online stores to market and distribute their products.

Hemp cosmetics: In some cases, this is classified under industrial hemp, but unlike in markets like the textile industry, where hemp fiber is the key ingredient, the CBD oil is the main extract that companies are using in cosmetics.

Companies operating in the personal care industry are using hemp seed oil and other extracts on personal care products, which include soap, shampoo, body lotions, and hair care products. And while the hemp oil is mostly used in conjunction with other mainstream chemicals, there is a developing trend of pure hemp oil cosmetics.

Cannabis-fused beverages: This is fast becoming another big winner in the cannabis industry. Startups have launched cannabis fused drinks (both soft and alcoholic) in what is seen as an attempt to disrupt the static beverages market. Even the might of the soft drinks market, The Coca-Cola Co  (KO[NYE] – $49.42  ) has started to show interest.

In September last year, Coca-Cola said that it was monitoring the “nascent industry and is interested in drinks infused with CBD — the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that treats pain but doesn’t get you high.” This got major cannabis stocks rallying led by Aurora Cannabis. Others are looking to introduce what is being called a cannabis beer to rival the mainstream beer market. So, it is really becoming interesting as companies prepare for the next growth phase of the industry.


In summary, legalization of cannabis in most parts of North America has triggered an insatiable demand for cannabis investments. The few points discussed here are among the most attractive at the moment with medicinal and recreational marijuana, in particular, topping the list. Federal legalization will not only create an opportunity for the companies to raise capital via IPOs and other placements but will also create massive awareness and media coverage which will boost global growth.

The rush to remain on top is what is driving small players to merge with each other as the giants cherry-pick their preferred acquisitions that will help them pounce on the cannabis industry growth. At this point, it looks like a consolidation of the cannabis industry is a necessary step as the market prepares to move to the next level.

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Europe blooms to world’s largest legal cannabis market

In the next five years, Europe is set to become the world’s largest legal cannabis market. With a population of more than double that of the United States and Canada combined, the market is ripe, and the industry has grown more in the last year than the last six combined, according to a new report.

More than €500 million has been invested in the cannabis industry to date, and six countries have announced new legislation regarding the growth, sale, or consumption of cannabis. France, the UK, and Spain are reviewing current legislation, while Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands – countries considered industry leaders – are focusing on expanding existing medical programmes. The market is primed and ready for harvest – one that could be worth as much as €123 billion by 2028, say researchers at Prohibition Partners in a report titled ‘The European Cannabis Report’.

Prohibition Partners was founded in 2017 with a mission to open the international cannabis industry through reliable data and intelligence. The organisation has grown to become a leading provider of market insights and consultancy, and aims to unlock the societal and commercial potential of cannabis. 

Cannabis investments in the US and Canada quadrupled in 2018, catching the eyes of European policymakers. Simply stated, good bud brings good money – and “while Europeans do not expect a similar regulated recreational market [as those in some states in the US and throughout the entirety of Canada] in the immediate future, policymakers and businesses do anticipate substantial growth in the medical area.”Europe’s legal cannabis market

Data matters

A lack of clinical data regarding the usefulness of medical marijuana is an obstacle facing the industry, meaning funding for reliable and effective research is essential. “Europeans also expect levels of regulation and standardisation across medical cannabis products to be perfected,” the report states. “A forthcoming review of the evidence surrounding medical cannabis from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU) could lead to a recommendation on its legal status.”

The report points to the economic benefits of a regulated cannabis industry in countries including Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Poland, which were greatly impacted by the 2008 recession. Countries like Greece and Macedonia could also benefit by cultivating cannabis to support “an ailing agriculture industry.”

There is also an absence of credible research into the financial (in the form of tax revenues) and employment opportunities provided by cannabis legalisation. In the US, thanks to the rather widespread legalisation of medical marijuana, as well as recreational legalisation in 10 states, the cannabis industry is expected to outpace manufacturing job creation by 2020. In Canada, where a cannabis human resources networking platform recently launched, cannabis industry sales are projected to be higher than liquor and wine in 2019. This extraordinary growth opens a wealth of opportunity along the supply chain, “as well as ancillary products and platforms” such as smoking devices and online retail portals for both consumers and healthcare professionals, such as Zeacann, a New Zealand-based cannabis start-up currently seeking funding. 

