February 8, 2023

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Supportive Business Potential

Cannabis Business Times’ Top 10 Articles of 2022

It wouldn’t be December if we didn’t have another tumultuous year in the cannabis industry to look back on. In that way, 2022 did not disappoint.  

With just a few U.S. states notching some cannabis reform wins, this was not the splashiest year in legalization history. But all progress is progress. Political winds in Washington, D.C., weren’t terribly strong, but it did seem like cannabis at least became a more meaningful point of conversation in the halls of the federal government. Whether we’ll see any action anytime soon is a different story. 

Elsewhere in the industry, challenges and hurdles rose up constantly. We spoke with growers and retailers and processors and business executives throughout the year to get a grasp on those issues (price compression, potency inflation, supply chain consternation), and a few of those stories made the list of our most-read articles of the year, which you’ll find below.  

There’s more to come, surely. We’re confident that 2023 will bring even more highs and lows to the day-to-day grind of the industry. And we’ll be there to chronicle the news and relay the insightful perspectives and tips that help your business thrive in the midst of it all. 

10. Ascend Wellness CEO Arrested, Charged With Domestic Battery   

Abner Kurtin, now the former CEO of Ascend Wellness, was arrested Sept. 6 on a misdemeanor battery charge in Southern Florida. This headline made the rounds for a few weeks before that charge was dropped.  

9. Where Candidates Stand on Cannabis in All 36 Gubernatorial Races   

Several state ballot measures stole the spotlight on Election Day, but a bevy of gubernatorial races also brought a bit of flair to the cannabis conversation in November. The CBT team rounded up details on each race, alerting readers to the stakes and to candidates’ stances on cannabis. In some cases, the governor has little impact, day-to-day, on the cannabis industry’s prospects. In other cases, that person wields significant power to stall or advance reform legislation.  

8. Georgia Voters Express Support for Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization   

We weren’t terribly optimistic about Georgia’s legalization prospects this year (see No. 5 on this list), but voters in the Peach State certainly seemed to clamor for reform. An overwhelming majority of voters responded favorably to a non-binding advisory question on the state’s primary election ballot that asked if Georgia should legalize, regulate and tax cannabis like alcohol. While the vote did not trigger immediate changes to Georgia’s laws, it signaled to lawmakers that their constituents are ready for cannabis policy reform. 

But when? That part is less clear. 

The cannabinoid craze was reaching a fever pitch at the end of 2021 as HHC, chemically known as hexahydrocannabinol, hit the scene as one of the latest hemp-derived newcomers. Associate Editor Andriana Ruscitto covered this topic (as well as a lot of the delta-8 and delta-10 news over the past few years) in an attempt to tamp down the noise in the market and elucidate just what, precisely, this strange chemical constituent actually is.  

Ruscitto interviewed a number of industry stakeholders and experts, each of whom brought a different sort of perspective to the table. Given the federal illegality of cannabis and the who-knows-when outlook on any real reform measures emerging from the U.S. Congress, the nature of HHC makes for a complicated conversation.  

6. How Clade9 Came Out of the Shadows 

We started 2022 with a focused eye on the California market (see No. 3 on this list), and we tied together a bunch of those loose regulatory threads in this dynamite cover story by Editorial Director Noelle Skodzinski.  

David Holmes once operated in secrecy to avoid legal landmines in California’s murkily regulated, pre-adult-use “gray market,” a story familiar to many in the state. After a 2013 raid derailed his business and threatened to destroy his family, he launched his Clade9 brand, and rebuilt his cannabis career and his life. This is his story. Businesses across the U.S. will certainly learn plenty from Holmes’ example. 

5. Which States Will Legalize Cannabis in 2022? 

We run this sort of piece at the start of every year, and every year we manage to get a few states right. In 2022, of course, Rhode Island, Maryland and Missouri both legalized adult-use cannabis. Mississippi legalized medical cannabis. We got Mississippi correct on our list, and we were a little uncertain about Rhode Island and Maryland and Missouri. (We did see Delaware and Oklahoma legalizing adult-use this year, our two big misses, although Oklahoma voters will get their chance in March 2023.) 

