Five Second-Half Keys to the Future of the Cannabis Industry

As the cannabis industry rights itself after a harrowing 2019-2020 reset, here are some of the issues we’ll be analyzing in months ahead:

Recession Resistance: Who’s Got It?

The chance that COVID-19 quarantines would scuttle the growth of legal cannabis was averted during just a few critical days in March when most states declared stores “essential” and let them continue to operate. Initial positive sales results suggest cannabis is coming into its own in this time of social and economic crisis, much like the movie industry first took off in the Great Depression.

But what can be learned from analyzing the recession-era results of other consumer products? Does cannabis have the qualities that make products recession-proof?

Which Public Companies Can Capitalize on the Crash?

Cannabis stocks have nearly doubled since New Cannabis Ventures’ Global Cannabis Stock Index bottomed out March 18 as COVID-19 slammed doors across the economy. But that rally follows an 80% decline in New Cannabis Venture’s Global Cannabis Stock Index from its March 21, 2019 peak.

A similar crash in internet stocks in 2000 makes clear the key question for investors: which companies are able to right-size their ambitions, matching them to their access to capital?

That doesn’t mean a simple slash-and-burn operation. After the dot-com crash, the long-term winners kept investing in growth when others pulled back. Which companies have access to the capital to do that now, or, even better, which are close enough to profitability to self-fund growth?

Vape Crisis: The Long-Term Impact

COVID-19 took the focus of consumers and regulators away from the cannabis industry’s own health scare, last summer’s vape crisis. But cannabis is a consumable, most often via inhalation; health concerns will be with the industry forever.

What did the EVALI experience teach the industry? How have vape companies and retailers adjusted? And what can be done to protect companies and the industry from being blindsided in the future?

Post-COVID Regulatory Improvements

Growth in legal cannabis sales, as spectacular as it has been since the adult-use era was ushered in by Colorado and Washington in 2014, has actually fallen far short of what it could have been, especially in California.

The chief holdback? More than 90% of worldwide cannabis sales still happen in unregulated, and often highly criminalized, transactions. Most adults still don’t have access to legal cannabis. And where they do, tax and regulatory loads hobble legal competitors for that unregulated business.

When legislatures around the US and around the world start to grapple with the COVID-19 deficits, which ones are likely to turn to liberalizing cannabis law as part of the solution?

Regional Markets: Where the Key Opportunities Lie

Nobody would have believed you in 2018 if you’d said that conservative Oklahoma would be the fastest growing legal cannabis market in the world in 2019. But it was, while liberal California struggled through a second year of underperformance.

Many factors play a role in determining the growth and profitability of cannabis markets in 50 US states and 10 Canada provinces, but the key factors are found in the details of the regulatory regime in place in each. Where will the pleasant surprises and big disappointments be in 2020 and beyond?