Breaking down the bud

Per the report, there are four categories of cannabis: medical, pharmaceutical, recreational, and CBD. Medical refers to products prescribed by a medical practitioner for the treatment of a specific condition or disease. Pharmaceutical cannabis refers to products such as Marinol, which are produced using cannabinoids and have been through clinical trials and licensed as medicine. Recreational cannabis is any cannabis used for non-medical purposes, and typically has a higher concentration of THC – the chemical compound that provides the user a “high”.

CBD products are already available in many European markets, and used for “wellness purposes” such as sleep and anxiety. They do not require a prescription and have been excluded from the report’s market sizing. For its analysis, Prohibition Partners focuses greatly on the potential of recreational and medicinal cannabis.

Legal status of cannabis

Medicinal cannabis 

“With a market of 742 million people and total healthcare spend of €2.3 trillion, Europe will be the largest medical cannabis market in the world,” the report states. The market could be worth as much as €58 billion once proper legislation and infrastructure is in place in all markets. Insurance companies in Israel, Germany, Denmark, and Italy are now covering medical cannabis prescriptions, forecasting that in the near future “fulfilling medical cannabis prescriptions will become a basic requirement of any public healthcare policy.”

Recreational cannabis

“By 2028, we estimate the European recreational cannabis market will be worth €65 billion. New products, distribution, and supply channels have further advanced cannabis consumption and presence throughout Europe over the last 10 years,” the report states.

As a continent, legislation is mostly examining medical cannabis and CDB products. As countries begin to adopt medical cannabis legislation, however, the benefits of a regulated market will become more apparent, in turn shining light on the appeal and opportunity of a regulated recreational market. “Since the beginning of 2018, Germany, Denmark, Malta, Greece, and Italy have all discussed the possibility of a fully regulated cannabis market, while Luxembourg has promised to introduce a regulated adult use market before 2023.” Employment opportunities, crime reduction, and potential increases in tax revenue are all “key driving forces for the establishment of a legal recreational cannabis market in Europe.”

Plant the seeds

Signs of marijuana’s impending legalisation are increasingly apparent, but there are several actions that must be taken to secure a stable foundation for the industry. Some are farther along than others. After Canada’s decision to fully legalise recreational cannabis in 2018, the WHO began to review the plant’s legal status. The European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety is working to establish a “region-wide regulatory framework on medical cannabis,” which could lead to multinational regulation in 2019. There is a need for educational programmes for medical professionals, which are not yet established. Doctors and other healthcare professionals must be knowledgeable and informed as to the benefits and uses of cannabis if it is to be properly introduced into a medical setting.

The European Union and Norway

European countries also must create an intra-EU cannabis trade network. “Industry leading EU nations, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are developing tenders for domestic cultivation licenses, seeking to build a domestic industry with localised supply of medical cannabis.” Growing cannabis within the continent will mean that there will be less dependency on product imports.

“Cannabis is slowly but surely entering new European markets,” the report states. As cannabis, medical and recreational, is introduced, regulated, and legalised, market penetration will occur all but naturally. “Health, beauty, and wellness were the first to capitalise, but food, beverages, and financial markets are creeping in. Announcements and investments from AB Inbev, Constellation Brands, and BlackRock are evidence cannabis stocks are becoming mainstream.”

In other words, it’s high time to buy in. Companies are making big moves for a chance to toke up on an emerging, almost certainly lucrative market. For now, it’s a waiting game – but by the looks of things it’s going to be a relatively short one.

According to a study by A.T. Kearney in the US, 76% of consumers would be open to trying legal cannabis as a therapeutic product. Meanwhile, an analysis by Deloitte found that the legal marijuana market could next year grow to $4.3 billion.

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Ja Could Rake In Billions When Marijuana Industry Lights Up

Jamaica boasts a staggering 98 per cent variation in its marijuana strains, which could equate to billions of dollars in earnings when the local medical cannabis industry takes off, University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor Wayne McLaughlin believes.

“The monetary value because of this wide-ranging strain variation is going to be massive and a distinct advantage for the Jamaican medicinal cannabis industry,” McLaughlin said, while giving an update on research being undertaken by the UWI, some of which will be on display at The UWI Research Days 2019 later this week.

