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People like predictions. It’s a sport everyone wins because, well, it takes a year for the results to come in. By then, no one remembers or follows up on the previous year’s forecast. Before I list my top 10 predictions for the cannabis and psychedelic communities in 2023, I’m going to take the bold step to review how I did last year. I was expecting to do badly but acting with enough confidence to border on arrogance as all clairvoyants must do. In 2002, 8 out of my 10 predictions were right. Not bad. Maybe I’m better at this than I thought.

I predicted post-COVID-19 public consumption lounges will open in California, Nevada, and Denver, thus beginning a new chapter for cannabis integration in society. I got that correct. Licenses were issued in Denver, California, and Nevada, which also has NuWu open now in Las Vegas and operated by Indigenous folks. I said the first pioneers of cannabis hospitality businesses will emerge in hotels and resorts, and I got that right. While this trend is still in the early stages, I expect this category will double this year. Hemp cosmetics, clothing, and fashion products became more prevalent in pop culture, including luxury brands and celebrity endorsements, which makes me right again. I was particularly impressed with cosmetics and shoes, like sustainable sneaker brand Organic Garments.

I said Mexico would legalize cannabis by the end of year with a framework, but unfortunately I was wrong, not even close. In fact, I’ll be shocked if it happens this year. However, I was correct regarding forward motion in Germany, legalizing cannabis by the end of the year in concept but not framework. It’s going to take a while to get the latter in place. Last year, the vicissitudes of this industry continued growing at an even greater speed as more jurisdictions and countries legalized. There was no meaningful federal reform in the U.S.A.

Additionally, corporate cannabis continued to resist competition from the legacy market (see Florida). Legacy continued fighting for market share, competing with corporate cannabis (see New York). I was wrong when I predicted consumer demand for more products from craft/legacy/equity producers would gain market share…Maybe 2023 or 2024 will be the year. The seeds for progress were laid in 2022, but irrational optimism got the best of me.

There are advantages to being on OG: the marijuana rodeo becomes more familiar, situations repeat, trends revive, backlashes happen, new trends emerge. Once you’ve seen a few cycles over decades, your ability to forecast becomes more educated. So here are my top 10 predictions for 2023 with insights from fellow industry colleagues.

1. There will not be any meaningful federal reform in the U.S.A. in 2023 (i.e., Republicans + Biden = nothing). The Successful Canna-preneur Author JM Balbuena suggests it’ll be a long road, too: “Reform at the federal level will be a huge undertaking that will take considerable time and attention to implement,, which is why my recommendation would be to start the process in three phases: 1) Deschedule and Decriminalize, 2) Address Social Equity, 3) Interstate Commerce.”

2. Psychedelic clinics and retreats will become more prevalent and mainstream as Oregon legalizes psilocybin, and the off-shore scene continues to develop in Jamaica and other places. DoubleBlind Co-founder Madison Margolin suggests we start identifying our standards, in order to make sure that those leading this market are responsible actors, behaving in integrity with the consciousness: “More interesting to me than the mere fact more retreats are popping up is what this all leads to: Will psychedelic therapies indeed become more accessible, or will they still be relegated to the economic elite or those with severe diagnoses? Who’s going to be profiting from this paradigm, and who will remain left in the shadows? What traditions will these retreats and clinics uphold, and will we finally see a legitimate and honored blend of western and indigenous wisdom? There aren’t firm answers to these questions, but fleshing out answers as time wears on will determine the next chapter in the course of psychedelic history.”

3. Educating end-users on “set and setting” will become the big theme for psychedelic public education as more people find themselves ‘tripping face’ in the wrong place. DoubleBlind CEO Shelby Hartman believes it’s important to lead a responsible discussion on the benefits and best practices of psychedelics: “Just as “don’t drink and drive” is an obvious part of the conversation around alcohol, harm reduction practices like a positive set and setting before tripping is an important tenet of safe psychedelic use that should be part of the mainstream conversation.”

4. The crisis of capital will continue for entrepreneurs and companies in the cannabis industry. On The Revel Co-founder Jacobi Holland knows that there’s a big rush to enter everytime a “new” market opens up, then there is an inevitable correction in every market: “Most early investors did not and do not fully understand the industry and how it is going to shake out. Assumptions on COGs, industry dynamics and current regulations and speculation about future stage and federal regulations, make it almost impossible for a lot of investors to truly anticipate which companies and strategies to support.”

