“From Illicit to Essential”: The Business of Cannabis In The Times of Covid-19

“From Illicit to Essential”: The Business of Cannabis In The Times of Covid-19

According to Leafly’s 2020 Annual Jobs Report released in February the legal cannabis industry is responsible for almost 250,000 full time American jobs. At the present time 33 states have laws and in place for medical cannabis use and 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult use. As the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving its mark on society both in the US and abroad we have seen cannabis proclaimed essential alongside businesses that provide necessities like grocery stores and pharmacies. The fact that every state with a regulated market has allowed continued access in some form is a testament to how far we’ve come. As of February 11th the New York State Department of Health showed that there are 113,755 patients that rely on medical cannabis to treat a number of qualifying conditions from chronic pain to PTSD. 


The current situation reinforces the need for cannabis legalization at the federal level. Because of its status as a Schedule I drug cannabis businesses are already faced with a number of challenges like reduced access to banking services and increased tax burden under 280E. Most recently as a result of this classification we’ve seen both direct and ancillary cannabis businesses declared ineligible for COVID-19 relief packages. This week Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced The Emergency Cannabis Small Business Health in the US House of Representatives that if passed would allow cannabis businesses to be included in future SBA relief. It is only fair that legal cannabis businesses that are responsible for generating billions of dollars of tax revenue get the support that they need, like other businesses to make it through these unprecedented trying times. One of the things that you can do to support the movement is to contact your representative to let them know that you support cannabis businesses receiving aid.


Another reality of cannabis prohibition in the age of COVID-19 is that not everyone has equal access and even today people of color are serving time for cannabis and other drug offenses at disproportionate rates. Despite making up 31.5% of the population Blacks and Latinos represent 46.9% of those incarcerated for drug offenses. The ACLU’s recently released report A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform highlights the fact that even today black people are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites even despite use at similar rates. With COVID-19 spreading through prisons at alarming rates, those serving time for non-violent drug crimes are facing what could amount to a death sentence. Organizations like The Last Prisoner Project are working hard to push for cannabis offenders to be released. 


The financial impact of COVID-19 may be one of the greatest impacts of the virus. With 26 million jobs disappearing in the last 5 weeks the effects have been widespread. Though no one has a crystal ball to predict when the economy will rebound, history over the past 150 years has shown that over the long run it will eventually come back. Although we may not have seen the worst of it over the short term the decline in the market has created an opportunity to invest in stocks like Tesla, Amazon, or Netflix at a discount. Americans all over the country are now receiving their $1,200 stimulus checks to help reduce the burden of coronavirus. While your first priority should be making sure that you have adequate money set aside for needs like food, shelter, and bills if you have money left over this may be a good opportunity to put some money away for the future. This is something you can accomplish regardless of your budget on platforms like Cash App and Robin Hood where you can invest in stocks in denominations as little as $1.


One things for certain, #cannabisisesential. Like the rest of the world the cannabis industry is feeling the impact of COVID-19 but now is as critical a time as ever to find your place and support the future of the industry. New businesses opportunities will be created by the need to adjust to the changes the virus has brought to society. I hope you’re taking this time to learn and strategize your post-coronavirus success. I hope you’re staying safe inside, keeping your hands clean, and smoking something good to get you through these trying times.


Tahir Johnson is the East Coast Business Development Manager at The National Cannabis Industry Association and a former investment advisor. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow @tahdiddy on Instagram and Twitter, or text me at (202) 871-8793 for more cannabis and investing insights. 



*This article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice. Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer

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