“We are looking at the different genotypes, and the diversity is really high – about 98 per cent diverse and genetically different strains of marijuana in Jamaica. So whether a grower produces, for example,indica in St Ann or ‘skunk’, which is historically is grown in Westmoreland, the farmers will know that they are producing remarkably different strains, as much as 98 per cent, which means a wide variety of medicinal use can be gained from them,” he told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week.

McLaughlin and his team of researchers started doing detailed work back in 2010, coming out of a forensic science programme at the university.

“So the idea that we could able to trace, for example, cannabis coming out of Westmoreland or St Elizabeth using genetic markers began there. So that was our first start, and we were able to show that genetically, you could map every collection of the plant from Negril, Westmoreland, all the way up into the Bagdale Mountains, parts of Manchester, and St Ann,” he said.

Strain Identification

The professor said that part of the investigation was to help to identify indigenous strains of marijuana using the genetic markers, and out of that, two labs have been set up to identify the different chemical build-ups, CARIGEN and CARITOX, which is now a major dependent of the industry for research.

“One of the labs can quantify completely the chemical profiling; so the cannabidiol (CDB) and the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and all the other cannabinoids, the turpines can be confirmed in each plant that the farmer brings to us,” he said.

CBD is found primarily in extractions from the hemp plant. It is sold in gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and more, while THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the ‘high’ sensation. It can be consumed by smoking marijuana. It is also available in oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more. Both compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system but they have very different effects.

“Part of our study is to make sure that the Jamaican strain remains fully Jamaican – although that’s going to be very difficult, having had for many years a time when we had hybridised and [brought] in other strains to breed with our own,” McLaughlin said.

In the meantime, however, McLaughlin said that developing the local marijuana genetic markers is going to be very important, not only for traceability factors, but also for consistency of the product’s quality, which will impact its growth and monetary value going forward.

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Shoppers Drug Mart preparing to sell medical Zenabis products

Users of medical marijuana products made by licensed producer Zenabis products will soon have another purchasing option.

As part of its growth strategy, Zenabis will supply Shoppers Drug Mart with dried cannabis buds and eventually cannabis oil and other products to sell online.

Current pharmaceutical regulations prohibit pharmacies from selling medical cannabis in brick and mortar stores, but Zenabis chief revenue officer David Lluncor said the trust medical marijuana customers have in pharmacies means there will be plenty of demand for Shoppers’ online offerings.

“From a medical perspective versus a recreational perspective I think medical customers are going to go to what they know and what they trust,” Lluncor said.

Lluncor said both companies expect to be able to start selling within a month, but are still waiting to hear about an inspection date before Zenabis will be able to supply Shoppers with its products.

In the meantime, Lluncor said the companies will work on defining how much Zenabis product Shoppers will sell.

“[It] will be based off of what we currently have in the pipeline … and we’ll build a formula that makes sense for both parties,” said Lluncor.

Lluncor expects production to ramp up over the course of this year, but said the company will never over-commit.

The expansion will also require Zenabis to expand its current workforce of 400 to 2,500.

CEO Andrew Grieve says 400 of those jobs will be in its New Brunswick facility in Atholville, echoing previous promises for job growth in the community.

“There will be a mix of entry level jobs as well as jobs for people with a very high level of education,” Grieve said.

The expectation of new Health Canada regulations allowing value-added products like edibles and infused beverages means the company is looking to develop its product line.

“Our intentions are that as the rules change, edibles and beverages, solids, [and] concentrates … will be sold in the Shoppers Drug Mart online medical platform, once we’re allowed to do so,” said Lluncor.

Zennabis is currently waiting for its license to sell cannabis oil, but Grieve expects to have it in the “very near future.”

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Cannabis legalization cautiously on the move

Democratic lawmakers are already moving on two tracks to legalize marijuana.

When I first wrote about cannabis legalization in December, I got a strong sense of ambivalence from the new Democratic majority in the Minnesota House. Understandably, they didn’t want to be viewed as the pot party in the weeks after a big election victory in which health care was the key battleground.

