While 2019 might not shape up to be the banner year for the legal cannabis industry that 2018 was, the market isn't slowing down, with recreational cannabis now legal in ten states, DC and the entirety of Canada. However, an expanding legal marijuana market also comes with growing pains. Here are predictions from nine industry insiders on what will be the biggest challenges facing legal weed in 2019.
"Banking. Period. Without banks the industry will never reach its potential." — Sam Ludwig, President of Aster Farms
Compliance will keep being a hurdle.
"As regulations continue to unroll, compliance will keep being a hurdle we have to overcome. And with increased comfort amongst investors, the new money flowing into the space will provide both opportunity to get funding as well as fiercer, well-funded competition." — Andrea Brooks, Co-Founder of SAVA
Regulation and oversupply.
"Adult use regulation and oversupply in certain regions. Hopefully we have laws making cannabis and hemp more accessible, but those laws also have to account for those who have suffered from the War on Drugs. As cannabis becomes more mainstream, brands emerge. Due to the available supply of product, those brands aren't always what newly initiated consumers should be ingesting." — Sarah Remesch, Founder of New Highs CBD
Lack of sophistication in the operations between businesses.
"There is a lack of sophistication in the operations between businesses; it's clunky, fraught with distrust and obfuscation, and rarely transparent. Showcasing credible and verified information like lab testing results will improve this challenge in the wholesale market. Additionally, there is the challenge of crafting regulations for markets that have already existed for some time (like in California), which create incredible friction for producers. Even in new markets, most of the regulators have never run a cannabis company, so the impact of their regulations are rarely understood by the commissions as well as they could be." — Confident Cannabis VP of Growth & Marketing Brad Bogus
"Regulation itself is going to pose huge challenges. We can reflect on how hard it's been to bring each state online. When the federal government actually decides to get involved, we will see a number of much more complicated regulatory hurdles emerge. Those new regulations may be burdensome enough, then they will need to be reconciled with individual state regulation. It should remind everyone that we are just at the very beginning with cannabis legalization and regulation." — Amy Margolis, Founder and Program Director of the Initiative
Fierce competition for small businesses.
"The cannabis industry is an intriguing place to be in, and there is so much money being poured into it these days; making competition fierce and difficult for small businesses to stay alive." — Jade Daniels, Founder & CEO of Ladies of Paradise
The banking issue is like a looming shadow.
"The biggest challenge that the industry faces besides the ever changing political environment is banking, 100 percent. The banking issue is like a looming shadow over the whole industry and something has to give. The other issue is the corporate cannabis take over. It is inevitable that there will be a few corporations which take over and take advantage of this industry." — Danny Sloat, Founder of AlpinStash
Education and accuracy.
“It seems that when you leap over a hurdle, there are always more on the horizon. Apart from the challenge of outdated thinking, conflicting private interests, the industry has plenty of more logistical challenges ahead. Education and accuracy are two areas that stick out. As the industry continues to develop, there are tons of shared ideas, inventions and progress thanks to technology and the internet of things. However, this 'global' sharing of information is not how cannabis products are disseminated. They are hopelessly regional and localized (at least in the US). Products or cultivars available in one state may not be available in another, and if they are, will likely be different in almost every way that matters. This is a huge challenge for caregivers and medical patients in particular. They can read a great article on how one cultivar is amazing for PTSD or Crohn's or Epilepsy but when they seek out that same cultivar in their state, they may find it is anything but helpful. This is due to a lack of consistent terminology, and a failing to accurately track plant genetics. The industry is starting to see that rather than focusing on the kitschy name of a cultivar, the lab results are what make it what it is. The terms 'indica' and 'sativa' are wholly inaccurate when used to describe an effect of a particular product (since nearly all modern species are hybrids). Factors like 'sun-grown' or 'light-dep' grow methods are much more meaningful when you are looking to enhance certain effects (or terpenes/cannabinoids potency) of a cultivar, as are other factors like humidity, soil content (or hydro recipe) and of course, the parentage. There are pushes to trace and document more plant genetics and create databases of sorts, so that dispensaries can more accurately direct users to what they are looking for. These efforts are largely handled by researchers, labs, non-profits and I'm excited to see the progress and results of their work. It can only help consumers be more informed and that is always a good thing." — Charles McElroy, Founder of Goldleaf
Big corporations with big money.
"Big corporations with big money are the biggest threat to the cannabis industry. Legalizing cannabis works. When we legalize, states make more money and the number of opioid related deaths in that state decrease. Popular opinion is moving in such a way that the American population is overwhelmingly in support of cannabis legalization. Reefer madness and anti-cannabis campaigns just aren't working anymore. This is of course fantastic, because more people will have access to cannabis medicine. However, it also means that big money and big corporations will get involved and try to hijack the industry from homegrown, craft operations. If we let the industry move in this way, that means that a few rich white men will have all of the power and produce relatively shitty products for the masses. And what a waste that would be! We have an opportunity to create a truly ethical craft industry that supports small business and for the first time in history provides equal opportunity for marginalized groups, especially people of color who have been disproportionately victimized by the horrific war on drugs. However, this can only happen if we implement smart policy that keeps cannabis out of the hands of big money pharmaceutical and genetics companies and instead creates access for people to have control of an industry that we have spent so long fighting for. It's going to be a fight to keep big money and big corporations from hijacking the cannabis industry people have fought so hard for, but I believe it can be done through consumer education, inclusion initiatives and smart policy making." — Cannabis Educator & Consultant Emma Chasen