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Legislative Report Projects $72 Billion Cannabis Industry By 2030

Maryland legislators received a new legislative report this week that projects the national market for legal marijuana could reach $72 billion by 2030. This is more than twice the market estimate of $32 million annually. However, the report shows that states which have legalized marijuana have not set clear goals for social equity and that national regulation of cannabis markets does not have a fair representation of Black-owned companies.

Lawmakers in Maryland are exploring how legalized adult-use cannabis would impact the state, where voters will decide on recreational marijuana legalization in this month’s general election. On Tuesday, the Maryland House of Delegates’ Cannabis Referendum and Legalization work group met virtually to assess a report on the nationwide cannabis regulation climate.

A $75 Billion Industry

Mathew Swinburne (associate director, Network for Public Health Law Eastern Region of Baltimore) prepared the report and presented it to the group. The information comes from New Frontier Data and projects steady growth in the national market as existing markets mature and legalization is expanded to more states. The projection projects a $72 billion market by 2030, up from $32 million in 2022. 

“We know that the cannabis industry is a profitable industry,” said Swinburne. “This is a new industry that is filled with economic opportunity and that opportunity is only growing,” he added. “Although this industry presents some significant economic opportunities, communities of color are missing out on this cannabis boom.”

Swinburne explained to the group that cannabis jobs rose from approximately 321,000 in 2020 up to around 428,000 in a year. The report notes, however that 81% are owned by whites and 58% have no employees from minority groups. 

The report states that efforts to improve diversity within the cannabis industry are inconsistent. Alaska, Maine and Montana are the only states to have legalized recreational cannabis. Oregon, Maine, Montana and Alaska do not have any social equity measures that would help increase equitable representation within the cannabis industry.

Swinburne highlighted some states’ approach to social equity, noting that Connecticut provides financial incentives for medical cannabis business owners to partner with new small or minority-owned businesses to provide assistance over a specified timeframe. Massachusetts offers easy access to the market, allowing delivery and courier operators to deliver cannabis products to customers. And in New York, regulators have created a $200 million fund to support social equity businesses and have prioritized those with past convictions for marijuana offenses for the state’s first 100 recreational cannabis dispensary licenses.

C.T., Delegate Chair of the House Economic Matters Committee Wilson of Charles County asked Swinburne about the impact of taxation in states that have legalized cannabis on the illegal market.

“That’s a definite challenge states are confronted with,” Swinburne replied. “If your goal is to decrease the share of the unlicensed market, you have to keep your licensed market competitive. It’s important to highlight with the tax revenue you get, there’s a moral obligation to use some of that for addressing the harms that were caused [in low-income communities].”

Senator Melony Griffith of Prince George’s County asked if any states that have legalized recreational marijuana had implemented policies, such as a disparity study, that was required “to produce evidence of their race concise remedies,” but Swinburne said the report did not assess that issue in its analysis.

Maryland voters to decide on legalizing marijuana

In next week’s midterm election, voters in Maryland will decide on Question 4, a referendum that would amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older beginning in July 2023. It also requires the legislature to adopt laws for marijuana use, distribution and regulation. 

A 2013 Maryland law makes marijuana legal in Maryland for medical use. Possession of 10g or less cannabis has been decriminalized since 2014. A recent poll shows that Question 4 is supported by the overwhelming majority of Maryland voters. The Washington PostThe University of Maryland voted 73% for the proposal.

Voter Tamara McKinney of Prince George’s County told Maryland Matters that she plans to vote in favor of Question 4, but said she hopes the launch of the state’s recreational marijuana program will provide resources for Black and brown communities and those who have been incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses.

“De-criminalizing it helps keep our men out of the [criminal justice] system,” she said. “But if it helps to keep them out the system, what are we doing to keep them out [of jail]? I want them to have more resources than just the ability to get high.”