Five legal medical cannabis markets stand to significantly benefit from reform efforts in 2021

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The United States economy could seriously swell in 2021, what with numerous medical cannabis-friendly U.S. states primed to pass groundbreaking medical cannabis laws this year. 

Aside from the promising prospect of harvesting millions of dollars in cannabis sales revenue, reform efforts could also spur on fresh licensing opportunities and ancillary services.

Plus, with a Democratic-led Congress and Joe Biden’s presidential win, the changing landscape on Capitol Hill indicates that federal cannabis policy could seriously metamorphose under the 117th Congress. 

Although former vice president Biden has not openly supported the idea of legalizing cannabis in the U.S., he has vowed to embrace modest reforms, including the expungement of previous cannabis convictions and cannabis decriminalization.

U.S. cannabis reform: Five key states to watch amid Democratic Senate leadership 

During the 116th Congress, which was heavily influenced by Senate leadership, opportunities to adopt cannabis reform were frequently shot down. Thankfully, with Democrats now having reclaimed control of the chamber, the chances of cannabis legalization passing in the U.S. this year have been given a major boost.

Let’s take a look at five medical cannabis-friendly states worth watching in 2021:

  • Minnesota, New York and Virginia – Lawmakers in these three states are gearing up to legalize smokable flower. Should this happen, medical cannabis revenues are likely to double as time goes by. Moreover, allowing smokable flower suggests that adult-use cannabis reform is on the horizon. Collectively, Minnesota, New York and Virginia are anticipated to generate $330 million in medical cannabis sales revenue this year. Minnesota’s projected sales for 2021 are $50 million-$60 million; New York’s projected sales for 2021 are $250 million-$260 million; Virginia’s projected sales for 2021 are $9 million-$11 million.
  • Texas – A 0.5 percent THC cap is expected to be introduced by Texas lawmakers this year. Currently, the THC cap rests at 0.3 percent. Increasing the THC cap suggests that social use of the plant may soon become more widely accepted. In addition to this, the state’s list of qualifying conditions are likely to expand; currently, the state’s list of criteria is some of the most restrictive in the U.S. Allowing more people to obtain cannabis-based medicines would give sales a boost. However, projected sales have not yet been noted.
  • Florida – The rapidly growing medical cannabis market in Florida may soon offer new licensing opportunities for small businesses, which could essentially spur on reform on a wider scale. The state Supreme Court is likely to prompt state regulators to make this move. Florida’s projected sales for 2021 range between $1 billion-$1.3 billion.

Coronavirus has demonstrated the necessity of U.S. cannabis reform 

The interim policy director of Americans for Safe Access, Dustin McDonald, recently spoke to reporters about the necessity of the cannabis industry amid COVID-19.

A major bulk of the Washington DC-based medical cannabis advocacy group’s work focuses on encouraging the almost 30 states that regarded cannabis businesses “essential” during the coronavirus outbreak to implement such changes on a permanent basis.

Examples of the services that McDonald hopes will continue post-pandemic include home delivery, online ordering, curbside pickup and telehealth — an electronic system that simplifies the process of registering and renewing medical cannabis cards for registered patients.

Americans for Safe Access isn’t the only group that holds this view. In fact, numerous civil rights and drug policy reform groups, such as ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch and NORML, have been hard at work trying to get the attention of Congress regarding an all-encompassing cannabis legalization bill.

The group – collectively named the Marijuana Justice Coalition (MJC) – are circulating a letter that will hopefully get under the noses of Congressional members. Restorative justice was a significant component of the letter.

“In the face of COVID-19, the MORE Act is needed now more than ever before. Looking towards long-term economic recovery, we must remove barriers to employment for those who have lost jobs, create new businesses and employment opportunities to help replace those that have disappeared and that will not be coming back, and to raise billions of dollars in new tax revenue to off-set the devastating economic losses to state and local governments,” members of the coalition wrote.

In addition to the five aforementioned states, reform efforts are also being pushed in the right direction across every established medical cannabis market in the U.S.

Although legislation will be required for cannabis reform to transpire in most states, many are likely to welcome legal weed via regulatory or administrative changes.