But the grass-roots (forgive the double entendre) must be restless because Democratic lawmakers are already moving on two tracks to legalize marijuana. Rep. Ray Dehn, D-Minneapolis, proposes giving voters the chance to approve a constitutional amendment in 2020 that would legalize cannabis, while Rep. Mike Freiberg, D-Golden Valley, and state Sen. Melisa Franzen, D-Edina, would pass legalization through a regular legislative approach and enlist the Department of Health to regulate.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, the Democratic majority leader, was dismissive of the constitutional amendment idea when I put it to him last week.

“Voters don’t think you should be using the constitutional amendment process to avoid making decisions that the Legislature is supposed to be making, or to play politics. It strikes me as too cute by half. And I don’t know that marijuana belongs in the Constitution,” he told me last week.

Freiberg and Franzen are expected to hold a news conference early this week to roll out their bill.

Here’s the key: Franzen has enlisted a Republican cosponsor in state Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska, who adds extra credibility because he’s a physician.

Winkler said we can expect some form of marijuana legalization this year, but the order of proposals he listed to me is telling: broadening the medical marijuana program; criminal justice reform to lessen penalties for nonviolent drug offenders; finally, “highly regulated” legalization for recreational use.

In that vein, pay close attention to the Freiberg bill. Freiberg is a public health lawyer in real life, and a public health approach to legalization could help mitigate concerns of suburban members.

Even many advocates of legalization shuddered with angst recently when proponents of legalization could be seen on TV news shouting at their opponents, including law enforcement and families negatively affected by marijuana.

Franzen, who is also focused on helping nonviolent offenders clean up their criminal records through an expungements clause in the measure, told me that advocates should not expect the wild West when it comes to a Minnesota cannabis market. “It has to be closely regulated. We have to learn from other states,” she said.

She’s also in no hurry: “We need to be thoughtful about it. It’s going to take time to create the framework,” she said. Her proposal wouldn’t take effect until 2021.

In her measure, Franzen left blank the cannabis tax rate, perhaps signaling to her colleagues that the point of this exercise shouldn’t be revenue, which could be illusory anyway.

Long way to go on this issue for sure.

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Study Documents Humanity’s Use Of Marijuana Over 10,000 Years Of History

People from a diverse range of cultures have been using marijuana for thousands of years—in different forms and for different purposes. And a recent study published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology offers a comprehensive look at humanity’s fascinating relationship with cannabis over long periods of time.

Via the Journal of Cellular Physiology.

The study covers a lot of ground and is worth a read, but here are some of the stand-out facts that the team of Italian researchers identified in their paper:

—Cannabis seeds macrofossils were found attached to pieces of broken ceramic in central Japan dating back about 10,000 years.

—Shen Nung, a Chinese emperor around 2,700 BCE who is also considered the father of Chinese medicine, reportedly regarded marijuana as a “first-class herb” that was not dangerous.

—According to Verdic texts from around 800 BCE, cannabis was used in religious rituals but also for its “analgesic, anesthetic, antiparasitic, antispastic, and diuretic properties” and “as an expectorating agent, as an aphrodisiac, to treat convulsions, to stimulate hunger, and to relieve from fatigue.”

—Marijuana was considered a “holy plant” in Tibet and was used in Tantric Buddhism to “facilitate meditations.”

—Archeologists have discovered remnants of cannabis in the graves of Scythians, an ancient group of nomadic warriors, in Germany, Siberia and Ukraine, dating back to about 450 BCE.

—Marijuana pollen was also found in the tomb of Ramsés II, one of the most storied pharaohs of Egypt.

—Hemp seed oil was used in Arabic medicine to treat ear infections, skin diseases, flatulence, intestinal worms, neurological pain, fever and vomiting.

—Galen, one of the most famous Greek physicians in the Roman empire, warned about “an excess consumption of cakes containing hemp seeds,” which were apparently popular during banquets. People ate the cakes for “their property to induce relaxation, hilarity and euphoria, but with the collateral effect to induce thirst, sluggishness and a difficulty to digest.”

—Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull in 1484 that condemned cannabis, calling it an “unholy sacrament of the satanic mass.”

—In eastern Europe, cannabis was a common ingredient in popular medicine. For example, people would mix hemp flowers and olive oil and put it on wounds. The mixture was also “combined with hemp seeds oil for rheumatisms and jaundice.”

