The cannabis industry is poised for booming growth this year, bringing huge opportunities to growers, retailers, and entrepreneurs. Continued legal challenges also have the potential for creating substantial roadblocks to this growth. Either way, 2018 is poised to be a significant year for the industry. Here are some of the specific trends to watch for in 2018 and beyond.

Increased Access to Legal Cannabis

In both the U.S. and around the globe, cannabis use is becoming more widely accepted. By the end of 2017, eight U.S. states had passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana use. Another 27 created comprehensive medical use programs. Going into the new year, it’s clear that medical and legal adult recreational use will continue to spread.

In 2018, the states of New Jersey, Delaware, Ohio, Vermont, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are likely to legalize adult recreational use. In addition, Utah, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Dakota are slated to add medical marijuana provisions to the books. Canada’s legal recreational use will also go into effect this year.

Marijuana as a Substitute for Alcohol

As legal access to marijuana becomes more widely available, more adults are using it in place of alcohol during their leisure time. Beer sales are decreasing in states where recreational marijuana is legal. A 2016 survey found that many users spend more money on marijuana products than they do on alcohol purchases. Legal marijuana sales in the United States neared $10 billion in 2017, and are expected to be far higher in 2018.

Skyrocketing Number of Home Growers

Since legalization is fairly new, dispensaries face little in the way of price competition. As users in legal-use states start to do the math, it won’t take long for them to see the cost advantage of home-growing.

Perhaps more compelling is the trend towards a preference for high-quality, small-batch cannabis. This has been compared to the growth in popularity of craft beers. Home-brewed beer accounts for about 12 percent of the beer production in the United States. You can expect home-grown marijuana to make up an even higher percentage of the market.

Marijuana Use in Healthcare

Medical marijuana made huge gains in 2017 and will continue to grow over the coming years. By the year 2024, the medical cannabis market is predicted to be valued at close to $20 billion.

Faced with the possibility of a huge loss in revenues as more states legalize medical cannabis, pharmaceutical companies are working on developing their own cannabis-based medicines. Although the FDA has not yet approved anything made of the whole cannabis plant, three cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical medicines have already gained FDA approval. Over the coming years, you can expect cannabis to continue taking a larger role in medical treatment.

Growing Use of CBD Products

Cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabinoid that can be extracted from flower (dry herb), is growing in popularity. CBD is used to put the body back into its natural state of balance and can affect mood, appetite, sleep, pain level, hormone regulation, and immune response. It’s usually extremely low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so users can get all the benefits without the psychotropic high. Many medical marijuana patients are now opting for products containing more CBD and less THC.

Compliance and Legal Challenges

One of the biggest challenges on the horizon lies squarely with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He recently opted to end the Cole Memo, an Obama-era policy that protected cannabis businesses from prosecution in states where it’s been declared legal. This has caused some major concern for investors and entrepreneurs. Those with a stake in the game must continue watching closely to see how this plays out.

 

Even if Federal prosecution doesn’t become an issue, the industry will remain highly regulated. Licensing, product testing, and compliance will continue to be a burden. Outsourcing these critical tasks to third-party professionals will become more popular as more industry participants recognize the value of minimizing distractions.  

 

Are you a cannabis professional looking to outsource tasks like marketing, compliance, administration, or human services? Contact us today to learn more about how we can work together to make 2018 your best year ever!