Marijuana legalization momentum unstoppable, industry leaders say

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The “green wave” of marijuana legalization will continue to spread across the United States in wake of the clean sweep of ballot initiative victories on Election Day, industry stakeholders said Thursday.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers and Green Thumb Industries CEO Ben Kovler, appearing on a post-election panel during MJBizCon’s Passholder Days Forum, agreed that support for marijuana legalization has firmly crossed party lines but that politicians need to better listen to the people.

Florida-based Trulieve and Illinois-based Green Thumb are two of the more successful multistate marijuana operators in the U.S.

Even if sweeping changes don’t occur on the federal level in the near future, “we’re going to continue to see this green wave occur on a state level,” Rivers said.

Rivers and Kovler offered other insights during the panel discussion:

  • New Jersey could “flip the switch” to launch an adult-use market built on the back of existing medical marijuana operators, Kovler said. One problem though: “There’s not enough supply for the demand” – yet. Adult-use legal markets in neighboring states such as New York and Pennsylvania are all but inevitable, he said.
  • Voter approval last week of a liberal medical marijuana initiative in Mississippi “potentially could have policy shock waves across the South,” Rivers said.
  • Access to capital remains a huge hurdle to new operators, including minority-owned businesses, to fully participate in the industry, Rivers and Kovler agreed. While social equity programs, including incubator loans, in states such as Illinois will help, federal cannabis banking reform as well as access to Small Business Administration loans remains critical.
  • Within two years, marijuana companies will be publicly traded on the major American stock exchanges and the U.S. will be the clear world leader in the marijuana industry, Rivers predicted.