From the next market to legalize adult-use marijuana to New York’s social equity licensing and low-dose THC, MJBizDaily left no stone unturned during its first installment of the 2024 LinkedIn Live series.
Chris Casacchia, a veteran business journalist who covers the retail cannabis sector for MJBizDaily, performed a series of live interviews with industry experts including:
- Karen O’Keefe (based in Denver), Marijuana Policy Project.
- Matt Lamers (Toronto), MJBizDaily.
- Kerry Hinkle (Lexington, Kentucky), U.S. Hemp Roundtable.
- Leili Fatehi (Minneapolis), Blunt Strategies.
- Jeremy Unruh (Chicago), PharmaCann.
- Sean McKenzie (New York City), NY for Social & Economic Equity.
O’Keefe, who is the director of state policies for Marijuana Policy Project, cited seven states during the livestream that might legalize adult-use marijuana in 2024.
Meanwhile, she described Virginia’s cannabis regulations as being “in this weird space, where it’s half-legal: It’s legal to possess, it’s legal to grow, but there are no regulated sales.”
“There’s a chance that Virginia could finish the job,” she said. “They have a new Legislature with a Democratic majority that looks to get it done, but the governor is not interested.
“So it remains to be seen if he would veto a bill if it lands on his desk.”
Lamers, the international editor at MJBizDaily, identified eight “countries to watch” for new, meaningful regulations and potential business opportunities.
He cautioned, however, that companies looking to import or export adult-use cannabis are likely to be waiting “years or decades” because such an action would require approval by the International Narcotics Control Board and the United Nations.
Kerry Hinkle, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable’s director of membership and public affairs, said that while the U.S. Farm Bill has been extended until Sept. 30, “any person in politics will tell you it’s not going to pass on Sept. 30.”
In addition to laying out the hemp industry’s priorities for the Farm Bill, he told LinkedIn Live attendees when agriculture experts do expect legislation to be passed.
Fatehi, a principal and partner at Blunt Strategies, said the widespread availability of low-dose THC products has created a loyal consumer base, which she hopes will follow those brands when Minnesota’s adult-use marijuana market launches.
“Folks have become loyal to certain brands, especially a lot of our local Minnesota-manufactured and -retailed brands,” she said.
“We’re going to have one of the most destigmatized and reasonably regulated rec marketplaces.”
Unruh, one of a handful of employees to launch multistate operator PharmaCann about 10 years ago, is now the company’s senior vice president of public and regulatory affairs.
He shared his experience watching the regulated marijuana industry expand across the United States
“Securing one of the five medical licenses in New York was one of the first things our company ever did,” Unruh explained.
“We had a six-month operational requirement. And that wasn’t the same operational requirement you saw in other states, which was, ‘Hey, have one plant in your cultivation center, and you will be operational in terms of complying with those timelines.’”
A decade after New York’s medical marijuana launch, McKenzie – a real estate agent, co-founder of NY for Social & Economic Equity and member of the New York CAURD Coalition – is working to ensure the state’s adult-use marijuana market is delivering on its promises of social equity.
“The intention of MRTA (the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act) is a really beautiful thing, it’s a great piece of legislation,” he said.
“But I think how you roll a market out … is a completely different thing.”