Every year seems to be a transformative year in the cannabis industry — and for good reason. What other industries can say they’re at the forefront of a movement? Innovation, the legal landscape, and evolving social attitudes continue to shape what’s to come for cannabis.
At CWCBExpo, we’re taking a moment to reflect on the milestones, challenges, and remarkable shifts that shaped the past year while extending our gaze to what may lie ahead for the new year.
In the Empire State, adult-use cannabis celebrated its first full year in operation. The first dispensary in New York City opened at the tail end of 2022, and several more throughout the city and the state joined its ranks throughout 2023.
Although court challenges and bureaucratic roadblocks have caused the New York market to roll out slowly, hundreds of dispensaries are expected to be approved in 2024. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) recently accepted license applications from all aspiring cannabis sellers, and officials say the general adult-use licenses will be issued using a lottery system and approved in batches during the first quarter of 2024 on a rolling basis.
According to Kym B., Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at TribeTokes, New York is poised for a significant, and exciting, shift.
“I think we’re going to go from being a startup in New York to starting to actually be revenue positive,” she explained. “A lot of dispensaries opening, coupled with more licenses being given out, will help a ton. With this in place, we can actually create an industry in New York where cannabis is truly competitive.”
A few new states joined New York in the adult-use legalization movement in 2023, including Delaware, Minnesota, and Ohio. Others, like Connecticut, Missouri, and Maryland, realized their first recreational sales. This means that now, more than half of the U.S. population resides in areas where cannabis is legal for recreational use. Notable is the recent Annual Report previewed at a December meeting by the New York State Office of Cannabis Management where they reported that marijuana revenue sales in NYS was expected to reach $150MM by the end of 2023.
All eyes on the election and how it shapes cannabis policy
Discussion of federal legalization, descheduling, and rescheduling bounces throughout Capitol Hill every year, and 2023 was no different. But what did come to fruition this year was a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reschedule cannabis on a federal level. If progress continues on this forefront, 2024 could bring the most significant shift in national cannabis policy since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. This change would give the FDA industry oversight and cut down the 280E tax code that currently plagues the industry.
As we look ahead to 2024, other potential shifts in legislation include:
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) continues to push for banking reform. During a recent floor speech, he listed “SAFE Banking and cannabis reform” as a top 2024 priority.
- On the state level:
- The Florida Marijuana Legalization Initiative could appear on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in November.
- The Nebraska Cannabis Legalization Initiative, which would legalize cannabis consumption, may appear on the 2024 ballot as a constitutional amendment if enough signatures are collected.
- South Dakota residents voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2020, but that effort was overturned by the courts. Governor Kristi Noem remains a staunch critic of recreational cannabis. However, The South Dakota Marijuana Legalization Initiative may still appear on the ballot in South Dakota as an initiated state statute.
- Representative Jesse Chism (D-TN) has introduced a bill that would add cannabis-related questions to the 2024 election ballot to assess interest in medical and recreational cannabis consumption.
As an election year, cannabis takes an even more significant national stage this year. Leo M. Bridgewater, the National Director of Veteran Outreach for Minorities of Medical Marijuana, emphasized the importance of aligning political engagement with business strategies in 2024. And that’s not limited to Washington, D.C. — that involves engaging elected officials right here at home.
“Local mayor and city council seats will be up for grabs in 2024,” he noted. “A deeper understanding of the difference between legislation and regulation will also be paramount as policy will be developed by the understanding and education of local politicians. The cannabis vote must be made real and respected if we are going to prosper in the years to come.”
Support for small business will be essential for a thriving industry
Citrin Cooperman Cannabis Advisory Services manager Renata Serban conveyed the need for education for operators.
“[The] cannabis industry is one of the most regulated in the country and unique in the fact that it is illegal at the federal level and legal at the state level,” Serban explained. “Even experienced business owners entering the cannabis space face many challenges associated with high compliance.”
Serban credited the Cannabis Compliance Training and Mentorship Program in New York City as a great place for entrepreneurs to begin their journeys. “I think the state needs to continue similar initiatives and provide resources to small businesses,” she added.
A focus on patients in an increasingly-recreational landscape
Kenneth R. Weinberg, founder of Cannabis Doctors of NY, shed light on patient needs within a landscape that puts a lot of focus on recreational sales. A fierce patient advocate, Weinberg expressed a hopeful expectation that the broader market dynamics will bring about positive changes for patients, even as those dynamics are heavily influenced by the recreational market.
One such way is in price: As more dispensaries open, the price of flower and manufactured products is likely to come down. In fact, we’re already seeing that trend in New Jersey, where flower prices fell by $42 per ounce in 2023 as more dispensaries opened. Weinberg said he hopes to see prices decline, making medical cannabis more accessible and affordable for those seeking it.
What other notable shifts in 2023 might influence 2024?
As we peer into the future of cannabis, social and cultural shifts make for a continued surge of acceptance. A November 2023 Gallup poll found that seven in 10 Americans support cannabis legalization, an unprecedented high since the poll’s inception in 1969. This shift signals a broader societal acceptance of cannabis and a transformation in attitudes that will likely continue into 2024.
Of the notable occurrences from this year, standout moments reflecting on shifting societal acceptance of cannabis include:
- The American Nurses Association (ANA), representing more than 5 million nurses nationwide, officially recognized cannabis nursing as a specialty.
- The U.S. Census Bureau is adapting its economic survey to include companies operating within the cannabis industry, legitimizing their presence and impact on the national economic landscape.
- A Gallup poll revealed that half of Americans have tried cannabis at some point in their lives.
Navigating 2024 cannabis with CWCBExpo
As we stand at the threshold of a new year, allow CWCBExpo to be your source for navigating the exciting twists and turns of the cannabis landscape. Whether through our monthly news updates or our annual in-person expo in NYC, stay tuned, stay informed, and join us on the journey ahead.