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Top Cannabis Industry Trends for 2024

Posted by Mick Warncke on Apr 8, 2024

The legal cannabis industry is poised for significant growth and transformation in 2024, driven by a combination of evolving regulations, shifting consumer preferences, and a more accepting societal attitude toward cannabis use. This dynamic landscape presents both challenges and opportunities for businesses operating within the sector.

Regulatory Developments

One of the big discussions within the cannabis industry focuses on the rescheduling of cannabis by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The Health and Human Services’ recommendation to reschedule cannabis from a Schedule I narcotic to Schedule III, a lower-risk category, has ignited debates and speculation across the industry.

The HHS published its recommendation to the DEA in January 2024. If the cannabis rescheduling happens, it could have profound implications for businesses operating in the cannabis space. This change in the law will eliminate tax obligations for cannabis industry businesses that operate legally within their respective states.

Congressional Research Service writes, “When considering whether to schedule or reschedule a controlled substance, DEA is bound by HHS’s recommendations on scientific and medical matters. However, the DEA has also stated that it has ‘final authority to schedule, reschedule, or deschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act.'”

The Congressional Research Service explains the reclassification of cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III will not change the fact cannabis will remain illegal on a federal level. Any illegal cannabis activity is still subject to federal prosecution. This will be the case even if cannabis is legal in the state.

A shift from Schedule I to Schedule III would signify a recognition of cannabis having accepted medical uses and a lower potential for abuse. This could open doors for increased research opportunities, medical applications, and overall market expansion. Companies in the cannabis sector should closely monitor these regulatory developments and adapt their strategies accordingly. This could potentially unlock access to services like banking and insurance.

Section 280e Relief

One of the continuous challenges faced by cannabis businesses in the United States is the burden imposed by Section 280e of the Internal Revenue Code. This provision prohibits businesses engaged in the trafficking of Schedule I or II controlled substances of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) from deducting ordinary business expenses.

Efforts to provide relief from Section 280e are gaining momentum. Advocates argue that the current tax code places an undue financial burden on legal cannabis businesses. It hinders their ability to compete with the illicit market. Relief from Section 280e would allow these businesses to operate on a more level playing field and contribute more meaningfully to the economy.

Section 280e of the IRS code will no longer apply when cannabis is classified as a Schedule III drug. Additionally, it will open the door to research and medical uses as well as lighten criminal penalties for cannabis-related violations of the CSA. These changes could help bring in more researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors to the cannabis industry.

Market Expansion and Consumer Trends

The legal cannabis market is expected to experience robust growth as new markets open and existing ones expand in 2024. Several states are likely to join the ranks of those that have legalized recreational or medicinal cannabis. This will create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors.

Consumer trends are also changing. There is an increased focus on wellness and alternative consumption methods. Non-smokable products such as edibles, beverages, and topicals are gaining popularity. Driving this are health-conscious consumers and those seeking discreet and convenient ways to incorporate cannabis into their lifestyles.

The legal cannabis market is expanding, and businesses are recognizing the importance of understanding consumer preferences on a more granular level beyond traditional demographics.

Personalization and customization of products, including dosage control and unique strain profiles, are becoming key drivers in capturing the loyalty of discerning consumers. Additionally, the rise of cannabis tourism in states where it’s legal is shaping a new market segment, requiring businesses to adapt their strategies to cater to this unique audience.

Technological Advancements

The cannabis industry is investing in technological innovations to help enhance the cannabis supply chain along with cultivation, production, and distribution processes. From advanced cultivation techniques and automated harvesting to state-of-the-art extraction methods, technology is playing a crucial role in optimizing efficiency and product quality.

Blockchain technology has gained traction in the cannabis sector, providing transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain. This addresses regulatory compliance and meets the growing demand for product authenticity and quality assurance among consumers.

Continued technological advancements boost current processes and launch new frontiers in cannabis research and development. Cannabis companies use artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze large amounts of data related to cultivation, allowing for predictive analytics that enhance yield and quality.