“Plurimillennial history of Cannabis medical use teaches us all we should know about its pharmacological potential and the pathologies that would mainly advantage from its application,” the researchers wrote. “All we must do now is [invest] our efforts into informative research, collecting more statistically significant data and conclusive scientific evidence about both its medical benefits and negative effects.”

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The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Support Legal Weed

In the lead up to the 2020 Presidential election, there are a lot of important issues that warrant debate. Everything from healthcare to net neutrality will be discussed during campaign season, but there’s one issue of particular importance: the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis.

Legal weed isn’t really a wedge issue that causes people to shift their party allegiance. But it’s still important to know what major politicians think about its status, as we buildup to the next election. This look into ten Democratic contenders (only some have announced their exploratory committees while the rest have coyly voiced their interest in running) will explore how their views have changed and how they interacted with the so-called War on Drugs in the past.

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren is the first major Democrat to announce her intentions of running for president. A fierce advocate for consumer protections, the Harvard-professor-turned-Massachusetts-senator is now a supporter of federal legalization. Back in 2016, Warren refused to endorse the issue when it hit her home state’s ballot. But, as public opinion in the Democratic party shifted, Warren has followed the wind and earned an A-rating from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

With Cory Gardner, a Republican Senator from Colorado, Warren introduced the Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act in June during the previous Congress. If passed, the bill would have amended the Controlled Substance Act to block federal interference in state-legal marijuana-related activities. She was also a co-sponsor of the Carers Act that would protect medical pot patients from federal punishment; and the Marijuana Justice Actlegislation that would have ended federal prohibition and directed the courts to expunge people’s records.

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Sen. Cory Booker

While he hasn’t formally announced whether he’s running for president, Senator Cory Booker’s name has been thrown around as a potential candidate since he served as the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey.

In the last Congress, Senator Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Acta bill that other senators on this list co-sponsored. While the bill wasn’t signed into law, it would have removed cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act, ended federal prohibition, and set up a structure that reduces law-enforcement funds for states that disproportionately target low-income residents or people of color for cannabis-related charges. In addition to having some good ideas, Booker also knows how to maximize his message around legalization. On the most recent 4/20, Booker released a video on Micthat laid out his views on the racial discrepancies related to legalization.

Booker, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, even joked that he was planning on “sending brownies to [Senator Lindsey Graham’s] office to celebrate his new chairmanship,” after Graham indicated he wasn’t planning on tackling marijuana reform.

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Instead of announcing her intentions to run for President in an intimate speech in her hometown of Albany, New York, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made a grand announcement on the The Late Show with Stephen ColbertA savvy move for someone who doesn’t have much name recognition outside of her crusades against sexual assault in the military, Gillibrand is a tough former attorney who supports progressive policies like Medicare for all and a federal jobs guarantee.

Gillibrand admits that before she became a senator, she was a bit more conservative leaning as a member of the House from northern New York. In the House she didn’t support any bills related to legalization, in fact, she went as far as to block an amendment that would have defended medical marijuana from increased federal scrutiny in 2007. Since then, however, she’s had a change of heart. A co-sponsor of Senator Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, Gillibrand supports full legalization and is an advocate for additional research to see how its medical uses can assist veterans with specific mental health conditions.

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Secretary Julian Castro

Julian Castro, the former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was first elected into public office at 26-years-old. His name started appearing on people’s political radar after he gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, similar to President Obama’s claim to fame by giving the same speech at the 2004 convention.

A proclaimed progressive who’s called off of PAC donations for his campaign, Castro was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) when they published a rather restrictive memo in 2014 regarding public housing tenants who use cannabis. The memo, which was an update to a 2011 document, clarified that “owners must deny admission to assisted housing” if individuals are illegally using cannabis. Even if a tenant resided in a state where medical or recreational use was legal, the owner was still required to deny entry to the housing. Since then, Castro has criticized the Trump administration for voicing intentions to interfere with legal state markets but it’s still not clear where he stands in regards to federal legalization and regulation.

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Sen. Kamala Harris

Since first joining the Senate in 2016, Kamala Harris has become a national player thanks to the viral nature of her pointed questions in Judicial Committee hearings. California’s junior Senator turned Presidential candidate has cultivated an image for herself as a “progressive prosecutor,” but some of her actions as California’s top law-enforcement officer don’t represent that label.

