2020 was a rough year for almost every industry outside of mask and toilet paper production — and for Colorado’s cannabis industry, which experienced a year of explosive revenue growth and progress at both the legislative and social levels.
Not only did 2020’s cannabis sales smash previous years’ records, but Gov. Jared Polis also signed a bill into law offering mass pardons for cannabis felons; the state legally defined “social equity” in Colorado’s cannabis industry; banks can now more easily loan cannabis businesses money; and out-of-state residents can finally work in the state’s industry.
By all measures, it was a good year for cannabis in the Centennial State. Now, Colorado’s cannabis industry is poised to grow even more behind that momentum and all eyes are eagerly looking to 2021. So what’s next? What can people look forward to in cannabis this year in Colorado?
To start, as of Jan. 1, recreational marijuana delivery became a legal business enterprise throughout the state. HB19-1234 was first passed in 2019 and legalized medical marijuana delivery — but it stipulated that recreational delivery wouldn’t be a legal option until 2021. Now that time has come, and soon cannabis users will be able to have their favorite dank delivered right to their door. Municipalities still must individually vote to approve this new service option. So far, only one has given it the green light, although more municipalities are sure to follow suit. Late in 2020, Aurora approved licenses for delivery exclusively to social equity applicants (those in low economic areas or who have been adversely affected by the war on drugs) for the first three years.
Coloradans can also expect to see the fight for social equity in the cannabis industry continue. Nonprofits like the Color of Cannabis are putting greater pressure on lawmakers to remove the barriers of entry that have kept black and Latino communities iniquitously barred from participating in Colorado’s legal market.
While 2020’s expungement bill (HB-1424) and the bill defining social equity (HB20-1424) were both great strides in levelling the playing field in the cannabis industry for minorities, there is a lot more that can still be done, according to Sarah Woodson, the founder of the Color of Cannabis. Activists like Woodson are working with lawmakers to develop and pass more social equity bills like these in 2021, to help give those communities negatively affected by the drug war a firmer leg up into the legal cannabis industry.
“Hopefully [this] year we’ll be working on a financing bill,” Woodson says. “And we’ll be doing a lot of local lobbying to try to get people to allow these social equity opportunities for delivery and hospitality.”
Beyond legislation, Coloradans will also likely start to see new technologies changing the game on both the production and consumer ends of the market. New tools like Green Mill’s Supercritical Co2 botanical extractors aim to make cannabis extraction safer, faster and far easier, and will make entry into the oil production business a much more achievable goal.
“The real victors in this will, of course, be artisan extract producers who will discover a newfound ability to make high-quality products that are consistent and safe,” says Jesse Turner, the director of R&D at Green Mill.
In turn, that will give consumers more options as the market surges with new brands and products, and will raise the competitive bar for quality at the same time. New extraction technologies like this will undoubtedly change the market for THC and CBD oils in 2021.
And finally, cannabis vending machines are also likely to become more commonplace this year. One such machine, designed by analytics startup company Anna, is already in use at Strawberry Fields dispensary in Pueblo and more will undoubtedly debut throughout 2021 now that they’re legal. These will increase customers’ access to cannabis while also reducing person-to-person interactions — making buying your weed as COVID-safe as buying a candy bar.
There’s a lot to be excited about in the cannabis industry this year. Not only does it seem that the social, legal and financial levies surrounding it are breaking one House Bill at a time, but the technology for and access to cannabis, are also making exponential bounds.