2019 will be a stellar year for the industry, especially for those who thrive on grit and grind.
5 THREATS TO WATCH IN 2019
1. The laws and regulations are suffocating. Well-meaning regulators are creating rules that make starting and running a marijuana business a costly and burdensome process. Add these regulations to the current laws, and the dream of owning a cannabis business remains just that for many people. In 2019, the industry must push hard for reasonable laws and regulations.
2. The market is unpredictable due to shifting rules. California had a rocky transition to the legal market. On Jan. 1, new regulations forced many of the state’s cannabis companies to close. This drove the market underground. Thus, sales underperformed for the first half of the year. The end of 2018 looks better for California, but other emerging markets, such as Michigan, should expect problems. Get ready for high taxes, complicated regulations and an eventual smoothing of the market as regulators gain an understanding of how to best implement new laws.
3. Cannabis is going corporate. Dozens of publicly traded cannabis companies are listed everywhere from the OTC to the NASDAQ, and the best are already worth billions. In 2018, corporations such as Walmart and Marlboro entered the cannabis discussion. Constellation Brands (parent company of Corona Beer) put $5 billion into Canopy Growth, a publicly traded Canadian cannabis company. GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company with FDA approval to sell cannabis-extracted CBD-based drug Epidiolex at U.S. pharmacies, has a market cap of nearly $4 billion (at press time). In 2019, small-, medium- and large-sized cannabis businesses will be acquired by bigger companies unless they develop a dedicated target market.
4. Dispensary chains are taking over. Potentially hundreds of California’s dispensaries are chains with multiple locations. California-based MedMen has 22 licenses across various legal states. Washington state’s Have A Heart has 15 stores in six states. Both companies are continuing their expansion. Well-funded chains are literally knocking on dispensaries’ doors, asking if they are for sale. Small dispensaries will find it difficult to compete against this bulk purchasing power, and many of the best flowers and cannabis products could be locked up in contracts with large, well-funded chains.
5. Compassion is being legislated out. California’s new laws failed to include a provision for providing cannabis to people in need. Since 1996, “compassion” programs have existed to provide free cannabis to these people. This oversight left thousands of people without access to medicine, a problem advocates worked to solve last legislative session with SB 829, but it failed to pass. Patients and advocates must work to ensure that free cannabis medicines are available to those in need.