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Under the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rules, all drugs containing CBD, a Schedule I substance, require the agency’s approval. In June 2018, the agency also approved a CBD, marijuana-derived drug for the first time. GW Pharmaceuticals’ (GWPH) Epidiolex was placed in the least restrictive Schedule V of the Controlled Substances Act by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which means it has a low potential for abuse.
New Frontier Data estimates the market for CBD derived from hemp will grow from a $390 million-dollar market in 2018 to a $1.3 billion market—or 3.3x—by 2022. Brightfield Group says the hemp CBD market can reach as much as $22 billion by 2022. Defending its lofty prediction, Brightfield's managing director Bethany Gomez said, "We are a team of highly conservative analysts and we did not take this lightly – I honestly believe that these are conservative numbers. We have no rose-colored glasses in terms of the bizarre and challenging regulatory framework that surrounds this industry, it will always be two steps forward, one step back. There are sure to be some problematic regulations and bumps along the way. But there is too much momentum, too much demand, and too much potential for this industry not to explode."
Technology is also shaping the industry. Weed delivery company Eaze has raised $37 million and is reportedly valued at $300 million. It recently announced it is creating a platform to ship CBD products to 41 states. On-demand marijuana and cannabis delivery service Dutchie raised $3 million in 2018 from the venture capital firms of rapper Snoop Dogg and basketball player Kevin Durant among others.
President Joe Biden has expressed that he wants marijuana decriminalized as well as having the criminal records of those convicted of possession of the drug expunged. Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris was one of the co-sponsors of a bill called the Marijuana Justice Act introduced by Senator Cory Booker, which decriminalizes marijuana. Harris has expressed support of expunging convictions for those caught with marijuana and calls out for a path toward decriminalization and legalization.
A total of 35 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, 16 of which allow adults to legally use the substance for recreational use as of April 2021. And that number may continue to rise, as more people are accepting the idea of legalizing marijuana across the United States.
Since the explosion of marijuana products is almost certain, experts are now wondering what the industry might look like. Will large corporations come to dominate it and flood the market with a cheap and generic product? Ryan Stoa, a professor of law at Concordia University and the author of Craft Weed: Family Farming and the Future of the Marijuana Industry told The Verge this will be difficult because of the variety of strains available. Another factor he discussed was the consumer base's interest in locally-made or locally-produced artisanal products.
The FDA and CBD: Softening Stance?
Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced he will not go after marijuana companies operating in states where the plant is legal. He also said the current discrepancy between state and federal law is “untenable” and needs to be fixed. He supports a federal law that prohibits marijuana everywhere.
As Democrats have control of both the House and the Senate as well as the presidency, marijuana policy reform advocates are hopeful legislative change could occur on the federal level soon. Politico pointed out that, in 2019, 296 members of Congress (68%) represent the 33 states with at least medical marijuana, which means there are sufficient votes to pass long-awaited bills. There are already several bills in the new Congress pertaining to marijuana.