As more states strive to legalize recreational and medical cannabis in 2020 and 2021, the pot has found its way to the forefront of investment. the Horizons Marijuana Life Sciences ETF (OTC: HMLSF) is up more than 120% in the last 12 months, far exceeding the S&P 500 and its gains of about 60%. On March 25, New York City voted to legalize recreational cannabis and became the second largest state (after California) to allow drug use by adults.
But amid the excitement, it also became clear that the cannabis industry has a long way to go to reach its full potential. Dr Chanda Macias, medical cannabis advocate, researcher and dispensary owner joined Olivia Zitkus and Corinne Cardina on a March 19 episode of Fool live to talk about the upcoming opportunities and obstacles for the industry and its investors.
Corinne Cardina: Let’s talk to our audience a little more about the medical marijuana landscape. What do you think are the biggest opportunities and the biggest obstacles to growth in this space?
Dr Chanda Macias: It’s very interesting. Corinne, based on New Frontier Data, by 2025 the cannabis industry will be a $ 41.5 billion industry. When you ask this question, my first answer would be, it’s a call to action for those who want to enter the industry as a small business. If you want to work in the cannabis business, right now the job market growth is up 161%. I think this is a great opportunity to also think about investments. These are three areas that people can participate in today.
Cardina: It’s incredible. Oh darn. The dogs have started. Oh no. Someone has to pass. Sorry about that, all of you. Let’s talk about barriers to growth. Of course, you focus on the political aspect with your participation in the National Cannabis Roundtable. We have seen a lot of laws, state by state. Some bills gained a bit of momentum at the federal level and then, maybe not so much on the banking side, deregulation. What do you think are some of the policies that, if we can tackle these reforms, would really pave the way for the medical marijuana market to take off?
Macias: Well, what is very interesting is that we are still in ban at the federal level. With this we need to take our action and the first step with the National Cannabis Roundtable is to have a strong voice for decriminalization. We need to make sure patients are protected. In other words, what we have seen, Corinne, in the past is that a patient, when he has this cannabis or possessed it, could have gone to jail for it. We’ve seen it in the African American community quite rampantly. But now it’s time for us to protect our patients and give them legal access to it. The first thing to do is to decriminalize it so that patients don’t have to worry that in fact it is a criminal charge if they have it. States have really taken a proactive approach to patient protection, which I love. Now, at the federal level, we must show the way. But also with that, I think of the banking problems. What a lot of people don’t know is that we can’t use traditional banks in this space because it’s still illegal at the federal level. So for us we are a cash only business which means someone like me has to carry hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay my taxes which is just amazing right now with the sophistication of United States. It is time for us to change some of these ideas like banking security. Now the bill was reintroduced yesterday, in fact, and what the bill will do for us or just public knowledge is that it will allow patients to pay for their medications with their debit cards. or credit. This will allow me, as a small business or, should I say, several businesses in this industry, to be able to effectively apply for traditional loans. If you think about my profile as an African American woman, there are less than 4% of African Americans who own cannabis today. One of those limitations, in fact, is that we don’t have access to capital. But with the SAFE Banking Act, we will be able to apply for loans and use traditional banking means. It’s so important to our story, to put SAFE Banking at the forefront. Then after that, we definitely have so many different policies. We are thinking of the reform of social justice and also of the taxation of the 280th district. So there are other things we can talk about. But yes, there are a lot of steps to get to legalization, in other words.
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