2018 a big year for legal pot
Portland, Oregon — The last year was a 12-month champagne toast for the legal marijuana industry as the global market exploded and cannabis pushed its way further into the financial and cultural mainstream.
Liberal California became the largest legal US marketplace, while conservative Utah and Oklahoma embraced medical marijuana. Canada ushered in broad legalization , and Mexico’s Supreme Court set the stage for that country to follow.
US drug regulators approved the first marijuana-based pharmaceutical to treat kids with a form of epilepsy, and billions of investment dollars poured into cannabis companies. Even main street brands like Coca-Cola said they are considering joining the party.
“I have been working on this for decades, and this was the year that the movement crested,” said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat working to overturn the federal ban on pot. “It’s clear that this is all coming to a head.”
With buzz building across the globe, the momentum will continue into 2019.
Luxembourg is poised to become the first European country to legalize recreational marijuana, and South Africa is moving in that direction. Thailand legalized medicinal use of marijuana on Tuesday, and other Southeastern Asian countries may follow South Korea’s lead in legalizing cannabidiol, or CBD. It’s a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana and hemp plants and used for treatment of certain medical problems.
“It’s not just the U.S. now. It’s spreading,” said Ben Curren, CEO of Green Bits, a San Jose, California, company that develops software for marijuana retailers and businesses.
Curren’s firm is one of many that blossomed as the industry grew. He started the company in 2014 with two friends.
Now, he has 85 employees, and the company’s software processes $2.5 billion in sales transactions a year for more than 1,000 U.S. retail stores and dispensaries.
Green Bits raised $17 million in April, pulling in money from investment firms including Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital. Curren hopes to expand internationally by 2020.
“A lot of the problem is keeping up with growth,” he said.
Legal marijuana was a $10.4 billion industry in the U.S. in 2018 with a quarter-million jobs devoted just to the handling of marijuana plants, said
Beau Whitney, vice president and senior economist at New Frontier Data, a leading cannabis market research and data analysis firm. There are many other jobs that don’t involve direct work with the plants but they are harder to quantify, Whitney said.
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