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Will Existing Medical Cannabis Markets Survive Federal Legalization?

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

April 16, 2021 10:30 am ET Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes
Will Existing Medical Cannabis Markets Survive Federal Legalization?

The 2020 election saw several states legalize cannabis along with a handful of others who’ve legalized in 2021. Legal access in the form of medical and/or retail cannabis is now available to residents in more states than not in our country, including our nation’s capital Washington D.C. On the precipice of the doorstep of change, cannabis legalization could be turning over a new leaf on a federal level.

Medical cannabis and adult retail cannabis have a great chance of being legalized across the entire United States in the not too distant future. Some people have questions about this. Questions like why do you need medical cannabis if adult-use recreational cannabis is legal and anyone can purchase it? Is there really a need then for citizens to receive medical cannabis recommendations from physicians in order to go to dispensaries? Can’t they just walk in and buy the cannabis they need like everyone else? There are questions like these and many more.

What Could Happen with Federal Legalization?

The answers to these questions are not easy ones. Currently, it’s anyone’s guess what could happen if cannabis were legalized but there are some good predictions. An educated guess would tell someone that both markets should thrive in the United States. If cannabis were to be removed from the Controlled Substance Act and made legal for purchase by adults in the US, a market for medical cannabis would still be huge.

A change in federal law would open the doors for insurance companies to cover medical cannabis expenses the way they would other prescriptions. More people would be willing to work with cannabis because of the lack of fear of prosecution. Many people in a professional line of work have put in many hours of school to get where they are as well as countless amounts of money to pay for that schooling. Most of them are not willing to risk losing their jobs or credibility over cannabis. However, if cannabis were legal, it would open doors into the industry for those who don’t even consume the plant.

If insurers were to cover medical cannabis, the market would be unpredictably large. Cannabis has worked for many as an alternative for opioids and other forms of addiction. It has the potential to stand as a natural alternative to Suboxone, methadone, and other forms of controversial medications used to treat dependence. Both the retail adult-use cannabis market and the medical cannabis market would have a chance to show what they’re capable of with full legalization.

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A Look at Industry Stats and Legislation

Predictions put a combination of the retail and medical cannabis markets somewhere near $15 billion approaching the end of 2020 in the United States. New Frontier Data released projections suggesting that retail cannabis would increase from $13.2 billion dollars as of 2019 to roughly $35 billion by 2025. In 2020 alone, cannabis saw over $18 billion in sales.

Reports have shown more than 243,700 individuals employed within the cannabis sector legally. In comparison, that is more people working in the cannabis industry than there are bakers in the United States. It looks as if more people want to get baked than to actually bake.

The surge of support for the legal cannabis industry has pushed Congress to discuss full spread cannabis legalization for all of America. This past December, the US federal government discussed the MORE Act. The MORE Act would’ve worked to decriminalize cannabis on a federal level as well as expunged the convictions of non-violent cannabis offenses. This Act was originally set to have a vote in September of 2020 but became delayed because of COVID-19 relief efforts and eventually died in the Senate after it passed the House vote. However, the bill is set to be reintroduced this year along with a new SAFE Banking Act which also did not get past the republican controlled Senate last year.

In a letter to colleagues dated on Nov 9, 2020, House majority leader Steny Hoyer said, “The house will vote on the MORE Act to decriminalize cannabis and expunge convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses that have prevented many Americans from getting jobs, applying for credit and loans, and accessing opportunities that make it possible to get ahead in our economy.” The Cannabis Caucus co-chair representative Barbara Lee said, “We’re going to continue building momentum so that Congress takes action to end the failed prohibition of cannabis before the year is out period too much is at stake for communities of color.”

Despite the failed results of these bills in previous years, the attempts are still incredibly significant in the effect that they are paving the road for legalization. As the years go on, more and more people are supporting cannabis and have no moral issue with it. Cannabis legalization is inevitable, it’s just a matter of when and how.

So, Will the Medical Market Survive?

Will the medical cannabis market survive full-on federal legalization? The answer to that question cannot be answered until federal legalization occurs and we see just what kind of regulations they have in store for any markets thereafter.

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