2016 turned out to be one of the most significant in the history of cannabis in the United States. Chances are, November’s vote will go down as a turning point for both the industry and attitudes to cannabis in general – both of which have changed largely beyond recognition across much of the country. Colorado scored legal cannabis sales of more than $1 billion for the first time, recreational cannabis was given the green light in a new total of nine states and most of the country gave the go-ahead to recreational cannabis.
So with all this going on, what can we expect to see in 2017?
Well, there are basically two things that look set to shape the next twelve months as far as cannabis is concerned. One of them is California, the other is Jeff Sessions. Slightly different entities to say the least, but both every bit as powerful and influential. California is likely to take over as the supreme cannabis power of the United States, while Jeff Sessions will have supreme power over how much power US states have to cook up their own cannabis laws. Suffice to say, conflict of opinions and intentions is largely guaranteed.
But from a more general standpoint, where are the biggest development in cannabis likely to be for 2017?
1. A New Cannabis Capital of the Western World
First of all, there’s a strong chance that California won’t just become the cannabis capital of the United States. With the way things are looking right now, it could quickly and easily become the cannabis capital of the western world. The medical cannabis market is already worth in excess of $1 billion, which is likely to be eclipsed massively by the recreational market come this time next year. It will be the largest cannabis market with the most extensive and powerful infrastructure in the US by leaps and bounds. The current appeal of California to tourists is hardly on the weak side – add cannabis into the mix and you’re looking at something even bigger.
2. Walking on Eggshells
That being said, the fact that Jeff Sessions has suggested that he’s every intention of enforcing Federal cannabis laws to the full extent of his powers means that the industry nationwide will most probably be walking on eggshells. Or in other words, doing nothing to contravene the laws they establish at a state level and trying not to draw undue attention to themselves. The reason being that there’s every chance that Sessions will be looking for any excuse at any time for a clampdown. It may or may not happen, but there’s a chance that it will and that’s a chance nobody wants to increase the risk of. So for the time being at least, a softly-softly approach is likely to be the most sensible way forward for the industry.
3. Cannabis Will Enter the Professional Sports World
It’s still completely out of the question for pro sports players to use cannabis for medicinal purposes – at least with the backing and support of the league itself. However, athletes at all levels across the US are now routinely shunning prescription painkillers and getting hold of cannabis – legally, safely and cheaply. As such, it’s really only a matter of time before it starts getting used on a far more widespread basis and with the endorsement of major leagues.
4. New Primetime TV Shows
Cannabis culture is already so massive that its entry into the mainstream media is largely inevitable. Chances are that by the end of next year, there will be at least a handful of primetime TV shows based entirely around cannabis and cannabis culture. These are likely to arrive in multiple forms – new scripted comedy shows, TV drama, documentaries and perhaps even regular discussion shows dedicated to the US cannabis industry and recreational scene. Not in a way that advertises or glamorises the stuff, but more as a means by which to enlighten, inform, educate and entertain. There will of course be very strict rules to follow in terms of regulatory guidelines and whatnot, but chances are cannabis will be featured more prominently and regularly on US TV.
5. The Death of Synthetic Cannabis
Having been linked with multiple deaths and thousands of hospitalisations, the disappearance of synthetic cannabis from US streets really cannot happen soon enough. The good news being that this is exactly what can be expected going forward in regions where recreational cannabis has been legalized. The simple fact of the matter is that where quality cannabis is readily available for low prices and from legal vendors, there is no reason on Earth for synthetic cannabis to exist. Not a single one. So not only will this potentially lethal chemical product vanish across huge swathes of America, but so too will those producing and selling it.
6. More Medical Evidence
With medical marijuana in on-going use across the vast majority of US states, the amount of research being carried out on a daily basis into its benefits will naturally increase massively. And so too will the already overwhelming evidence that cannabis can be supremely beneficial in the treatment of countless conditions. You’d like to think we’ll soon be at the point where critics will pack up their arguments and finally accept the hard science and facts behind medical cannabis at least. As for whether or not this will ever happen…well, you have to remember that most of those on the critical side of the fence don’t base their arguments on science or facts anyway.
7. The Rise of Craft Cannabis
Last up, if you think the sheer range of cannabis varieties on the market right now is huge, we’ve really only just seen the tip of the iceberg. Along with on-going attempts to refine and enhance every strain out there, the epic rise of ‘craft’ cannabis cultivation is a foregone conclusion. Just as with food, drink, clothing and of course, beer, people in growing numbers are wanting to know the back story of the cannabis they use from seed to smoke. The on-going hipster movement isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future at least, bringing with it growing demand for the kind of cannabis that’s about more than just getting high. New strains, new producers, new products and so on – you can expect to see so much happening over the coming months in the US. And whether it’s the kind of thing you’re into or not, it’ll certainly be an interesting show from the side-lines if nothing else!
Keep watching this space for the latest updates on the US cannabis scene in 2017, as and when they happen.