Cannabis, like all other industries, was greatly affected by the novel coronavirus in 2020. While there were initial setbacks when states went into lockdown, cannabis bounced back and saw huge gains for the industry as a whole. Expanded legislation surrounding cannabis and significant wins for the industry brings legal cannabis to more citizens than ever before. Studies were conducted with cannabis to prove, among other things, that it doesn’t make you lazy, can treat chronic pain, and can help lessen the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. And despite economic setbacks due to the pandemic, cannabis sales remained high. Here is a guide to how the cannabis industry prospered in 2020.
2020 was a huge election year; not only was a new president on the ballot but so were many cannabis laws. Five states voted on legalizing cannabis to some extent last Fall, all of which passed. Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey all passed laws to legalize recreational adult use of cannabis for individuals over 21. These laws join already existing legislation surrounding medical cannabis sales in each state.
While each state’s laws differ slightly and have various social equality elements, it is a huge step to bring the total of recreational use states to 14. Mississippi, a historically conservative state, passed legislation legalizing medical cannabis use for patients with “debilitating conditions.” And South Dakota made history the first state to pass both medical and recreational cannabis legislation on the same ballot.
These wins are no small feat and are a testament to the changing tide of public opinion concerning cannabis. With traditionally conservative states legalizing cannabis, and a record high of 68% of Americans agreeing that the substance should be legal, the industry is on the right path to national legalization. Speaking of national legalization, we shouldn’t forget that The House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act in December of 2020. While it has not made its way past the Senate, this is a huge step for cannabis legalization on the national level and a great indicator of legislation to come.
Research has always been a large component of the cannabis industry. As a medicinal substance used to treat ailments like seizures, Crohn’s disease, and side effects from chemotherapy, it’s a critical part of millions of Americans’ lives. There is also still so much we can learn and utilize from the cannabis plant, so it’s no wonder that in 2020 we saw even more research come out on this substance.
Not one but two studies were published in 2020 concerning cannabis’s ability to help ease chronic pain. Both studies worked with small or moderate doses of THC either via sublingual tincture or inhaler and saw positive results for reducing pain compared to the placebo. Patients in one study who suffer from historically hard-to-treat chronic pain from fibromyalgia saw their pain levels cut in half with only 4.4 mg of a 48:1 THC:CBD oil tincture.
Another study finally took on the stereotype that cannabis consumption makes you lazy. Spurred by more athletes using the substance to aid in focus and recovery, French scientists used mice to see whether cannabis consumption would make them more activity averse. They found that the mice were just as likely to exercise at the same pace and rates as other mice, though a lack of CB1 receptors (which can come from tolerance build-up) can reduce motivation and preference to exert oneself.
There were also multiple studies conducted on the effects of cannabis and Parkinson’s disease symptoms. CBD use was studied in its efficacy to reduce tremors brought on by stress, a common Parkinson’s side effect. They found that the CBD reduced both the tremors and the anxiety that causes them. Scientists in Spain also studied cannabis and Parkinson’s symptoms, specifically using THCV to help with dyskinesia (unwanted tremors and movements). They found that THCV can delay dyskinesia and decrease the intensity of these movements.
It was also a record year for sales outside of 2020, being an excellent year for cannabis research and legislation. It came as a surprise to many that in the early days of shutdowns to help slow the spread of COVID-19, cannabis dispensaries were considered essential. While they were kept open to service their medical patients, recreational sales were also high. The industry saw how important this product is to its consumers, especially in times of stress and uncertainty.
Global sales of cannabis reached $19.7 billion, a 38% increase from 2019 and a huge increase considering the economic situation of most individuals during the pandemic. While this was less than 1% away from the original prediction, many individual states outperformed original forecasts and now has experts thinking this market could reach $47.2 billion in sales by 2025.
Many states saw an increase in cannabis purchases and consumption in 2020, assuming that the cancellation of typical activities (concerts, festivals, theme parks, etc.) caused more people to seek out alternative ways to relax and spend money. Oregon and Illinois both broke $1 billion in sales for the first time (Illinois only having recreational sales for one year sets a high bar for the state). Long-time recreational states like California and Colorado also performed well and saw sales reach $4.4 billion and $2 billion, respectively.
2020 was an unpredictable year, where millions suffered losses at the hands of COVID-19 and the economic downturn it caused. While we are still finding ways to get back to “normal” as a country, there is hope. With multiple successful vaccines on their way into arms and another economic stimulus package on its way through the Senate, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If 2020 has taught us anything about cannabis and its consumers it showed that this industry and its champions are resilient. Not only was this marketable to grow, but it was able to provide relief for millions of Americans, making it one of the most robust new industries today.