The cannabis industry is evolving in ways that may strengthen the industry. A more unified regulatory environment in the long run will help streamline operations and remove unexpected disruptions and financial shortcomings. Cultivators may benefit from guidelines and technologies to help achieve production consistency, while avoiding resource and crop loss. Testing labs will achieve higher level performance as a result of interlaboratory comparison, proficiency testing, and method standardization efforts across the industry.
2020 was shaping up to be a benchmark year for the maturing industry. Although no one could have predicted the current pandemic and ensuing economic challenges, the storm that currently clouds the industry may give way to brighter skies in the months to come.
The Short-Term Weather
- The industry witnessed an initial spike of sales early in the pandemic, which was followed by rather steep sales declines. Speculations included a buying surge before lock-downs were out in place.
- Short term impacts are affecting sales, as recreational cannabis is considered non-essential and restricted. Medicinal is considered essential and sales may remain largely unaffected.
- Experienced and well-managed businesses are preserving cash and keeping costs down, while surveying for future opportunities.
- The cultivation, processing, and particularly the testing areas of the industry will remain careful with cash, cautiously watching possible supply chain disruptions.
- Of these, the testing industry will likely remain the strongest, and depending how long the pandemic lasts, the testing area may not see any significant short-term effects.
- Unfortunate developments including the cancellation of cannabis shows and legislative delays on cannabis actions in the US have dampened industry growth.
The loss of dear Charlotte Figi is a tragedy on a more personal level, for she was a true inspiration who changed the industry through her own challenges and perseverance.
Weathering the Storm
Perseverance is how the industry will weather the storm. Brighter skies are ahead. Here are some indications.
The current climate has necessitated innovative approaches towards maintaining sales.
- Colorado recently received the ability to conduct cannabis deliveries. In the early days of the pandemic, others followed suit to a degree, matching on-line transactions with curb-side pick-up. One CBD shop even conjured the idea of drone delivery.
- As the pandemic progressed, medicinal marijuana was deemed essential and dispensaries took innovative approaches towards services – including virtual appointments by phone or computer.
- Cannabis processing companies pivoted to producing hand sanitizer and other personal safety essentials to help protect against COVID-19.
- Health Canada has asked cannabis testing labs if they could step up and assist testing for COVID-19 and many labs have answered the call.
The Long-term Outlook
Where will the industry be headed in the coming months?
Canada will remain strong on account of several factors. Regulatory processes have been temporary stunted but will resume soon with similar robustness as before -- Ontario has awarded 900 licenses to date and growing. Analysts say the cannabis planting season will not be affected by the current pandemic. Health Canada has recruited testing labs for COVID-19 diagnostics, keeping the labs open and staffed. The Canadian government will likely continue to support cannabis across the board during the pandemic and ensuing recession due to the federal legalization status.
The US will see a somewhat of a divide between medicinal versus recreational cannabis. As mentioned, while many states have labelled medicinal cannabis as essential, recreational cannabis stores have remained closed during the lockdown. This has dramatically affected sales and demand for wholesale product in the near term, although longer-term outlooks are favorable for both. Regulatory decisions and ballot initiatives have halted due to COVID-19, stopping the momentum for increased legalization and access. Hemp will keep growing due to: unaffected legislative actions at the federal level, increased demand for hemp and hemp products (CBD), legal developments in financial services and infrastructure, federal financial incentives and protections. Largely unaffected growing seasons will further assist the hemp industry.
Despite short-term delays, longer-term initiatives around federal support for research funding and a strengthening interest in pharmaceutical development will help bolster growth for the industry. The industry will eventually reach a new normal as operations are streamlined, supply-chains are reorganized and mapped, and opportunities appear due to industry consolidation. In the wake of the pandemic and throughout the course of any oncoming recession, marijuana sales will likely track steadily upward on par with alcohol sales. Medical marijuana will remain essential and will see steady growth and expansion as legal access and licensing activities resume.
Despite the short-term challenges, there are positive signs on the horizon – definite reasons to celebrate 4/20 this year!
Here are a few new products to help share in the 420 celebration
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