This has been a transformational year for the cannabis industry.
Within the U.S., despite the federal government holding firm on its belief that marijuana is a Schedule I drug, and therefore treated as an illicit substance, plenty of major advancements were made. Two new states (Utah and Missouri) voted to legalize medical pot, while Vermont and Michigan gave the green light to recreational weed. That's now 32 states that have approved medical cannabis in some capacity, 10 of which also allow adult consumption.
We also witnessed the Food and Drug Administration approve the very first cannabis-derived drug in June. Following a review by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), GW Pharmaceuticals' Epidiolex was given the least restrictive classification possible (Schedule V).
But the biggest victory in U.S. cannabis history might just be the signing of the Farm Bill by President Trump this past Thursday, Dec. 20. The Farm Bill, interestingly enough, was championed by Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, who last week rejected an amendment that would have allowed financial institutions to offer basic banking services to weed companies in the U.S. without the fear of criminal and/or financial penalties from the federal government.
The $867 billion Farm Bill is designed to provide billions of dollars in aid to farmers who've been hurt by the trade war between the U.S. and China. It notably legalizes the production and sales of industrial hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) derived from the hemp plant. CBD is the nonpsychoactive cannabinoid best known for its perceived medical benefits.
Hemp currently has a number of industrial uses in clothing, paper, paint, insulation, and animal feed. But it's the fact that the hemp plant has very little tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) -- the cannabinoid responsible for getting a user high -- and a high content of CBD that's so exciting. According to the Brightfield Group, the CBD market (this includes all types of CBD, not just from the hemp plant) is projected to grow by 147% per annum between 2018 and 2022, leading to a $22 billion market in a few short years. This, therefore, allows cannabis businesses to get their foot in the door nationally by producing and selling hemp-based CBD products.
To be clear, CBD from the cannabis plant is still classified as a regulated substance by the DEA. However, hemp is no longer to be associated with marijuana, and therefore hemp-based CBD isn't a controlled substance.
It'll certainly be interesting to see how the U.S. and Canadian cannabis industries respond to the Farm Bill becoming law.