Back in 2014, when Harris’ campaign for Attorney General was heating up, she was asked about her Republican opponents’ support of legalizing cannabis on the federal level. Instead of voicing her support or opposition to the policy, she simply laughed and stated he was entitled to his opinions. In 2018 however, now that the national conversation around weed has shifted, Harris is on board with legalization at the federal level and tweeted her support of Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act. In her new book, The Truths We Hold, Harris voiced her support for regulation and for removing “non-violent marijuana-related offenses from the records of millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.”

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

The Democratic superstar from Texas whose popularity led him to think posting an Instagram story during a dental examination was a good idea, is an exciting breath of fresh air for the party. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke may have lost in his bid to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz last November, but he awakened a national fanbase that catapulted him to financial dominance and the top of many prediction lists. While he has yet to set-up an exploratory committee or announce his candidacy, a group of activists and former staffers are waiting in the wings for him to make an announcement.

In a livechat recorded while driving around Texas, O’Rourke talks about his belief that ending the Drug War is one of the most important challenges for the country. While he’s quick to indicate he believes there’s no “perfect option” when it comes to keeping cannabis away from children, he believes a federal system of legalization and regulation is the best way to control the customer base and ensure fewer profits flow to illegal drug enterprises.

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar, the senior Senator from Minnesota, blew onto the national stage in a big way over an exchange with Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his committee hearing. She doesn’t have the widespread name recognition of other superstars in the party, but Klobuchar was just elected to her third Senate term in November with 60.3 percent of the vote, a resounding victory in a state where Hillary Clinton only beat President Trump by 1.5 percent.

While Klobuchar has a D-rating from NORML, she was a co-sponsor on Sen. Warren’s STATES ActIf passed, the bill would have prevented federal interference in states where cannabis is legal, ended the prohibition of industrial hemp, and allowed banks to provide financial services to legal cannabis businesses. A Democrat from the midwest, Klobuchar hasn’t made any public statements about federal prohibition, but with legalization likely hitting her state this year, expect her to make her position known soon if she decides to run.

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Gov. Jay Inslee

The only Governor on this list, Jay Inslee currently serves the people of Washington. Before being elected to the state’s top Executive position in 2012, Inslee represented Washington in the House from 1993 up until his Gubernatorial election. While he has so-far positioned himself as a potential candidate whose primary focus will be fighting climate change, he also stands out as a leader from the first U.S. state where recreational cannabis-use was deemed legal.

At this year’s Washington Cannabis Summit, the Governor announced his Marijuana Justice Initiative An attempt to give clemency to individuals who have been prosecuted for weed charges in Washington between 1998 and 2012, the Governor will pardon residents over the age of 21 who only have one cannabis misdemeanor on their record. In Inslee’s opinion, expunging these convictions removes obstacles for these individuals to obtain “housing, employment, and education.”

(If you or someone you know lives in Washington and is interested in requesting a pardon, start the process by filling out the form on this page.)

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Potentially the candidate with the lowest national profile, Representative Tulsi Gabbard has represented Hawaii in Congress since 2013. While the Congresswoman has a shaky track record when it comes to LGBT rights and foreign policy, Gabbard has evolved into a more progressive candidate and distanced herself from many of her previous positions.

Gabbard, who has a B+ from NORML, supports a gauntlet of reforms related to legalization. A co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act in 2018 in the House, Gabbard is an advocate for reduced federal interference in legal states, industrial hemp production and increased research into the medicinal benefits of both THC and CBD. During an interview on the Joe Rogan podcast, Gabbard voiced her frustration with the pharmaceutical industry and the way it profits off the opioid crisis by selling both addictive substances and medications designed to wean people off the drugs. In her opinion, marijuana legalization on both the state and federal levels will play a big part in reducing the addiction and overdose rates in the U.S.

The Top 10 Democratic Contenders of 2020 Who Think About Legal Weed

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is the most popular Senator in the United States and will be a strong contender if he decides to run for president once again. The politician is regarded for adhering to the same ideological beliefs over his decades in public service, and that also expands to his views on marijuana. An advocate for treatment instead of punishment for addicts, Sanders has long opposed the failed War on Drugs. Comparing it to tobacco and alcohol, the Senator, who co-sponsored the Marijuana Justice Act, told an audience of college students back in October 2015 that he believes the government should end the federal prohibition of cannabis.

