28 cannabis predictions for 2021

Published on December 23, 2020
new year predictions, cannabis predictions
Our 2020 predictions went wrong for a bunch of obvious reasons. Regression to the mean is a beast. Let us proceed humbly, then. (Sudowoodo/iStock)

Just slightly better than a coin toss! Yikes. That’s how well Leafly News predicted the future, as written in 2020.

For obvious reasons, everyone’s best-laid plans got swept into history’s junk drawer—next to lawn darts, and those Easter Island statues.

Our most accurate 2020 predictions were both pessimistic and optimistic.

  • The sclerotic US Senate stymying descheduling. Boo.
  • Frickin’ legalization in the Dakotas. Wowza.

Last year, Leafly News made about 40 predictions: 22 came true; 18 didn’t, and 4 were inconclusive. That equals a 54.3% accuracy rate for 2020, down from 68% for 2019. We’ve been humbled.

Take our 2021 predictions with a gram of sativa—it’s time to peer deep into the 4th dimension.

Cannabis strains & products predictions

New stores and delivery services serve more legal consumers in more places than ever before; with five-ish new states setting up programs.

No strain surprises here: continued cultivar crossings of Cakes, and Gelato offspring like Runtz. And the Apples trend matures.

Rare cannabinoids advance in edibles: your CBG, your CBN, your Delta-8’s. … People gotta neuro-hack 2021.

Keep an eye out for Compound Genetics' ultra-potent, tasty Apples and Bananas, sold via Cookies. (David Downs/Leafly)
Keep an eye out for Compound Genetics’ ultra-potent, tasty Apples and Bananas, sold via Cookies. (David Downs/Leafly)

Mainstream celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow take even bigger stakes in tame lifestyle companies like CANN.

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Cannabis lounges are gonna be a tough ask coming off 2020’s pandemic restrictions. Don’t look for any to open until we have widespread coronavirus vaccine access in mid to late 2021.

CBD will march along, winning adherents due to its effectiveness. There’ll be new charlatans, scandals, and Big Pharma products.

Top strains of 2020: Runners-up to Strain of the Year

We won’t see a broad crackdown on CBD sales, but the FDA will continue to censor CBD companies for medical claims.

The FDA’s long-awaited rules on CBD will be delayed by the changeover in administration, with Biden appointees taking a hard look at the Trump team’s progress in 2020. Look for the release of the rules in late 2021.

Pot prices planning

We expect retail cannabis flower prices to remain strong in mature markets, amid heavy demand and constrained supplies in 2021.

In newly-opened states like Missouri the sky-high early-days prices will gradually fall to find their natural level as supply begins to catch up with demand.

Federal reform forecasting

We expect Congress to pass additional federal medical cannabis reform, like allowing greater research.

The two Georgia Senate races will be a 1-1 tie, with Republicans retaining the single seat they need to hold control of the Senate.

In Congress, the House will re-introduce and pass the MORE Act, but the Senate, with Mitch McConnell still in command, will continue to block consideration of the federal legalization bill.

The House will pass a federal cannabis business banking relief bill in 2021. McConnell will block it in the Senate.

Federal descheduling will not happen in 2021. Prove us wrong, America. We can do better.

State-level soothsaying

Federal change almost always percolates up from the states. Wethink the New York State Legislature, shamed by New Jersey’s move to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2020 (and thinking about all that NY tax money going to NJ), will finally pass a marijuana legalization bill this year.

The Connecticut Legislature will consider and pass a limited form of legalization this year. Look for immediate decriminalization but a long-delayed rollout of actual cannabis sales.

The state of New Mexico’s legislature will consider adult-use legalization, and 2021’s the year. You can do it, New Mexico! Get that tax revenue.

With a big push from the governor and lieutenant governor, the Pennsylvania Legislature will wrestle with a legalization bill throughout the session, but 2021’s not the year. Look for its passage in 2022.

How a 6-foot-8 steel-town mayor became 2020’s unlikely legalization rock star

The Maryland Legislature will consider legalization, but 2021’s not the year. The concerns of the federal government bureaucracy located in Maryland will prove to be a heavy drag on reform.

Equity programs will spread and get better, accompanied by the emergence of a cottage industry of equity-enabling businesses.

As the pandemic recedes, new tobacco and cannabis vape regulations will advance to the fore again. Specifically, we will see additional local-level vape flavor bans. Also, state-level THC vape testinggets tighter.

vape lung injury, dangers of vaping cannabis, marijuana vaping illness
Vape devices undergoing tests inside a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) laboratory. (Courtesy of Lauren Bishop/CDC)

Business outlook

Cannabis investment cratered in 2020, done in by the double-whammy of the Canadian legalization letdown and the coronavirus. In 2021, investors will return, buoyed by the eye-popping 65% increase in 2020 cannabis sales across the United States. (Yes, cannabis is a recession-proof and pandemic-proof industry.)

Florida, with a medical-only industry, will overtake adult-use Washington and Colorado to become the nation’s second-largest legal cannabis market, trailing only California.

With the American stock exchanges still difficult to crack because of federal prohibition, we’ll see more SPAC-driven investments like Jay-Z’s and REIT lease-backs.

2021 will see the rise of long-term, steady-growth, homegrown companies like Cookies and Viola. Massive investment-driven expansion and splashy national marketing campaigns are so 2019. 

International inclinations

Aquaponic growing at Habitat’s BC facility. Courtesy Habitat Life Craft Cannabis.

It gets better in Canada in 2021. The companies that will survive already made the hard decisions to shed their empty grow facilities and overproduction problem in 2020. Better boutique growers supplant the snickle-fritz pumped out at certain mediocre mega-grows.

In Mexico, federal reforms will eclipse the US, but a legal adult-use retail market won’t pop up overnight. The slow pace of reform will frustrate advocates.

And that’s it for Leafly News’ mind-meld with the future. As always, the future is what you make it. … And after 2020, we suggest making it a double.

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Bruce Barcott and David Downs
Bruce Barcott and David Downs
Bruce Barcott is Leafly's deputy editor and the author of 'Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.' David Downs is Leafly's California bureau chief and the author of 'Beyond Buds' and 'The Medical Marijuana Guidebook.'
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