The integration of augmented reality in dispensaries is transforming the consumer experience, providing detailed product information and recommendations. The use of technology in the cannabis industry requires businesses to capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Brand Differentiation and Marketing

As the cannabis market becomes more saturated, it becomes critical for brands to differentiate themselves to really stand out.  Successful brands are those that offer high-quality products, establish a strong brand identity, and connect with their target audience.

Inventive marketing strategies that go beyond traditional cannabis stereotypes grow increasingly important. Companies are exploring partnerships with influencers, celebrities, and wellness experts to promote their products and reach a wider audience.

As the cannabis industry matures, dispensary design, environmental design, and brand differentiation require more than product quality and marketing strategies. Companies are engaging in corporate social responsibility initiatives, aligning their brands with causes that resonate with consumers.

Social Equity and Inclusion

The cannabis industry has been subject to scrutiny for a long time. However, there is now more focus on issues of social equity and inclusion. Numerous states have taken measures to ensure that people and communities that were disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs are given a fair chance to participate in the legal cannabis market.

The conversation around social equity encompasses ownership and employment opportunities within the cannabis industry. Companies are recognizing the importance of building a diverse and inclusive workforce and are creating initiatives to recruit and support individuals from marginalized communities.

Collaborating with local organizations and educational institutions helps to bridge gaps and create pathways for underrepresented groups to thrive in the cannabis space. The focus on social equity is no longer just a compliance necessity but a strategic requirement for businesses looking to build long-term success. Additionally, it aligns with ethical business practices and helps build positive relationships with communities and regulators.

Global Expansion

Beyond the United States, the global cannabis market sees gradual but significant growth. More countries are recognizing the potential economic benefits of legalizing cannabis and are adjusting their regulations accordingly.

Expanding internationally can be beneficial for companies as it allows them to tap into new markets and generate more revenue. However, this process can be challenging due to the complex regulations and cultural differences that exist between countries.

When it comes to the global cannabis market, success hinges on a business’s ability to adapt to different regulatory frameworks and cultural attitudes towards cannabis. Additionally, companies must understand the various preferences for cannabis consumption across different markets.

To excel in this kind of environment, companies should form strategic partnerships with local entities and develop an understanding of cultural nuances. By doing so, businesses can take advantage of opportunities for knowledge exchange and innovation. This will allow for the development of best practices on a global scale.

Investment Landscape

The cannabis industry continues to attract attention from investors seeking high-growth opportunities. Despite this, the changing investment backdrop puts a greater emphasis on financial stability, operational efficiency, and profitability.

Investors prefer firms with strong management, governance structures, and sustainable growth. Showing fiscal responsibility and adaptability is key to securing bigger investments as the industry matures.

Cannabinoid Research and Innovation

The ongoing research into cannabinoids and their potential therapeutic applications is fueling innovation within the cannabis industry. Beyond the well-known THC and CBD, scientists are exploring the therapeutic benefits of lesser-known cannabinoid. This is opening avenues for product development.

New formulations that target specific medical conditions are emerging. This wave of innovation not only expands the product offering but also contributes to the overall credibility of cannabis as a legitimate and beneficial medical option.

Environmental Sustainability

Sustainability has become a central focus for cannabis businesses as they address concerns about the environmental impact of cultivation and production processes. Many consumers pay attention to the carbon footprint of the products they consume. This awareness shapes purchasing decisions. As a result, companies are implementing eco-friendly practices, from energy-efficient cultivation facilities to biodegradable packaging.

A Final Look at the Legal Cannabis Industry Trends

The legal cannabis industry is currently experiencing a lot of changes in 2024. There are regulatory changes, market expansion, technological advancements, and shifting consumer preferences that are affecting the industry. The DEA might potentially reschedule cannabis, which would provide relief from Section 280e. In addition, the industry’s growth has broader social and economic implications, which adds layers of complexity and opportunity.

For businesses to succeed in this dynamic landscape, they need to be adaptable, prioritize sustainability and social equity, and leverage technological innovations. As the legal cannabis sector continues to mature, it’s important to engage in strategic planning, regulatory awareness, and a commitment to responsible business practices.

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