by Rick Thompson/originally published in The Rolling Paper – January 2020 issue
2019 was the last year of a decade which was perhaps the most monumental in the history of cannabis in America. Medical and legal cannabis programs spread across the United States. The federal government began talking about cannabis in a positive way. Hemp freedoms were restored, sort of. Other nations launched cannabis programs of their own. We forever changed the course of history by re-legalizing the cannabis plant in many places, in many ways.
But I predict the next decade, 2020-2029, will be a decade to remember in cannabis history- and world history, too.
Although states made their own advancements in the cannabis and hemp law reform, full federal support for the twin industries is not there yet. In the next decade, we get that full support and it makes a difference. States will still retain control of their own programs but federal criminality and regulatory barriers to business will be over, except for trafficking in large quantities internationally or across state lines.
Four southern African nations are considering advancing medical or recreational cannabis laws. This includes Lesotho, where cannabis has been grown for hundreds of years and the illegal cannabis trade is the nation’s 3rd largest revenue source, per Africa News.com. This regional example is just one of a dozen international zones experimenting with cannabis liberalization at the end of 2019. In the decade to come, these early programs will mature and yield revenue, agricultural independence and entrepreneurship to the citizens of those nations. By the end of the next decade nearly every industrialized nation will have a cannabis strategy in place.
In the next decade water will become more precious and more dangerous. Industrial hemp plants are adaptable for either the wet regions or the arid zones of the world. Should some coastal lands become non-agrarian over the next ten years, hemp can be grown in land previously considered undesirable for farming. Hemp can rise as the agricultural product of the future, but one decade alone is not enough time to wean the world away from cotton and wood pulp products. Even after ten years of product innovations and international markets and corporate research, hemp’s future will still be tracking upward as the next decade closes out.
Much ado has been made about discovering new medicines in the Amazon rain forest. The cannabis plant could yield medicines with a broad spectrum of applications, just like the rain forest. We have begun to explore the chemistry of cannabis but have only scratched the proverbial surface. Science is not a quick process any more, and neither is federal regulatory approval for experiments and trials. Ten years is not long enough to learn it all, considering the exhaustive methods used by modern science in America. At least some secrets of the cannabis plant’s complete medicinal profile will remain hidden until after 2029.
The industry of cannabis will look a lot like other industries by the end of the decade to come. Fortunes will have been won and lost, and in some cases, won again. The things industry has already started in 2019 will expand: there will be lots of cannabis stocks on the market, many cannabis brands will have become household names, the industry will hold mega-conferences in Miami and Vegas like other industries do. The pattern of variable state laws regulating cannabis production and sale will make some places more successful than others. Old fears about cannabis are so embedded in society that even ten years down the road, some places in America will still not fully embrace cannabis commerce. Damn the Drug War.
There will still be a black market in America for cannabis, even in those places where a fully-functional regulated cannabis production and distribution system is in place. People are going to grow cannabis, and they may grow more than the law allows. They may sell it to their friend. People who truly like to grow are not going to stop, and people who truly like to smoke are not going to pass up a discounted ounce of good quality herbage. What should happen over the next decade is a recognition that this is okay, trivial transactions and technical violations of law should be a no-big-deal to law enforcement and all authorities. Trafficking large quantities is still going to land you in jail, even in 2029. It won’t be free to do whatever you please, even after 10 years.
By the end of 2029 other things will have changed, too, things which are already changing in a few places. There will be fewer drunk driving fatalities, which means fewer children will die, too. Family farms will rebound, but to what degree is difficult to foresee. There will be more people employed. More schools will have money. Veterans and children and the elderly will have treatment options which are currently unavailable to them. But perhaps the most important thing I look forward to is, we should be a more calm society in 2029 than we are in 2019. Perhaps the greatest gift this next decade will bring is the gift of kindness, courtesy of the cannabis plant.