A few weeks ago Marijuana Business Daily hosted an online virtual conference. The event was designed for industry business leaders to discuss how to emerge from the current pandemic as more entrenched business developers in the industry. Operators, cannabis growers/cultivators, cannabis processors, and retailers were encouraged to attend the three day event.
New Jersey is the “linchpin” for coming recreational marijuana legalization on the East Coast according to attending industry experts quoted by Marijuana Business Daily. New York State, Penssylvania, Maryland, as well as Virginia are states that are considered to be closely watching how the infrastructure of New Jersey is unfolding. New Jersey has systematically expanded its medical marijuana program that is now primed to operate as a recreational marijuana program.
Of course what is driving this myriad state refocusing on cannabis legalization for recreation is revenue, revenue, revenue! “It’s something of a linchpin. I think New Jersey ties the knot,” said Jeremy Unruh, senior vice president of public and regulatory affairs for Illinois-based cannabis firm PharmaCann” as quoted by Marijuana Business Daily. This places pressure on New York to attempt to stem the commerce flowing into New Jersey as a result of New York’s lack of a recreational cannabis program. Unruh pointed out that obviously New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t want to see state revenue go to bordering New Jersey.
Looking at Pennsylvania projections suggest that the state will double its 2020 medical marijuana profits by 2023. In three years profits are projected to rise from 500 million dollars to over a billion dollars for the state. According to Marijuana Business Daily the state may look to legalize recreational marijuana as soon as next year to make up for revenue lost by the state due to the pandemic. Factors such as the strength of the State Health Department, the good relationship with operators and regulators, as well as the high barrier to entry make both “sides of the aisle” confident the legalization process can be smooth and controllable. These factors need to be examined as the basis for setting up cannabis monopolies that can easily become the norm in America. If legalization is not resulting in freedom for all to grow and use, but rather a prohibited field from entry reserved for those that have capital of $25 million and up and of course have relationships with state officials, then how is this business practice promoting competition and innovation? Or is it simply rubber stamping an already established monopoly?
Maryland is another state considering the full legalization push for recreation purposes. However, as recently as December judges have halted the application process for medical marijuana suppliers in Maryland. When licences were first granted the grantees were overwhelmingly white men. Ironically, some were former DEA and State officials that for years professionally profited from the “war on drugs”. The State then went to issue a new set of licenses to provide access for minorities and women. Judges halted the process as lawsuits alleging bias and that applications were “botched”. In Maryland, before recreational cannabis is legalized the biased and alleged corrupt process of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission are issues needing resolution.
Lastly let’s look at Virginia. Virginia has decriminalized marijuana as of July 1, 2020. The very next day the legislature introduced a bill to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Again revenue, revenue, revenue. Last month a company called MedMen lost their license to do business in Virginia. This company is a conglomerate that operates in many states. The license was lost due to the company missing deadlines to convert the license and begin operations. Currently Virginia’s medical marijuana policy only deals with products containing 10mg THC or less and prohibits flowers or edibles. A multi million dollar company lost its license for not dotting “i” and crossing “t’s”. As Pennsylvania is confident legalization is underway due to tight state control and a high barrier of entry into the industry; is Virginia setting the stage to create a similar monopolized structure as the basis for legalized recreational cannabis? 4:20 Out!