Even the most prosperous companies have had their work cut out for them this year, as the pandemic hit the global economy, spurring volatility on an unimaginable scale.
Yet, in the often-paradoxical world of business, some industries have emerged from the crisis in a favourable position.
And it looks like cannabis is among them.
2020 has been a breakthrough year of progress for the cannabis industry, as countries around the world — including Mexico and parts of the US — have advanced legislation on the drug and invested heavily in the research and development of cannabis-based products.
And on the consumer side, there has been a surge of demand for cannabis products, particularly CBD, which has enjoyed growing popularity among users seeking to ease the stress caused by the pandemic.
America’s presidential election also turned out in favour of cannabis, with the president-elect stating he will seek to reform cannabis legislation at a federal level. This intention has seen a rapid rise of cannabis businesses on the stock market, with a rush of investment into the sector on the back of Biden’s win. And, of course, voters in multiple US states backed the relaxation of cannabis laws, paving the way for a wider and more open market.
Major pharmaceuticals have taken notice of the increasingly lucrative emerging industry and are eagerly financing their move into the space. This has been driven by forecasts that the UK’s market alone will be worth up to $1.29bn by 2024.
More ambitious investors are even looking towards newer parts of the sector, such as the emerging synthetic market, whereby CBD is produced artificially in a lab, much like the majority of vitamins on today’s market.
New CBD production techniques such as synthesis and yeast fermentation can produce purer CBD without violating UK law through the presence of other illegal cannabinoids, and also avoid the risk of contamination with pesticides and soil-based compounds. An increasing number of synthetic brands are therefore coming to the UK market, including Biosportart, which caters to athletes.
The launch of such synthetic gel is notable, because existing plant-based products can easily fall afoul of strict WADA compliance rules, which prohibits THC and other cannabinoids. The opportunities for synthetic products are therefore only going to increase as demand grows for reliable, pure, and high-quality CBD.
And it is not just the corporations who will benefit. On its expected trajectory, when compared to similar countries, the UK could see a substantial number of new jobs as a result of the cannabis industry. These will be wide-ranging roles of varying skill levels, from researchers, farmers and production workers to accountants, lawyers, and lab technicians.
In the context of the pandemic and the potential implications of Brexit, such new employment streams are something to be welcomed. As legislation develops and more opportunities for businesses in the sector arise, the industry will only continue to expand.
The story of 2021 could be the UK emerging as a global leader in the research and development of cannabis extract products. But to fully realise that potential, there is an urgent need to address the outdated political discourse surrounding the drug.
Current regulations are strict in requirements, but very loosely enforced, creating a two-tier market supplied by companies that can either afford to obtain full compliance or choose to simply ignore the rules. In 2021, rules on cannabinoids and mandated third-party testing must be clarified, to give consumers greater confidence in the safety and efficacy of the products on the market. This would also avert the risk of a “Big Pharma” monopoly, as the current restrictions in place favour large companies.
As we head into a new year, the government would do well to rethink its outdated attitudes, invest in this lucrative industry, and make the playing field as level as possible. It’s time to give this Covid-proof industry the green light.
Main image credit: Getty