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Cannabis Reform Wins Big On Election Day, Bodes Well For Weed Industry

November 4, 2020 2:31 pm
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Cannabis Reform Wins Big On Election Day, Bodes Well For Weed Industry

As the nation awaits final results for the U.S. Presidential election, it can be said with emphatic certainty that cannabis reform won on Nov. 3.

Cannabis ballot initiatives passed in five states — New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota, Mississippi and Arizona.

That bodes well for the industry going forward.

Jason Wilson at ETF Managers Group — which runs the world's largest cannabis ETF, ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSE:MJ) — says that a domino effect is likely to pick up in the Northeast.

He expects Pennsylvania and New York to quickly follow suit after New Jersey passed its adult use ballot question with nearly 67% support.

"It's a virtual certainty that the Garden State will be attracting out-of-state dollars," Wilson says.

He also believes the future looks positive regardless of whichever leader emerges — Republican President Donald Trump or his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

"In 2021, I would assume there will be talk of that legislation moving forward," Wilson says, should Biden win the presidency. "Whatever legislation comes in very likely has to include social equity and social justice provisions as well."

Biden's plan focuses on decriminalization, which Weedmaps VP of government relations Bridget Hennessey says will help for justice reform.

However, it does not address all concerns.

"[Decriminalization] will not solve the access to capital need, or the larger social equity and economic growth potential needs of the industry," Hennessey says. "Only a legal marketplace does that."

Two years ago, President Trump expressed support for new marijuana legislation backed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). But, Wilson says, Trump remains more mum on the subject and he does not see a second term being a rebuttal to ongoing cannabis reform.

"In the past four years, the country's legal cannabis sales have expanded more than at any other time," he says. "There also has been a tremendous influx of capital and investor interest in the industry."

Pre-Election Day Optimism Comes To Fruition

Christine De La Rosa, CEO and co-founder of The People's Dispensary in Portland, Oregon, cited the economy as a driving force for the reform.

"A year ago, I would say some [state initiatives] would fail, but with the flailing economy today, I believe that many states are looking for a solution, and cannabis is it," she says.

Related link: NORML's Executive Director Talks Cannabis Ballot Questions In Mississippi, South Dakota

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, each state showed support for cannabis with fundraising efforts being a major positive sign.

"Monetary contributions in support of those measures have far exceeded contributions in opposition for each state," Jennifer McGrath, the former elected city attorney for Huntington Beach, California, told Benzinga. 

And while many in the industry voiced concerns over Mississippi's dueling medical cannabis vote, McGrath was mostly confident that the advocate-backed Initiative 65 would pass.

Surveys heading into the election showed overwhelming support, and the initiative ultimately passed with a 74% majority.

Montana and Arizona also passed their adult use initiatives with majorities between a reported 56 and 59%.

Related link: Why Election Night Could Be Historic Yet Quirky Day For Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization

What's Next After A Huge Night For Cannabis?

The work is far from over for states and their newly legal markets.

South Dakota enters into uncharted territory, as it must implement a medical and adult use market at the same time after voters approved both measures — with 69% approval for medical and 53% for adult use.

In New Jersey, legislators must now pass a law, which has held the state up in previous years. However, lawmakers were reportedly confident of the result and worked on the bill as the election approached.

With states letting their feelings be known, it may be time for the federal government to act.

Hennessey said that the results show that the federal government has to embrace the growing sector as a job creator and force for change in society.

"If we want this industry to grow, prosper and become a part of mainstream American commerce, we have got to remove the often insurmountable roadblocks the industry currently faces," Hennessey says, calling for banking and credit opportunities.