As he does with every issue, Sanders likes to tie his support for legalization and criminal justice reform to his crusade against the one percent. During a Democratic Primary debate back in January 2016, he shamed the fact that millions of individuals have marijuana-related crimes on their record but “the CEO’s of Wall Street companies who destroyed our economy have no police records.”

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Global Consumer Cannabis Spending Projected to Grow 38% in 2019

People are going to be buying a lot more legal weed in 2019, according to a new report.

Legal cannabis markets are still a relatively new phenomenon, and the market is likely nowhere near its total sales potential. But it will get closer in 2019, when consumer spending is projected to grow by 38 percent, according to a new report from Arcview Market Research, which says that consumer spending in the legal cannabis market will go from $12.2 billion USD in 2018 to $16.9 billion USD in 2019.

That’s because major changes in the market that happened in 2018 will either develop or correct themselves in ways that generate more revenue for the industry. Canada’s legal marijuana markets didn’t start up until late 2018, so a full year of sales will be a huge boost for the industry – especially if the provinces and territories solve the nationwide cannabis supply shortage before the end of the year. On top of that, California’s market is expected to rebound after becoming over-saturated in 2018, which drove down the prices of (and subsequent revenues from) cannabis sales.

Meanwhile, Michigan – which legalized recreational cannabis last November – will soon join the legal market. And it could be joined soon after by New York and New Jersey, where Governors Andrew Cuomo (D) and Phil Murphy (D) are working with state lawmakers to repeal cannabis prohibition. If they get their markets up and running before the end of 2019, then the industry’s growth will be massive.

Outside of America, medical marijuana was legalized in several Asian countries last year and in the UK. On top of that, Mexico is poised to legalize recreational cannabis in the near future.

So 2019 looks like it will be a watershed moment for the new industry. But its gains will likely be dwarfed by the growth expected in 2022, when Arcview predicts that the global industry will be worth $31.3 billion.

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2018 Was A Major Year For Cannabis Legislation And 2019 Is Shaping Up To Be Much Bigger

Lawmakers across the country are introducing, debating and voting on more marijuana legislation than ever before.

In 2018, Marijuana Moment tracked 915 bills in state legislatures and Congress concerning cannabis, medical marijuana and hemp. According to our legislative analysis platform, a huge majority of states—92 percent—took up cannabis reform bills of some kind during the year.

This year, legislators in state capitols and on Capitol Hill have already filed more than 350 cannabis-related proposals for 2019 sessions that in most cases began only weeks ago. If 2018 is any indication, this year should see a sizable number of those bills making it to governors’ desks for enactment.

In 2018, a significant percentage of filed marijuana legislation moved forward, with at least 147 bills being signed or enacted in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

Those that made it across the finish line ranged from far-reaching proposals such as the legalization of cannabis possession and home cultivation in Vermont to more modest regulatory measures like Colorado bills concerning marijuana waste recycling and water use for hemp cultivation.

Twenty-eight of the bills that were enacted concerned hemp, while 48 were related to medical cannabis or cannabidiol (CBD).

Others had to do with regulating newly legal markets. Not surprisingly, California had the most legislation passed (26 bills), as the state attempted to implement its voter-approved legalization system. Among the enacted legislation in the Golden State were items touching on issues like medical cannabis recommendations by veterinarians, marijuana advertisements and cannabinoid-infused alcoholic beverages. An additional 29 bills died or were vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

Colorado was next, with 18 bills signed and three vetoed.

Hawaii, it turns out, dealt with the greatest volume of cannabis bills overall. Six were enacted but an astonishing 103 additional proposals died in committee, failed or were vetoed. That number accounts for 11 percent of all the cannabis bills we tracked across the country in 2018.

While a few states like South Dakota only had one bill, fourteen individual states dealt with 20 or more pieces of legislation each.

New Jersey saw 57 cannabis-related bills, with only one making it all the way to the end of the legislative process: A measure to create a pilot program to research industrial hemp cultivation.

California lawmakers considered 55 bills, New York weighed 48 and Washington State saw 45 pieces of cannabis legislation filed.

