In recent years, the cannabis industry has emerged as a powerful economic force, not just in America, but also globally. What was once a heavily stigmatized and underground market is now transitioning into a legitimate and booming sector, creating a significant economic impact that extends far beyond the fields, rooms, and greenhouses where the plant is cultivated. In this post, we explore how cannabis is transforming into an economic powerhouse by influencing industries, economies, and societies around the globe.
The changing perspective on cannabis can be attributed to the rising wave of legalization worldwide. As an increasing number of countries and states depart from historically restrictive policies, a more practical approach to recognizing the potential benefits of the plant is taking hold. This shift reflects evolving societal attitudes towards cannabis, emphasizing its medicinal and economic potential over the historically prevalent prohibitionist stance.
For example, Uruguay legalized adult-use cannabis in 2013 and Canada did the same in 2018. Colombia and Germany both legalized medical cannabis in 2016. The United States has seen waves of cannabis legalization at the state level, starting with the 1973 decriminalization of up to an ounce in Oregon. In 1996, California enacted legal protections for people with a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis. 2012 saw both Washington State and Colorado legalize adult-use cannabis. Ohio is the latest to legalize adult-use, bringing the number of “fully” legalized states to 24. These shifts in law have opened the floodgates for a burgeoning industry that shows no signs of slowing down.
One of the most tangible impacts of the cannabis industry's expansion is the creation of jobs. From cultivation and processing to retail and distribution, the entire cannabis supply chain has become a significant source of employment. Jobs in the sector range from highly specialized roles, such as master cultivators and cannabis pharmacists , to more traditional positions like sales and marketing professionals. In Missouri in 2022 alone, cannabis accounted for one out of every ten new jobs created.
The economic benefits also extend beyond job creation. Cannabis businesses are contributing to local economies by paying taxes, licensing fees, and investing in community development. The injection of capital into these areas stimulates economic growth, creating a ripple effect that boosts other industries, such as real estate, hospitality, and tourism.
Cannabis cultivation has also become a driving force behind agricultural innovation. As growers seek to optimize yields, improve quality, and minimize environmental impact, they are pushing the boundaries of traditional farming practices. The use of technology such as LED lighting, automated HVAC systems, and CRISPR targeted genomic editing is becoming increasingly prevalent in cannabis cultivation.
Furthermore, the move towards sustainable and eco-friendly practices within the industry is noteworthy. While there is still a long way to go, cultivators are adopting organic farming methods, utilizing renewable energy sources, and implementing water conservation measures. This commitment to sustainability not only aligns with growing consumer preferences but also positions the cannabis industry as a leader in environmentally conscious practices.
Beyond recreational use, the medicinal properties of cannabis have garnered significant attention, driving advancements in medical research and pharmaceutical development. Cannabinoids have shown promise in treating various medical conditions, including chronic pain, epilepsy, and even certain forms of cancer. This has led to the creation of FDA-approved cannabis-based drugs like Marinol and Epidolex. Additionally, in 2018, the Farm Bill legalized cannabis with less than 0.3% THC, leading to the creation of new, hemp-derived products.
As more countries recognize the therapeutic potential of cannabis, research initiatives are gaining momentum. This surge in scientific exploration not only enhances our understanding of the plant's medicinal properties but also opens doors for a greater understanding of ourselves. In November 2023, a study from a group of neurobiologists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico determined that cannabis consumers have a greater sense of empathy towards their fellow humans. The intersection of cannabis and healthcare is also giving rise to a new sector within the industry: cannabis nursing, a specialty practice now recognized by the American Nurses Association.
While the cannabis industry has made substantial strides in North America, its influence is not confined to the continent. Countries in Europe, Asia, and South America are also experiencing shifts in cannabis policies, with some opting for partial or complete legalization. The tiny European nations of Malta and Luxembourg legalized adult-use in 2021 and 2023, respectively. Furthermore, legalization in Thailand in 2022 has created over 6,000 dispensaries in little over a year. And the Costa Rican president, Chaves Robles, is urging his legislators to legalize adult-use to counter drug trafficking and take back the nation's existing $120 million a year market.
The transformation of cannabis from a taboo substance to a global force is underway, reshaping industries and economies alike. The shift towards legalization has unlocked the economic potential of cannabis, creating jobs, stimulating innovation, and contributing to sustainable practices. As more countries recognize the benefits of cannabis, the industry's impact is most likely to intensify, ushering in a new era of research, growth, and cultural acceptance on a worldwide scale. The cannabis revolution is a global phenomenon, fostering a sustained momentum that shows no signs of fading away.