Cannabis in the U.S.A. – a 2021 Overview

The November 2020 general election brought about significant movement on the legalized cannabis landscape in the U.S. as five more states (Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota voters approved adult recreational cannabis; Mississippi voters approved adult medical cannabis) legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana. As 36 states and the District of Columbia now have some form of legalized marijuana, the outlook for full legalization of cannabis in America is closer to reality than it has ever been.

President Joe Biden and his administration are in the White House for the next four years. America’s new leadership includes Vice President Kamala Harris, the former California Senator who previously co-sponsored the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and was a lead sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act in the Senate. With Democrats in charge of Congress by slim majorities in both the House and Senate, look for pro-cannabis legislation to be voted on at some point in the coming months.

Arizona voters approved Proposition 207 legalizing recreational marijuana on November 3, 2020. The Grand Canyon State has quickly transitioned from medical only to recreational by approving dispensary licenses to existing medical dispensaries interested in applying for a recreational license. Just outside of Phoenix in Mesa, Arizona, BEST Dispensary is a vertically-integrated operation from seed to sale that has incorporated using cannabis as a holistic and natural medicine in a total health and wellness lifestyle. BEST Dispensary was previously a licensed medical dispensary that applied for and received a recreational license from the state. As part of the Arizona Department of Health’s plan to allow existing medical dispensaries to get a fast start on operating as recreational dispensaries, sales to adults age 21+ began on January 22, 2021.

Missouri’s medical cannabis market is finally starting to take shape after a slow start due to a variety of reasons. Show-Me State voters approved medical cannabis use in November 2018 that would have allowed the legal cannabis industry there to start in 2019, but extensive legal challenges to the state’s licensing evaluation system delayed issuance of all licenses for an extended period of time. The delays forced initial openings of grow facilities, extraction/manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and dispensaries to late 2020. Medical dispensaries with multiple locations such as Kansas City Cannabis in the Kansas City area and SWADE in the St. Louis area are or soon will be providing licensed medical cannabis patients with long-awaited cannabis medication and products.

Cannabis is no longer prohibited in New Jersey as Gov. Phil Murphy signed three weed bills on February 22, 2021 to officially launch the marijuana industry in the Garden State. Legalization took much longer than expected, but cannabis advocates are celebrating these developments and look forward to an active year ahead.

Colorado passed the $2.2 billion dollar annual sales mark in 2020, its biggest sales year yet which is an exciting milestone given how crazy last year was. California’s legal cannabis market was designated as essential last year as COVID-19 restrictions took a major toll on the Golden State’s hotels, restaurants, tourism and entertainment industries among others. Michigan’s recreational market just missed reaching $1 billion in annual sales for legal cannabis but did more than double the number of statewide marijuana industry jobs in 2020.

Expectations in 2021 are very high – no pun intended – for cannabis in all states where medical and recreational marijuana is legal.

Oster and Associates has worked with a wide range of cannabis brands since 2018 and has over 35 years of agency experience in similar industries such as horticulture and produce where growing knowledge is necessary and marketing expertise (both B2B and B2C) can expand sales and build brand awareness. If your company could use some additional support or you have a few questions about how to achieve the results you are looking for, then don’t hesitate to contact us.