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Policymakers Begin to Change Course on Cannabis Regulation

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The support for cannabis legalization is growing every year as more countries continue to explore opportunities within the cannabis industry. In particular, the North American region is witnessing an immense swelling of support for legalization. 

For instance, last year Canada's federal government decided to legalize adult-use cannabis, making it the second nation to ever do so. Now, the U.S. and Mexico are also experiencing strong advocacy for the legalization of cannabis and although citizens from both nations are actively supporting legalization, the federal government has not implemented a program yet. 

However, the U.S. government has granted the power to legalize the plant to each individual state. As a result, more than half the U.S. has legalized cannabis for medical use, while just over a fifth has permitted its legal, recreational use. To better illustrate the shift, in the early 2000s, approximately 31% of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana. By 2018, six in every ten Americans, or more precisely, 62% said that marijuana should be legalized, according to Pew Research Center's survey. Specifically, most millennials are in favor of legalizing marijuana compared to other generations, as approximately 74% of millennials advocated for legalization, while 63% of Gen Xers and 54% of Baby Boomers supported the movement. Furthermore, politicians have also begun to change their stance on cannabis legalization because of the positive data flowing in from clinical trials. The survey also highlighted that 69% of Democrats said marijuana should be legal while the Republican party remains split with 45% in favor and 51% opposed. 

Nevertheless, support among Republicans has risen from just 39% in 2015. Meanwhile, Canada's legalization marked a historic milestone in the cannabis industry, creating a global powerhouse. Moreover, if the U.S. and Mexico were to also legalize cannabis, it could potentially influence other nations to explore the industry as well. And, as more countries decide to legalize cannabis for medical use and potentially recreational use, the overall industry is positioned to experience exponential growth. According to data compiled by Mordor Intelligence, the global cannabis industry was valued at USD 14.5 Billion in 2018. By 2024, the market is expected to reach USD 89.1 Billion while registering a CAGR of 37% during the forecast period from 2019 to 2024. 

Canada moved to legalize cannabis entirely back in October 2018 and during the first several months of legalization, the country experienced nationwide shortages. Cultivators and retailers were heavily limited because of federal restrictions that curtailed their business operations. For instance, Statistics Canada reported that on average, Canadian cannabis consumers paid approximately USD 6.83 per gram. Some provinces reported that prices per gram could reach as high as USD 10. Moreover, some Canadian consumers were still purchasing their supply on the black market to obtain high quality and potent products. James Walsh, a consultant at Maple Ridge, noted that consumers were paying nearly triple the average price for products on the black market compared to legal vendors, indicating that consumers were willing to pay more for illegal premium products rather than mediocre legal products

However, the major drawback of the illicit market is that consumers typically do not know where their supply is coming from and what it is treated with during the growing process. As a result, the "craft cannabis" industry emerged in order to meet the demands of consumers seeking higher quality products. Craft cannabis is an organic and natural growing process that aims to provide consumers with premium products that stand out amongst competitors. Typically, craft cultivators control nearly every aspect of the growing process from the lights to irrigation and airflow. Additionally, craft cultivators generally abstain from using artificial products to avoid harming the plants, which in return maintains the cannabinoid content and provides a higher yield per harvest. Overall, the intense efforts that craft cultivators rely on, create a premium product that large scale licensed producers are simply unable to compete against. Furthermore, despite the two operating in the same market segment, craft and mass-produced cannabis appeal to two different consumer markets. Large scale cultivators attract consumers looking for more supply at a cheaper rate. On the other hand, craft cultivators target consumers that are demanding high quality and organic cannabis. "We don't see large-scale cannabis as the future of cannabis," said Michael Steinmeta, Founder of Flow Canada, a California-based cannabis company. "We see the model as aggregating all of these small farmers to collectively bring massive amounts of craft cannabis to the market."

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