As we look back on this past year, 2018 has been a progressive year for cannabis. From the recent passage of the Farm Bill to federal cannabis legalization in Canada to the victory of medical or adult use marijuana in four states this past election — not to mention the volatility of cannabis stocks all along the way — it's not always easy to know what's coming in such a new, yet fast-paced industry. That said, as the cannabis becomes more rooted in the areas of science, policy, and commerce, it may be easier to predict what trends we'll come to see in commerce and where the industry will be headed in the coming months or years. For a glimpse of what to expect in 2019, Civilized reached out to a number of industry leaders with expertise in various sectors of the cannabis space. Here's what they had to say.
"In 2019, I think the momentum is here, like a snowball gathering speed and mass, and you will see twice the amount of legislative changes, ranging from easing of banking regulations, leading to institutional money pouring into the industry to the removal of the hugely unfair 280E tax provision. I think politicians are finally seeing that cannabis/hemp should just be treated like any other industry and by impeding it's growth, the entire country is being hurt financially. 2019 will be a dramatic year of regulatory change." - Peter Vogel, CEO Leafwire
"2019 is going to be the biggest year ever for legalization and here’s why:
- New Jersey is most likely going to legalize adult-use cannabis, becoming the second state after Vermont to do so through legislative means, and the first state through legislative means to create a retail market for it.
- The number of dispensaries and grow sites will be expanding in states that have already legalized, particularly in states like Massachusetts and Michigan that just recently legalize adult-use. Massachusetts only just recently opened its first two adult-use dispensaries, so there’s plenty of room to grow there. Michigan doesn’t even have adult-use dispensaries yet, but they probably will.
- Curaleaf plans to expand its 10-state footprint to at least 67 retail stores by the end of 2019, from our current tally of 34 dispensaries. We’ll be doing this while increasing same store sales at existing dispensaries and also expanding cultivation and manufacturing capacity. Will we expand into new states? Wait and see.
- The $800 million industry for hemp and its derivative CBD, is already one of the fastest growing in the country, fueled in part by Curaleaf Hemp, our recently launched brand of CBD tinctures, capsules, patches and vape pens. In 2019, CBD is bound to become ever more popular, bolstered by the recent FDA approval of Epidiolex for the treatment of epileptic seizures." - Joe Lusardi, President & CEO of Curaleaf, a vertically integrated cannabis operator
"Following the signing of the Farm Bill this year, in 2019 there will be increasingly clear FDA regulatory oversight on cannabis and cannabinoids. By the FDA encouraging cannabinoid research and drug product development, the market should see an increase in activity and investment dollars being spent to investigate the true therapeutic benefits and applications of these molecules. As a result, we anticipate pre-clinical scientific research on cannabinoids and cannabinoid-based pharmaceutical formulations to be on the rise in 2019. In 2018 we were glad to be seeing increased interest in supporting research and development from major DEA licensed pharmaceutical vendors and prestigious academic research partners. The growth of medical marijuana has spawned a more refined, new, and future-oriented focus on finding the full therapeutic potential of cannabinoids as molecules. As a pharmaceutical company focused on this class of compounds, we believe we'll be well positioned to accelerate our efforts in this environment as it continues to favorably evolve through 2019." - Alex Wasyl, CEO, Nexien Biopharma
"Revival of interest by large pharma: While beverage and alcohol companies are joining the CBD bandwagon, it makes sense that big pharma steps in too. Many pharmaceutical companies have identified small molecular weight and orally bioavailable agonists of cannabis which were tested in preclinical experiments and will now enter human trials in 2019
FDA approval of cannabis derived drugs: Of course, there will be a plethora of start-ups, but relatively few serious companies designing cannabis derived drugs will make it far for the obvious reason that unlike "natural products", new pharmaceuticals will take an average of 10 years to develop. Consequently, the companies will need 10 years of funding, which is why I started with a reawakening of large pharma. Many of the companies had programs in the cannabis receptors, but did not pursue their efforts. They have the deep pockets and good starting points, saving themselves several years. Some companies will wait on the sidelines, allow the small companies to establish validity of the targets, then buy up the most promising.
Expansion of possible indications: Not just for pain and inflammation; extending from gastrointestinal to cardiac indications
CBD will be used as an add-on or created synthetically in drugs: Patients and consumers will start looking for quality and quantifiable dosage which will be provided by pharmaceutical companies rather than the current nutraceutical companies that are getting product from anywhere and prescribed loosley." - Dr. Jonathan Rothbard, Katexco Pharmaceuticals, a company developing the first drug to exploit brain receptors to treat Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and more
“In 2018, the cannabis genie clearly came out of the bottle and there is no turning back. In 2019, that genie is going to be busy continuing to disrupt the pharmaceutical, alcohol, tobacco, entertainment, and consumer packaged goods industries. As a result, consumers will become more educated and demanding in terms of quality of products and retail experiences. They will be proactive in seeking out brands that are engaging and that they trust. They will be less tolerant of outdated laws and regulations and will work with their local governments to drive national legalization.” - Mark Grindeland, Co-Founder & CEO, Coda Signature edibles
“Perhaps the biggest event of 2018 just recently occurred when the Farm Bill passed and industrial hemp was legalized. This provides the farming industry with a valuable new crop which in time could surprise and potentially disrupt other industries such as fiber and some sectors of the global plastics industry. CBD has emerged as an explosive growth category in the wellness sector in 2018. Trends to watch for in 2019 are the continued adoption of CBD by mainstream consumers via the introduction of CBD wellness products into big box retailers. This will be accompanied by more scrutiny of claims on packaging by federal regulators. The investment of billions of dollars by Constellation Brands into Canopy Growth was the official starting gun, announcing the arrival of legal cannabis as a serious sector in the stock market. Look for a flurry of M&A activity in the sector from other liquor and tobacco companies in 2019 as well as a few surprise investments by large consumer and lifestyle brands. 2018 saw the explosive growth of Canopy Growth, Tilray and others facilitated by investors rushing to cash in via the public markets. In 2019, more traditionally risk averse investors will get involved. The 'money on the sideline' will begin to flow into the cannabis industry via the stock market, providing capital for the massive expansion of the leading cannabis companies into domestic and international markets.” - Leslie Bocksor, Chairman, Electrum Partners