Gazing at the Crystal Ball: Cannabis Forecast for 2019

Cannabis consumers had a lot to celebrate in 2018: Canada legalized nationally, Vermont’s legislature and Michigan’s voters passed adult-use legislation, retail sales began in Massachusetts, and the federal government included broad hemp legalization in its Farm Bill. Millennials – adults born between 1981 and 1996 – long known for staying out of the stock market, bucked that trend, buying up cannabis stock at a higher rate than Amazon, Netflix, and Twitter. Here’s a look at what, might be, in store for 2019.

More states will legalize marijuana recreationally (and, perhaps, medically)

Currently, the states with some medical cannabis access outnumber those without and those holdouts are historically conservative so drastic changes in the coming year are not impossible but unlikely. The tide is changing, however, on recreational policy and that wave is going to continue to roll into 2018. Vermont is pushing toward regulating the gray market they created in 2018 and all signs point to neighboring New York’s legislature taking up adult-use legislation early into the new session with a Democratically-controlled government.

Additionally, Maine should move forward with a regulated market (after legalizing adult-use in 2016) and New Jersey lawmakers have already made progress on a legalization measure which needs – and will let get – full legislative approval in the new year. Rhode Island also appears to be making progress on the issue, likely not want to get left behind by their New England counterparts.

Following Michigan’s 2018 ballot initiative success, another Midwest state, Illinois, seems poised to follow suit – Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker actually wants the state to beat Michigan to the first Midwest sale. Nearby Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolfe, a Democrat, said it’s “time to take … to take a serious look” at adult-use legalization during a Twitter AMA.

Also, with a blue House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. might finally get a proper regulated market, which voters approved in 2014 but has been successfully blocked by federal Republican lawmakers controlling the District’s purse strings.

And with more legal states comes increased cannabis tourism

So far, states at the top of many vacationers already have a functioning adult-use market (see California and Nevada) but cannabis could be a decision-maker for more vacation destinations in 2019. According to Colorado’s Department of Revenue, cannabis tourism has grown 51 percent since 2014 equating to 6.5 million tourists. Kush Tourism data of “marijuana tourism” searches by state has some interesting data points: California saw a 299 percent increase in searches on the topic when they legalized in 2016; Maine, 576 percent; Massachusetts, 1006 percent – you get the idea.

Recreational marijuana legal states – no problems

Moreover, due to the few social problems coming out of legal states, even tourists from non-legal states who are not interested in using cannabis on their vacation will likely see that the sky hasn’t fallen and might go back to their home-state with a different opinion or maybe even interested..

These tourists might not be who you’d expect

While millennials use cannabis more than their older counterparts, it’s not by much – 52 percent to 48 percent – baby boomers are using cannabis now more than ever. According to a study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal, in 2015-16 55 percent of adults 50 to 64 admitted to trying cannabis at least once – doubling the total from just a decade earlier. While that doesn’t prove that boomers will make their travel plans to legal states to consume cannabis, we can infer that they are at least more willing to try – or admit to – than they were 10 years ago.

Cannabis user demographics – expanding

Anecdotally, we can also attribute the normalization of cannabis among seniors to the vast expansion of medical cannabis programs. In California, that demographic is spending 19 percent more year-over-year according to cannabis technology company Eaze’s 2017 State of Cannabis report.

Consumers of any age are experimenting more with edibles and CBD.

Not just sweets, but beverages and juices – including low-THC, high-CBD products. Right now, nearly a quarter of cannabis consumers believe edibles are the safest way to use cannabis. That figure is likely only going to increase as society moves away from smoking in general. The Centers for Disease Control notes that smoking rates have decreased from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 15.5 percent in 2015.

Non-psychoactive CBD will boom

Flower won’t go away – the classics never go out of style – but we’ll likely see more CBD flower sales in 2019. Industry research firm BDS Analytics predicts consumer spending in the space to reach $57 billion by 2027 and that kind of market will be nearing fine-tuned. Some project that CBD sales might actually outpace legal-regulated-cannabis-sales at $22 billion by 2022 and CBD is a more accessible (see: non-psychoactive) cannabis product – a wellness product – which should also see a boost from red states dipping their toes into medical marijuana programs, like Wisconsin, Texas, and Alabama.

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