The marijuana industry is growing rapidly, as lawmakers in more states pass legislation making it legal. Twenty eight states have legalized medical cannabis, and eight states have passed recreational. According to the latest research by GreenWave Advisors, those numbers are about to greatly increase. Last November’s election transformed the cannabis state map. Ahead of the election, voters in only four states (Alaska, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon) had voted to establish recreational markets for use of marijuana, and twenty four states had passed medical cannabis laws.
As a result of the election, four more states will open up recreational markets: California, Maine, Nevada, and Massachusetts. Another four states passed laws allowing medical cannabis, including Florida. Matt Karnes, GreenWave’s founder, believes that we are on the edge of a considerable increase in the number of states that will pass recreational and medical cannabis laws.
Plans are already underway to get cannabis bills on ballots in 2018 and 2020, and depending on how those votes go, recreational or medical cannabis could be legal in all 50 states, plus D.C., by 2021. Donald Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, could be key to that projection coming true. In the past, the federal government has deferred to the states when it comes to cannabis legalization, however, that could change.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump supported medical cannabis, but he was less than eager about recreational cannabis. His appointment of Jeff Sessions as the country’s top lawyer also creates skepticism. Sessions has been a vocal opponent of cannabis, and he may not be willing to continue with a lassez-faire policy when it comes to enforcing federal laws restricting cannabis. Recently, he suggested enforcement of federal cannabis laws could intensify, and in a speech in Virginia, he said that cannabis was “only slightly less awful” than heroin.
States have a lot of reason to legalize cannabis. According to Karnes, retail sales of cannabis clocked in at $6.5 billion last year, up from $4.8 billion in 2015. GreenWave estimates that the cannabis black market is worth $36 billion and that passage of marijuana-friendly laws nationally could lead to $30 billion in cannabis sales in 2021. Based on those predictions, the potential tailwinds for tax revenue over the next five years should be strong, and that could factor greatly into whether or not pro-marijuana laws pass.