5. The California cannabis industry will continue to get worse before it gets better. More bold reform needs to happen for the industry to thrive in my home state. POSIBL Chief Revenue Officer Max Rudsten maintains that California failed immensely at building a streamlined and scalable excise tax structure that effectively diversified risks and the distributors were left holding the bag: “The move to have retailers handle this tax obligation directly will influence much better business behavior going forward but the road will be weary and volatile. Of the 1000+ retailers that exist in the state, maybe 2-300 of them are sophisticated in managing their books and cash flow. The remaining 80+% of retailers will have to fall in line quickly or will risk racking up excise tax bills with the state that could put them out of business. California is in desperate need of MORE good paying retailers, not less. This excise tax shift is sure to create continued downward pressure on pricing as retailers calibrate their new margins and get a handle on cash flow. Hold on tight!”

6. Former prisoners and impacted individuals will really start to open cannabis dispensaries and businesses all over America in 2023. The beginning of the beginning will finally get started. LOWD CEO Jesce Horton believes that by doing the right thing, we can help our market thrive: “The essential feature of capitalism is to make profit. Opening our market to more diverse players, especially those most targeted by cannabis arrests, brings more innovation and community involvement, and stifles the illegal market. It is simply the most capitalistic thing for us to do.”

7. The country of Colombia will legalize adult-use cannabis and set up a framework for a domestic industry and for exports globally. El Planteo Founder Javier Hasse has created the most-read cannabis media outlet in the Spanish-speaking world, and keeps a close eye on the industry: “Colombia has been playing around with the idea of legalizing adult-use cannabis, as well as other substances, for quite some time now. The long-standing “will they or won’t they” situation (reminiscent of Rachel and Ross) might be unlocked by the election of a new left-wing president, Gustavo Petro. While Petro’s election bodes well for these initiatives, it doesn’t seem like 2023 will be the year we’ll see full legalization, although the process could start to gain traction throughout the year.”

8. International industrial hemp acreage for fiber, fuel, food, and building materials will triple over 2022. WAFBA Co-founder Morris Beegle sees endless possibilities in hemp, but does not think international hemp acreage for grain and fiber is going to triple: “We have (hopefully) seen the bottom when it comes to the hemp industry’s woes, driven by the cannabinoid market and the FDA’s lack of regulation. That said, the future of industrial hemp fiber and grain markets, acreage, and opportunities will begin to look brighter in 2023 and continue that trend for several years to come.”

9. Prohibition 2.0 against unlicensed operators will go into full effect in 2023 in New York and California, as legacy markets continue to decimate licensed operators and MSOs (who will lobby for more enforcement). Journalist Mary Carreón believes that the state governments’ blanket approach to taking down unlicensed operators doesn’t address the root cause of why many legal markets are floundering: “The issue isn’t how many illicit market operators there are. The issue is how the state laws are written. Between the massive barrier to entry just to participate in the market, the oppressive tax structure, the caps on retail licenses, and the fact most state-level cannabis frameworks aren’t designed to benefit small businesses, it’s OBVIOUS why legal markets aren’t working; it’s OBVIOUS why traditional market operators aren’t running to get licensed, and why the illicit market dominates the legal market in size. Targeting unlicensed operators, which is likely to happen a lot more in 2023, is irresponsible and, truthfully, just a Drug War strategy to funnel people into the prison system.”

10. Florida will remain a medical cannabis state for the foreseeable future. Vicente Sederberg LLP Partner Sally Kent Peebles, Esq. is co-chair of the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee, and also leads her firm’s Florida practice: “Florida citizens will finally put marijuana prohibition in its rearview mirror in November 2024 when voters will (likely) be voting on the current legalization effort put forth by Smart & Safe Florida. Smart and Safe Florida’s ballot initiative would allow for the adult use of marijuana and has thus far been heavily financially supported by Florida’s largest medical marijuana treatment center Trulieve. A poll from early 2022 shows that three-fourths of Floridians support the legalization of marijuana, and as long as the ballot initiative continues with its current momentum, I think we will finally see this critical and welcome change in November 2024.”

Bonus: Cookies will open a shop on the moon! There you have it, that’s my crystal ball predictions for the new year. I imagine the list has some ash stains on it from joints being smoked while writing or perhaps the list smells like stinky green buds, probably both, but only time will tell if these predictions are worth the (hemp) paper they were written on. Happy New Year, everybody!

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