States that dealt with 20 or more pieces of cannabis legislation in 2018:

Total number
of bills
Hawaii 109
Federal 64
New Jersey 57
California 55
New York 48
Washington 45
Maryland 32
Colorado 31
Tennessee 31
Iowa 28
Michigan 28
Virginia 28
Arizona 22
Maine 20

Justin Strekal, political director for NORML, told Marijuana Moment that the organization’s chapters across the country are seeing “increased interest and increased support from lawmakers from every part of the political spectrum.”

“As politicians see the public moving ahead of them, they are rapidly evolving their stance regarding marijuana.”

There is plenty of political resistance remaining, however. A majority of cannabis-related legislation introduced last year—529 bills—failed, died or were vetoed.

Maine was the only state where legislators overrode a gubernatorial veto in order to implement a regulatory system for the recreational marijuana law that the state’s voters approved in 2016.

Meanwhile, Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana via an act of lawmakers as opposed to through a ballot measure. Legislators in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory, followed by passing a legalization bill of their own.

“Last year’s tremendous amount of legislative activity surrounding cannabis, hemp and CBD legislation reflected that elected officials are increasingly getting the message that the harsh criminalization of marijuana in all its forms is misguided and out of step with the the wishes of voters,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment.

At the federal level, 2018 marked the first time stand-alone cannabis bills advanced though congressional committees.

In May, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved legislation encouraging the federal government to study the benefits of medical cannabis for military veterans. Then, in September, the House Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would force the Department of Justice to approve new businesses to cultivate marijuana to be used in scientific research.

Neither proposal ended up getting a floor vote, but their historic committee approvals demonstrated momentum ahead of the new 116th Congress, in which advocates are more hopeful than ever before that marijuana legislation could advance to enactment.

An additional 59 cannabis-related congressional bills stalled without hearings or votes, though it is also worth noting that lawmakers approved, and President Trump signed, a large-scale Farm Bill renewal that included language legalizing industrial hemp and its derivatives.

Back at the state level, O’Keefe is optimistic that efforts made in 2018 will pay off in 2019. “Several states saw committee wins or other progress that will help set the ground for eventual passage,” she said.

In New Jersey, for example, Senate and Assembly committees approved a bill to legalize marijuana in November but, due to an ongoing inability to agree with Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on tax rates and regulatory matters, legislative leaders didn’t bring the proposal to the floor of either chamber by the end of the year. Those negotiations are still underway, with advocates hopeful that agreeable language can be worked out early in 2019.

Strekal agrees that this year will be another especially active one for cannabis legislation. “There will be greater numbers of legislation introduced,” he predicts, as well as an increase in those pieces of legislation “receiving hearings, passing committees, being passed by legislative votes and being enacted by governors.”

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CBD: The Trendy Cannabis Compound That’s Blurring The Law For Canadians

The man behind the counter of a vape shop in Vancouver’s popular Granville Strip entertainment district answered a confident “Yes,” when asked if the bottle of CBD liquid was legal.

In nearby New Westminster, Lia Hood said she was surprised when The Globe and Mail notified her that her Good Omen gift shop was likely falling afoul of federal drug laws for selling a locally manufactured line of teas infused with CBD, a chemical found in cannabis.

The operators of a high-end hipster barbershop in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood were equally unaware that the standalone kiosks offering “soothing serum” and “intensive cream” were made with illegal CBD, popular shorthand for the compound cannabidiol.

And up until last fall, cat and dog owners worried about their anxious pets could walk into the downtown Toronto Pet Valu franchise and find remedies such as homeopathic drops, calming compression bibs and a hemp-based tincture loaded with the cannabis compound.

CBD, which can be derived from hemp or marijuana, has been popping up over the past few years in everything from mineral water to vape pen cartridges amid intense hype – and some emerging scientific evidence – that it is a wonder drug able to help combat a range of ailments from joint pain, insomnia and seizures to anxiety.

There’s one problem: CBD is strictly regulated, just like cannabis. Only licensed producers may make it, and only registered retailers may sell the products. The legalization of marijuana on Oct. 17 did not change anything.

However, many consumers and even merchants believe it is legal because, as proponents of CBD point out, it does not cause intoxication, unlike the other well-known compound in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

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