In 2016, roughly 60% of Americans said they favored the legalization of recreational marijuana, as the industry gained support in invalidating the war on drugs and seven states voted to legalize it for recreational or medical use.
It was a watershed year for weed. The industry took significant steps in solidifying the market, demonstrating its earnings potential, while advocates fought to debunk the stigmas tied to consumption and argue that states can use it help plug budget holes. In Colorado, where marijuana is legal for recreational use, total revenue from marijuana taxes, licenses and fees came to $72.8 million, as of October 2016.
But for all that was accomplished, there were setbacks. Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election and though he has said he’s in favor of medical marijuana and states' rights, he is nominating Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions as the next U.S. Attorney General. Sessions is famously anti-weed and has said marijuana is “a very real danger.”
And in Massachusetts, where voters legalized the recreational use and sale of marijuana in November, lawmakers have voted to delay the opening date of retail marijuana stores until at least January 2018. No public hearings or office notice were given. Maine, which also voted to legalize, has called for a recount and lawmakers are trying to delay the initiative from taking effect.
Heading into 2017 the industry has 2,966 medical dispensaries and 3,973 retailers across the country, with more than 4,200 marijuana cultivators, according to a published report on marijuana licenses conducted by research firm Cannabiz Media.
The industry still has some obstacles and growing pains to overcome, but will look to grow, mature and make a bigger impact in 2017. Here are some trends and issues to keep an eye on heading into next year.
Marijuana supporters make push for federal acceptance
Just ahead of the Nov. 8 election, Adam Bierman, chief executive of cannabis management services company MedMen, told MarketWatch no matter which way the presidential election swung, the industry would look to chip away at the federal barrier in 2017.
Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and classified as a Schedule I drug along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy.
“Starting next year the plan is a full-court press on federal law changes,” Bierman said in November.
It’ll take some time — about four to eight years, experts expect — but Bierman said the industry is already lobbying, paying for its efforts and getting its ducks in a row.
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