Is it time for mainstream retail to get into the legal weed business?
Many politicians across the U.S. no longer see the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational issues as a red or blue issue. The only color they see is green — the prospect of dollars rolling into state coffers at a time when the pandemic has siphoned off tax revenues.
Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota this week gave the thumbs up to measures legalizing the sale of cannabis for recreational use in their states. That brings the total of states with legal recreational weed up to 15.
“This historic set of victories will place even greater pressure on Congress to address the glaring and untenable conflicts between state and federal laws when it comes to cannabis legalization,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a political advocacy group lobbying for the legalization of cannabis on a national level.
Politico reports that one-third of Americans, around 93 million, now live in states where cannabis is legal for sale to adults 21 and older. It remains illegal under federal law, which has posed a number of legal and banking challenges for companies operating in the category. The same report spoke to the expected domino effect from states that have legalized cannabis. New York and Pennsylvania, for example, are expected to follow New Jersey’s lead in changing their laws, as well.
The pandemic has played a role in boosting the sales from dispensaries, medical and recreational, with many states labeling the businesses as essential retail as citizens were asked to stay at home. Online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery have all grown substantially this year.
Chris Mellilo, vice president of retail for Curaleaf, the largest integrated legal marijuana grower and retailer in the U.S. told RetailWire in July that the pandemic “has absolutely changed everything we do. The silver lining there is it has fast-forwarded everything we needed to do, which is catch up to more traditional expectations of retail.”
Curaleaf currently operates 93 dispensaries in 23 states with 22 cultivation and 30 processing sites across the country. The company, whose initial focus was on medical marijuana, has made changes to its dispensaries to make them feel less clinical and warmer to customers as states have approved cannabis for recreational use.
Mainstream retailers have so far stayed away from legal marijuana, although as Esquire reports, some brewers have begun exploring the potential entries into the category with non-alcoholic THC drinks.
- Clean Sweep for All Five Marijuana Reform Campaigns – Marijuana Policy Project
- 1 in 3 Americans now lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal – Politico
- Here Are All the States That Have Legalized Weed in the U.S. – Esquire
- BrainTrust Live: Future Visions for Cannabis Retailing – RetailWire/LinkedIn
- Pandemic ‘fast-forwarded everything’ for nation’s largest cannabis retailer – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think it is time for mainstream retail store operators and/or consumer brands to get into the marijuana business? What companies or types of companies do you think make the best fit?