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Here is a look at the year ahead.

An Ever-Changing Landscape

As the industry grows, it has to adapt to a fast-changing, complex legal landscape. Cannabis companies' challenge is that different states within the U.S., and different countries, have varying laws on the legality, use, distribution, and growth of cannabis.

Key Takeaways

Like any young industry, cannabis companies need to raise capital in order to finance future growth. Due to their precarious legal status, cannabis companies do not enjoy the access to banking services that many other companies enjoy. This makes raising capital harder and increases its cost. Low interest rates, however, have made those costs relatively cheaper in recent years. That's about to change. The industry may face increasing challenges in 2022 after the Federal Reserve signaled this month that it plans to raise interest rates three times by the end of next year.

Legal marijuana growing business

In an interview, Crosby said he felt abandoned after he had signed the memorandum with Senter’s partner. And he felt an affinity for Have a Heart’s COO, Ed Mitchell, who grew up in another rough part of the Bay Area. With Have a Heart, Mitchell said Crosby would also receive a payment of an undisclosed amount once they secured the license.

Today they’ve applied their intelligence to the endless intricacies of the California market. It both conforms to and departs from stoner stereotypes that most conversations at Meadow Lands dug into riveting topics like zoning variances, building materials and water use rules.

In California alone, tens of thousands of farms grow the plant, which is increasingly processed into gorgeously packaged vape pens and edibles marketed to customers outside the core stoner demographic of young men. Today, seniors are the fastest-growing group of marijuana users in the US.

‘A classic story of gentrification’

Most attendees at the campout in June belonged to the industry’s craft cohort. Many of them have been professionally involved in cannabis for decades.

Senter moved to Oakland, California, in 2014. A coast guard veteran with a background in corporate marketing and graphic design, she worked as an executive at Magnolia, a dispensary, and became a prominent advocate for women of color like herself in the industry.

Marijuana farming in California

Besides the business challenges, America’s legal marijuana industry also has to reckon with an unavoidable moral dimension. The US has been engaged in a “war on drugs” since Richard Nixon declared it in 1971. While white Americans use marijuana and other drugs at roughly equal rates to African Americans and Latinos, in virtually every respect, racial minorities have been disproportionately incarcerated and otherwise punished for involvement with drugs, including selling marijuana.

In addition, marginalized groups – Aids patients, disabled people, veterans – who championed legalization when it was far riskier to do so now find themselves ill-equipped to compete against well-capitalized corporate refugees looking to jump on the bandwagon.

Legal marijuana growing business

Narrator: Those in favor of federal legalization believe it could close the capital gap and ease regulations.

Narrator: Growing, harvesting, and selling weed legally is really hard in the US. From tracking to packaging, the laws are different in every state.

Narrator: Only 2% of cannabis entrepreneurs are Black. Yet Black Americans were most affected by marijuana’s illegal status in the past.

Nancy: In Colorado and several of our other states, has the pictures of fruit on it. Certain states have decided that looks too tempting for children, so you can’t have fruits. You can use color, but you can’t use fruit.

Will: These are even turning purple. So that’s one indicator that the plant is quote-unquote “finishing up.”

Jeannette: Specifically to build intergenerational wealth for the communities most harmed by the war on drugs. Those two things come together, a high capital-intensive business, and then the lack of personal capital, personal wealth. And it’s a hard place to start for a Black founder in cannabis.

Narrator: We visited three marijuana companies across the US to see why the regulations are so tough to follow and how they’re keeping entire communities out of the industry. Marijuana with THC — or the stuff that gets you high — is now fully legal for medical use in 36 states and DC. Of those, 18 and DC have legalized it for recreational use. But it’s still illegal on the federal level. So every state has free rein on how to regulate it.

Jeremy: A certain percentage of the licenses for those people specifically.

Narrator: Those regulations follow all the way to the last step: delivery.