- It’s been a year for cannabis.
- Michigan voted to legalize recreational cannabis.
- Utah and Missouri legalized medical marijuana.
- Five new governors were elected who support decriminalization.
- Canada became the first country in North America to legalize recreational cannabis.
And that was just this Fall! With so much momentum, cannabis is primed for a big year in 2019.
What are some of the major initiatives and potential changes consumers and businesses are looking forward to in 2019? And just how likely are they, really?
(Very likely – could still happen in 2018)
In October, the Senate passed the Farm Bill, including a provision that would legalize industrial hemp. The hemp provision has gained bipartisan support, with some analysts projecting it could become a $20 billion industry by 2022.
The Farm Bill is expected to pass the House before landing on the President’s desk. President Trump has expressed support for the bill and expects it to be signed into law.
Thousands of Low-Level Marijuana Records Expunged
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has ordered the city to assist local low-level offenders in expunging their marijuana convictions. Thousands of Denver residents are living with low-level marijuana convictions for activities that are not illegal today. Residents can already apply to have marijuana convictions expunged, but this new effort will pro-actively support residents in that effort (either individually or in a single act that expunges thousands of records at once).
Learn more with the Denver Post.
Pot Delivery in Colorado
In 2018, a marijuana delivery pilot program was proposed. And while that bill didn’t pass, newly elected state officials in this year’s midterm elections, including pro-legalization Governor Jared Polis, give the bill a greater chance of passing.
There are still a handful of questions that would have to be addressed before pot delivery could be put in place, however. State police have expressed concern that delivery drivers could become targets of crime. Other groups worry a courier service would make it easier for underage individuals to obtain cannabis. While neither of these fears are entirely justified (we already have liquor and prescription drug delivery), they remain potential roadblocks that would need to be addressed if pot delivery were to succeed.
More Cannabis Using Less Energy
Growing marijuana plants can be energy intensive… but that’s quickly changing. New technologies and growing methods are greatly reducing energy costs, and the results of that innovation are inspiring more innovation. It’s a cost-reducing, environment-saving cycle that’s expected to continue in 2019.
Energy efficient grow lights reduce power consumption, but that’s just the tip of the energy-saving iceberg. Chilled water systems can control temperature and humidity in place of energy-intensive refrigerant-based air conditioning. New indoor facilities are being developed that allow growers to utilize natural sunlight. Water circulation recycles water, greatly reducing consumption.
The focus on greener energy isn’t just good for the environment, either. As cultivators reduce costs, some of that will be passed on to consumers.
More Weed On YouTube & Social Media
Over the past few months, many cannabis companies and content creators found their pages and videos unceremoniously deleted by YouTube. Similarly, Facebook regularly deletes business pages for licensed dispensaries, manufacturers and cannabis cultivators. Instagram is currently debating whether cannabis content is educational or could be classified as “illegal selling.” Even licensed businesses that follow every guideline can find their pages shut down overnight, losing hundreds of hours of hard work and removing their only connection to thousands of customers and patients.
While it seems like social media and video platforms are moving away from the booming cannabis industry, that could all change in 2019. Over half the country allows medical cannabis. Support for federal decriminalization is at an all-time high. The number of states with legal recreational weed continues to grow, with votes appearing on state ballots every election cycle.
Many social media platforms are beholden to federal law, which could explain their hesitance. But if the Farm Bill passes and hemp is legalized, as expected, it could muddy the waters even further. For better or worse, each channel is going to have to clearly address the cannabis question. Because the current guidelines can be unclear and inconsistently enforced.
There’s a scenario where cannabis businesses are all but blacklisted by social media, limiting their ability to connect with customers and contribute to better public education about cannabis. But there’s another outcome where licensed businesses are finally able to take full advantage of social media and video marketing.
Pot Cafes in Colorado
With newly elected, pro-cannabis Governor Jared Polis, several bills that were vetoed in 2018 could reappear in 2019. That includes a bill that would allow marijuana retailers to open tasting rooms where customers can try small amounts of a product before purchasing.
If tasting rooms are legalized, it would force Colorado and local governments to clarify what constitutes “open or public consumption.” And if restrictions are reduced on social use of marijuana, it could set the stage for other businesses – from cafes to bars – to allow cannabis use in certain settings and with the appropriate oversight and regulations.
The End of Federal Prohibition
More people support legal weed than lower taxes. Hemp is on the verge of legalization. The midterm elections saw many pro-legalization governors and officials elected. And with our neighbors to the north legalizing at a national level, there’s never been more momentum for the end of federal prohibition.
It’s still a fairly long shot, and a lot of puzzle pieces need to fall into place. But we’re closing in. And that’s a pretty good reason to enter 2019 with a bit of optimism… and a bit of bud.
Happy New Year, Marijuana!
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