The medical-cannabis industry could generate $1.6 billion in sales by 2020, according to a recent report. (See “Report: Medical cannabis use will explode in Florida.”) / Florida Food & Farm file photo

By Carlos Hermida

(This is an excerpt of a Florida Cannabis Coalition — — blog post.)

About three years ago, I was the only one in business school talking about the cannabis industry; since then, cannabis is making great strides. Some people thought I was nuts. Many of my fellow students lectured me on the dangers of sharing marijuana-related posts on my personal social-media accounts. Since then, I actually have been invited back to guest-lecture for undergraduate economics students. Who’s crazy now?

Carlos Hermida cannabis industry

Carlos Hermida is director of events and education for the Florida Cannabis Coalition.

The impending success of the cannabis industry is hard to ignore. New Frontier Data and the Arcview Group estimate that, nationwide, the cannabis industry will reach $21.2 billion by 2020. Those are big numbers, but if that’s not enough convincing for you, our friends at Technical 420 recently posted “Top 10 Cannabis Developments Every Investor Needs to Know.” The cannabis industry has made some important strides.

I’m outlining nine of those advancements:

1) Statewide elections proved to be a major success, with the approval of recreational cannabis in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada; and the adoption of medical-cannabis laws in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota.
2) GW Pharmaceuticals proves that cannabis has medical benefits by delivering positive FDA Stage III clinical-trial data on its Epidiolex cannabinoid product.
3) A Canadian federal task force issued recommendations for the implementation of a regulated recreational-cannabis market. The task force recommended using the existing system for medical cannabis to regulate recreational cannabis. The task force also suggested a minimum age of 18; limitations on packaging; increased caution with edibles; and the use of taxes to fund administration, education, research and enforcement. The task force recommended using the same tax system for both medical and recreational cannabis and placing heavier taxes on high-potency products to discourage their use by the general public.
4) We are seeing cannabis reform taking place all around the world. Last year, Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla signed an executive order to legalize medical cannabis. In 2014, Uruguay legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. This is a trend that has shown no signs of slowing down as countries, including Australia, Germany, Jamaica, Israel, The Netherlands, Portugal and Uruguay, continue to advance the legal cannabis industry.
5) Wall Street significantly increased its focus on the cannabis industry. This development was highlighted by Goldman Sachs initiating coverage on GW Pharmaceuticals, investment bank Cowen and Co. initiating coverage on over-the-counter-traded Kush Bottles, and Morgan Stanley assisting with potential cannabis mergers-and-acquisitions activity.
6) Canopy Growth Corp. became the first licensed Canadian medical-cannabis producer to have a $1 billion market capitalization. Canopy continues to be a global cannabis leader as it continues to expand its presence internationally and make strategic acquisitions.
7) A Gallup poll showed record levels of support for marijuana legalization. The poll reported that 60 percent of participants support cannabis legalization; that’s is up from 12 percent, when it was first conducted in 1969.
8) Colorado surpassed $1 billion in legal cannabis sales as of Oct. 31. (This number does not include figures for November and December.) Final figures are expected to range from $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.
9) The first cannabis-related real estate investment trust (REIT) conducted an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. NYSE-traded Innovative Industrial Properties (IIPR) completed the acquisition of PharmaCann’s 127,000-square-foot medical-cannabis cultivation and processing facility in New York.

Editor’s note: The other development, which was No. 8 on Technical 420’s list, is “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration denied the rescheduling of cannabis in early August and then added cannabidiol (CBD) to its list of Schedule I (i.e., illegal) substances.”