2022 has been an incredible year for the cannabis industry. As many states entered or expanded within their regulated market, we continue to see cannabis define its’ place in national commerce. Multi-State Operators (MSOs) have personally seen incredible expansion, particularly as vertically integrated entities in new states further developing a uniform retail experience for guests. Colorado, the original innovators in the regulated market, experienced their tenth year of adult use and reportedly, some decline in sales as the shift of cannabis tourism expands to other areas. The overall conversation about cannabis has shifted and the perception of both users and operators are becoming more widely accepted. As we approach the impending year 2023, we are happy to reflect on how we got here in 2022.
As stated, more and more MSOs have been spreading through the nation, delivering a reliable experience and array of offerings to guests in multiple regions. Green Thumb Industries, for example, announced openings and expansions in Virginia, Minnesota, and Florida in 2022 alone. With this expansion and multiple others with MSOs like them comes the more traditional retail chain approach with a similar user experience across any location. While naturally staff are trained to accommodate region specific products and regulations, they will still be delivering customer service that speaks to their brand’s core values and processes. Not only does this create some user experience reliability in the industry, but this inevitably also creates some user trust in the cannabis industry as a whole. When another brand breaks ground, it establishes that cannabis is here to stay and is accessible and is trusted in that region. Earning the trust and respect of each community one by one feeds into the overall acceptance nationally of the industry itself, and that has been no small feat in the last year.
On that note, as the MSOs and overall licensed market expands into new regions and increasingly desirable areas, the notion of cannabis tourism has begun to spread farther and farther. Colorado has been a longstanding presence in the cannabis world as a role model for abolishing cannabis prohibition. In 2015 (the relative earlier days of regulated cannabis), it was reported that “that there are more dispensaries in Colorado than Starbucks, McDonald’s and 7-Elevens combined.”Since then, the numbers have naturally inflated, and Colorado dispensaries are a staple of nearly every area of commerce in the state. However, in recent years the Colorado cannabis market has been met with decline and is largely looking towards both the pandemic as well as expanded cannabis tourism as the culprit. As areas like California which are already highly trafficked tourism areas develop their cannabis culture and communities, tourists seeking local flower and processed products are not regulated to only flying into Denver. Recently, Nevada has also passed a motion to allow for cannabis consumption lounges which are looking to open as early as 2023. On the East Coast, New York is beginning their cannabis program with social equity measures and even preparing for cannabis delivery. While the progress is exciting, it does allow for travelers to have a wider array of cannabis-friendly areas to discover on their journeys and reduces the need to make specific trips for cannabis tourism destinations.
Partially due to the rise of MSOs and the overall presence of cannabis operators across America and in large part due to the incredible activism and work done by operators and those within the cannabis community, mainstream audiences are not only speaking more on cannabis but are looking at it with a positive light. In 2022, Forbes magazine published a story about Berner, the CEO of the Cookies cannabis empire as its’ cover story. The story covered Berner’s huge success in regulated cannabis as well as his family’s passion for entrepreneurship. Aspiring Louisiana Senate candidate Gary Chambers released an ad campaign where he smokes a blunt while discussing the issue of BIPOC “being four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people”. The gas station and convenience store operator Circle K is reportedly working with Rise Dispensaries, a retail branch of Green Thumb Industries, to roll out ten medical dispensaries within select Circle K locations in Florida. All these instances, as well as countless others, have led to the overall welcoming of cannabis enterprises into the mainstream business world. That is creating a culture where cannabis is seen as more of a business as less of a taboo. When the stigma is removed, real progress can begin, and we are truly at the forefront of that movement.
2022 has been an incredible year for cannabis growth and acceptance. As those dedicated to progress were able to expand, those outside the industry are noticing the positive impact on jobs, local economy, and overall community that cannabis has been able to provide. Cannabis’s political progress has only been rivaled by its commercial progress and with a new year on the horizon, the future is looking bright.
We look forward to 2023 and all that’s to come from the licensed cannabis market. For more on the evolution of the industry, follow Akerna’s social pages.