As we near the horizon of 2021, we’d like to take time to review some of the cannabis industry’s best highlights. A single year in the cannabis industry can feel like seven, as there are many ups and downs in the cannabis space. Democrats swept the 2020 selections, providing plenty of optimism to those who support the cannabis industry. Although 2021 wasn’t a perfect year, there are plenty of uplifting moments to admire in the cannabis world. Let’s take a step back and check out several of the significant events that came to pass in our cannabis year in review.
Amazon and Apple Show Support for Cannabis
The e-commerce juggernaut Amazon came out to show support for a proposed U.S. legislation to legalize cannabis at the federal level. They are actively supporting The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement act of 2021 (MORE Act). Additionally, Amazon will not be screening job applicants for most of its positions for marijuana, paving the way for other organizations to do the same. Joining Amazon in fighting the cannabis stigma is Apple. The tech giant decided to allow iPhone apps to process marijuana transactions. The San Franciso-based cannabis platform Eaze was the first to launch a Phone app this past July. Will other tech giants like Google follow in Apple’s footsteps?
Sha’ Carri Richardson and Cannabis in the Olympics
The 21-year-old Sha’ Carri Richardson ran the 100-meter dash in only 10.86 seconds, looking like a meteor on her way to secure a spot on Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics. However, the United States Anti-Doping Agency announced that Richardson tested positive for cannabis. Richardson was suspended for one month, crushing her dreams of going to the Olympics. Cannabis is legal in Oregon—where Richardson was competing—however, it’s banned for Olympic athletes. Many people around the globe criticized this decision, leading the World Anti-Doping Agency to re-examine cannabis’s presence on its list of prohibited substances. The cannabis community targeted the antiquated prohibition of cannabis for the Olympics, as it does not enhance the performance of athletes.
Cannabis Sales in Illinois and Michigan are Booming
Michigan’s adult-use cannabis program launched 1.5 years ago, and it continues its rapid sales growth in 2021. Since April, Michigan recreational marijuana sales exceeded $100 million. This put sales on track to surpass $1.2 billion for 2021—which would be double the number of sales compared to last year. Also, according to the 2021 MJBizFactbook, adult-use cannabis sales in Michigan will quadruple from $500 million in 2020 to $2 billion in 2025. Illinois is also enjoying adult-use cannabis sales success since launching recreational cannabis sales in 2020. The Prairie State sold close to $1 billion in adult-use cannabis through September of 2021. Both states are going strong and show no signs of slowing down.
Cannabis Legalization in Europe
Malta is set to become the very first European Union country to legalize adult-use cannabis. Malta’s President–George Vella–is expected to sign the bill after it was approved by a majority vote in Parliament. Back in October, Luxembourg announced that it would legalize cannabis as well, but Parliament hasn’t approved the measure yet. Additionally, Germany’s incoming governing party leaders created a formal 118-page agreement to legalize cannabis and promote broader drug policy harm reduction measures. They also discussed advancing other drug policy reforms, such as establishing a drug-checking service where individuals can have illicit drugs tested for harmful substances without having to worry about imprisonment.
Expungements for Low-Level Cannabis-Related Crimes
New Jersey courts have expunged around 362,000 low-level cannabis-related criminal records since July of 2021. Additionally, there are between 125,000 and 150,000 similar cannabis-related cases that could be expunged automatically under New Jersey’s legalization law. People with convictions that haven’t cleared automatically can file a motion for review—eligible charges include being under the influence of marijuana, possession of cannabis while in a vehicle, and sales of less than one ounce of cannabis. Los Angeles also joined the fight for restorative justice as Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón and his team will automatically dismiss around 60,000 past cannabis convictions. That brings the total expungements to around 125,000 since California legalized adult-use cannabis in 2016.
President Biden Signs Bill for Researchers to Access Cannabis Dispensary Products
President Joe Biden signed an infrastructure bill that includes provisions to allow researchers to study the actual cannabis that consumers buy from state-legal dispensaries. Currently, researchers only have access to government-grown cannabis for research. Additionally, it indicates that scientists from states that haven’t enacted the legalization of cannabis should be able to access dispensary products that are for sale in jurisdictions that concluded prohibition. The bill also mentions that cannabis research should also examine the impact cannabis has on driving.
Other Highlights of the Cannabis Industry in 2021
There were so many other highlights in 2021 for the cannabis industry—we can’t cover them all! However, we wanted to cover a few more highlights to give you a more comprehensive snapshot of 2021. Check out these extra cannabis industry highlights:
- The NFL will no longer test their players for cannabis use during the offseason
- Uber Eats in Ontario is allowing orders for cannabis products
- Billionaire Charles Koch will invest $25 million in supporting federal cannabis legalization
- Many people from other industries, especially retail workers, transitioned to the cannabis industry—one huge highlight on this topic: Flowhub appointed former Uber executive Leandre Johns as COO
- Delta-8 THC—which doesn’t bind as tightly to the CB1 receptor (receptor in your brain that gives you the high feeling) grew in popularity this year
- Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis (8-3 ruling) to reduce drug-fueled cartel crimes
The cannabis industry evolved in 2021 in a variety of ways. However, it still has so much potential, and there’s plenty of work to do to reach it. Without a doubt, the future looks bright for the cannabis space–we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2022.