Currently Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia. DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands allow cannabis for medical use. Of those 38 states, 19 (shown in boldface) have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.
As per the Federal Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, the DEA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, prone to abuse with no medical value, similar to heroin, ecstasy and LSD. “Medications within this schedule may not be prescribed, dispensed, or administered,” conflicting with (and superseding) state laws and leaving citizens and businesses vulnerable to possible arrest and seizure. The Senate’s Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act and Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, and the House’s Marijuana Opportunity and Reinvestment Expungement Act (MORE Act) and Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, would align federal and state cannabis laws on business, banking and research (if they ever pass and the president signs them).
According to a recent Gallup poll, more Americans consume cannabis than cigarettes and feel users experience positive effects, though by a slight majority (49 to 50 percent), Americans believe cannabis use unhealthy for society.
Current Cannabis Stats
Cannabis is big business. The 2022 US cannabis economy will generate $100 billion, growing to $155 billion by 2026 and reaching 71 million consumers by 2030. Retail cannabis could hit $52 billion by 2026, with California representing the largest cannabis market in the world! And granting the most US cultivation licenses (7548 in 2021). The average cost to open a dispensary is about $800 thousand, while an average cannabis production facility utilizes about 36,300 square feet (in 2020). At present, just under half of cannabis products are dispensary sold, indicating significant black market sales.
About half of all American adults have toked (52 million partaking at least once in 2022), with 55 percent representing “dual-use” buyers of both medical and recreational weed. Female cannabis consumers represent less than 33 percent of all buyers, though female cannabis buyers are expanding faster than their male peers. While bud (flowers) is still the most frequent cannabis purchase, vapes, pre-rolls, edibles, weed-infused beverages and other cannabis products are rapidly gaining market share.
Americans use cannabis products for relaxation and fun, stress reduction and mental health upkeep and as part of exercise routines. Daily and weekly use are both on the rise.
American colleges and universities now offer degrees and certifications for various aspects of cannabis agriculture and horticulture, including cannabis management, science (botany and genetics), chemistry, production, cultivation and business. Growing weed has become an art and a science, relying greatly on technology. Currently, cannabis is cultivated indoors, in greenhouses and traditionally as an outdoor crop and harvested for three main components:
- Hemp Fiber for clothing, paper products, bags, rope, biofuel and plastics, food, insulation textiles
- Seeds are harvested for soluble and insoluble fibers to aid digestion, protein content and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Cultivated Strains (i.e., Acapulco Gold, Purple Kush, Bubba Kush, Afghan Kush, White Widow, Northern Lights, AK-47, etc.), and categorized as indica, sativa or hybrid. Uses range from euphoria, pain management and energy boosting to anxiety relief and creativity assistance.
Outdoors growing can be a far cheaper alternative to indoor or greenhouse cannabis cultivation. Because no lights or fans are required, “electricity may only be required for irrigation.” Outdoor growing depends on weather conditions, particularly sunlight, while plants are exposed to insects, critters, rain, wind and contamination and pesticides from neighboring farms. Outdoor cultivation demands longer growth cycles often limiting harvests to a yearly haul.
Greenhouse growing offers a controlled environment utilizing beneficial outdoor aspects like fresh air and sunlight while protecting against harsh elements including rain, wind, pests, contaminants and other crop destroyers. While dependent on sunlight, greenhouse climate can be controlled with “dehumidifiers, exhaust fans, and heating and cooling systems,” allowing for extended growing cycles and harvests.
Indoor growing allows for privacy, security and complete control over the growing environment, allowing for “consistency in crop.” Indoor growing offers flexibility based on crop size, from a large cabinet to a warehouse setting. Utilizing micro-growing for compact plants allows for even smaller spaces, including “cupboards, boxes, and buckets,” though commercial growers need far larger spaces. Because nature is stripped from the equation, indoor growing demands more technology and resources than outdoor and greenhouse cultivation including lighting, ventilation, temperature and humidity control, fans for air circulation, containers for potting, etc.
Staying on top of technological changes is crucial for any industry, including commercial cannabis. Recent innovations in cannabis growing technology include:
- Crop Steering focuses on optimizing flower production and yield to maximize profitability utilizing “sensors, tracking tools, and controls” for evaluating all aspects of plant growth.
- Vertical farming employs “multi-level racking systems” for optimal space usage and energy consumption. Vertical systems utilize distinct lighting, ventilation and airflow systems.
- Genetic engineering “allows cultivators to cross strains of cannabis and select phenotypes,” to create consistent and predictable results such as higher THC or CBD yields.
Lighting, irrigation, measurement and cultivation technology is constantly improved and innovated upon, including tools for business and regulation management. One of the most important technologies for state regulators and cannabis operators is track and trace applications.
Track & Trace
State regulators rely on accurate reporting from cannabis producers, labs and retailers to ensure consumer protection, assist law enforcement and thwart back markets, easily access lab procedures and records, facilitate accurate taxation and accelerate recalls if necessary. Cannabis operators and growers need accurate tracking and tracing systems for simplifying and streamlining regulatory compliance, inspections, auditing and reporting. Further, track and trace systems must integrate and exchange data with other business and production software systems, including inventory, point of sale, accounting programs, etc.
Metrc (Marijuana Enforcement, Tracking, Reporting & Compliance) is the original cannabis regulatory track and trace program, “designed for government agencies regulating legalized marijuana.” Metrc utilizes proprietary cloud-based software and RFID tags, allowing licensed users to instantly report cannabis plant status (at all growth stages) and cannabis-based products. Regulators can easily access harvest, packaging, and plant combinations for various cannabis product records and monitor “origin, testing results, handling, and chain-of-custody information.” Metrc serves more than 300,000 users … across 19 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam,” tailoring the platform for each state’s regulatory needs. Metrc in Oklahoma, for instance, is utilized by The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority (OMMA) for their “statewide seed-to-sale inventory tracking system,” and requires all Metrc compliance for all OMMA-licensed businesses. “All seeds, plants and products must be tagged and tracked in Metrc.”
As cannabis acceptance and legality expands across America, state tax coffers are growing. American adults want safe, legal and regulated cannabis products for various recreational, lifestyle and medicinal uses. States and cannabis operators rely upon technology innovations to ensure accurate compliance and increase profits and tax collections. Metrc is currently the most popular seed to sale trace platform utilized by regulators and operators.