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'Disruption to the status quo spells an opportunity for cannabis'

‘Disruption to the status quo spells an opportunity for cannabis’

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things we thought we knew about the world — but also represents further opportunities for the cannabis industry, according to Alexandra Curley, insights and reports director for the cannabis research and market analysis firm Prohibition Partners. 

“While [COVID-19] has been bad news for many, it could be that disruption to the status quo spells an opportunity for cannabis. Consumer research from Prohibition Partners found that most users either expect coronavirus to have no impact on their purchase habits, or expect their consumption to increase. This is most true in categories that are more likely to be used for health and wellness, such as medicinal cannabis and CBD,” Curley said.

Curley’s comments came during the inaugural Prohibition Partners LIVE conference, which was held online on June 22nd-23rd due to the social distancing requirements of the coronavirus pandemic. Organizers say the meet brought together 1,500 delegates and 150 industry-leading speakers, including politicians, business leaders, and investors from more than 50 countries, to network and collaborate online. 

The event was held over two days and across five virtual event stages: Cannabis Oceania, Cannabis Europa, Cannabis Americana, ProCapital in partnership with MAZAKALI, and The PSYCH Symposium.

‘A historic debt’

The conference also made sure to address the connection between cannabis and criminal justice reform, an issue that is receiving even more attention as of late due to the ongoing protests against police brutality and racism in the United States. Namely, more and more people are looking at how the cannabis industry can better incorporate people from the same disadvantaged communities that were most affected by the war on drugs — yet have largely been left out of the legal cannabis industry. 

Steve DeAngelo, often called the “Father of the Cannabis Industry” told the In Social & Criminal Justice Reform panel that “Cannabis came to North America and much of the world through the hands of black people, and anybody who is in this business owes a historic debt to people of color. And we must, as an industry, pay that debt.”  

This lack of representation was reflected somewhat in comments by CJ Wallace, son of legendary rapper Notorious B.I.G. and the founder of the cannabis company Think Big, who told the crowd during the “In Cultural Revolution: On and Off Screen” panel, “I feel like I’m one of the only cannabis owners in the space who is Black and under 25.”

The co-founder of Think BIG, Willie Mack, told the online crowd that “the way cannabis has been policed has been part of the way Black people have been racially profiled and persecuted for decades.” 

Opportunities and taboos

During a discussion entitled “The UK: Pioneer or Passenger?” British Member of Parliament Crispin Blunt argued that the UK should be at the forefront of the cannabis industry and cannabis innovation.

“It would be a missed opportunity if the country were not to be considered a pioneer of the movement in the coming years,” Blunt said, adding that to ensure this becomes a reality, the UK government must “see whether there are different mechanisms and different regulations and different licensing conditions that we ought to be applying to cannabis.”

Often overlooked in discussions about the global cannabis industry, the Asian and Oceania markets were also big topics at the conference. During the Gateway to Asia section, Glenn Davies, the Founder & Group CEO of CannAcubed, discussed the shifting sands regarding hemp and CBD in Asia. 

“We have to fight two fights in Asia. Cannabis is still taboo in many areas of Asian culture and education is needed. It’s also hard to give investors a timeline as regulations change at different rates from one country to the next,” Davis said.

Roderick Stephan of Altitude Investment said that opportunities could be found in China, which he called “the underestimated market in cannabis.”

“Everything you see in pharma today and that is required in a pharmaceutical market — China knows how to do it,” Stephan said. 

Silver linings of the pandemic

Beyond discussions of policy, race, and culture, the conference also included a major focus on the current market landscape of the cannabis industry, with a focus on sustainable growth and how the current economic climate in the United States and elsewhere could spell new investment opportunities. 

“States are suffering from high unemployment rates as well as budget deficits that are beyond imagination, and as a result cannabis legalization is likely to take place across many more states in the next couple of years,” Alan Brochstein, founding partner of New Cannabis Ventures, told the digital conference attendees. 

Holding industry conferences online has its pros and cons, and it remains to be seen if in-person industry events will return to center stage after the pandemic winds downs. In the meantime, unlike many in-person conferences of the not-too-distant past, the panel discussions for Prohibition Partners LIVE can still be accessed online for the 30 days.

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