Cannabis is likely to be available nationwide in the United States in just a few years, at least one industry analyst believes. And the head of one of North America’s biggest marijuana companies says it could eventually be competing with alcohol on ordinary store shelves for the dollars of growing numbers of people looking for another social lubricant.
Cannabis industry analyst Sumit Mehta, CEO of Mazakali and a consultant on the emerging cannabis industry, and Bruce Linton, CEO of the Canadian marijuana company Canopy Growth, opened the Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition Thursday in New York with rosy forecasts for broadening social, legal and political acceptance of the plant.
Mehta noted a project he recently was involved with that attempted to compare the speed of expansion in the cannabis industry to several other industries that saw meteoric growth. It appears to have grown faster than almost all – with the exception being how quickly the country adopted internet use.
“So the only thing Americans want more than cannabis is wifi,” Mehta said.
Mehta predicted that cannabis could be fully legal across the United States by 2021, noting a broader acceptance among the population and the astonishing pace at which more and more jurisdictions have moved to make marijuana legal, either for medical purposes or recreational. Mehta said in addition to the 30 states that allow medical use and the nine that allow non-medical cannabis, 22 states have legislation pending, he said.
And, Mehta said, it is becoming “politically unfeasible to oppose legislation” to legalize it.
The industry’s broadening acceptance by the “establishment” that has long been uncomfortable with it is apparent in the experience of Canopy Growth, which last week became the first company that actually produces marijuana to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
“It’s credibility,” Linton said in an interview about the milestone.
Some analysts have said the industry seems to have reached a critical point, where acceptance has snowballed, and is picking up at a faster rate. Linton agreed with that.
“A year and a half ago nobody in their right mind would have called NYSE and said, ‘Can we list our weed company?'” Linton said.
There’s still some discomfort, for sure, in the pinstriped world of Wall Street, though, Linton noted. Canopy Growth executives weren’t invited to ring the opening bell at the exchange, as new companies often are.
“They’re not quite ready to have us ring the bell,” Linton said. That, he said, was like, “So I’m your girlfriend, but I can’t meet your friends.”
Linton said he foresees a day when people in the United States will enter a store and see bottles of wine and liquor on one side, and bottles of cannabis products on the other side. Soon, people will buy both. And, Linton predicted, many of those may eventually switch when they realize the cannabis doesn’t make them sleepy like the alcohol, doesn’t give them a hangover, and doesn’t have the calories of liquor, beer or wine.
“I don’t know how disruptive cannabis will be to alcohol,” Linton said. “For a lot of us in the room, to whom the promise of no calories matters, well, I’m in.”
Canopy Growth said the alcohol industry is very concerned about the possible disruptive nature of the growing acceptance of cannabis.
“There’s a whole bunch of booze guys sneaking around doing analytics,” Linton said. Investors ask alcohol companies, “‘What’s your strategy on cannabis?’ To say, ‘We have a committee,’ probably causes your share price to go down.”
Mehta cited industry growth figures that match the growth in social acceptance. The industry claims to have a 27 percent growth rate over the last year, which Mehta noted means it is doubling in size every 32 months.