4. Should You Automate Cannabis Trimming? 

Columnist Kenneth Morrow is a mainstay in these annual roundups of our most-read articles. His pieces provide both helpful tips for your business and important cultural context for the industry. If you’re a subscriber, you know his work is must-read stuff. (If you’re not a subscriber, you can fix that for 2023 right now.) 

In this August column, Morrow tackles the fairly complicated debate over automated trimming. Here’s an excerpt, capturing the heart of the matter this year: 

“The goal of trimming is to remove all primary and secondary leaves and any plant material that does not have resin glands covering its surface. For decades, legacy growers have trimmed cannabis by hand, and hand trimming has long been associated with top-quality craft cannabis. It continues to be widely considered the best method to trim cannabis to preserve trichomes. 

But increased consumer demand for a range of high-quality cannabis end products, and the increasing average canopy size … has spotlighted the obstacles that result from hand trimming: It is extremely time and resource intensive (potentially creating a bottleneck in post-harvest) and highly prone to producing inconsistencies in quality.” 

3. Navigating California Cannabis Market Correction: Q&A With Aster Farms CEO Julia Jacobson 

We’ve watched the California cannabis market struggle through regulatory and market-based challenges that just seem to compound year after year. In 2022, growers of all stripes have had it.  

Senior Editor Zach Mentz’s interview with Aster Farms CEO Julia Jacobson, which we ran in February, seemed to capture the zeitgeist of the largest cannabis market in the world at that point in time.  

Generally speaking, there’s not a lot of good news in this interview. It’s not the most heartening read. But Jacobson’s perspective in late winter was sobering and helpful. The cannabis market is a fluid space that constantly needs to be recontextualized. This interview, we hope, achieved that goal at a critical moment in 2022. 

2. The DEA Acknowledged That Cannabis Seeds Are Legal to Sell. So, What Does That Mean for the Industry? 

Earlier this year, Vicente Sederberg attorney Shane Pennington secured a notable admission from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration: Cannabis seeds are, in fact, legal to sell—even across state lines. Because the lack of any significant THC content renders them legally defined as “hemp,” cannabis seeds fall under the regulatory auspices of the 2018 Farm Bill.  

For a segment of the cannabis industry, the news seemed like a welcome comfort. Perhaps the historically hush-hush seed market could venture into the light and develop a more transparent, visible stature.  

What we found in reporting this story is that, so far, this is not necessarily the case.  

It’s one of the most ironic components of an industry not exactly short on biting irony: The federal government has taken a rather progressive approach to cannabis seed sales, but most state regulatory agencies remain antagonistic to seed sales and any meaningful transparency to licensed cultivation businesses sourcing genetics.  

1. The State of U.S. Cannabis Legalization in 2022  

Early in 2022, there was a flagging sense of hope in the air for the prospects of federal cannabis reform. Yes, it seemed like something was on the verge of happening, but it wasn’t clear what to expect. Bills were being filed, political winds were shifting in favor of at least openly talking about cannabis, and licensed businesses were preparing in their own individual ways for a strange and boundless future.  

But then again, what else is new? 

The fragmented cannabis market in the U.S. was facing severe challenges, and something had to give. This is still the case. But in 2022, a heady brew of optimism and painful realism clung to every conversation.  

Dr. Julie Werner-Simon, a contributor to Cannabis Business Times, penned a comprehensive overview of where things stood at that time. Less a prescription for the future than a status quo check-in, Werner-Simon’s piece grabbed the attention of readers interested simply in finding steady ground amid all the emotions of early 2022.  

“The legalization action for the near future (meaning, at a minimum, until after the 2024 presidential election) will be occurring in the states,” Werner-Simon wrote. “As a result, those seeking to start, diversify or invest in a cannabis business—should consider the laws, regulations, and practices of the states (and U.S. territories).” 

By the time you read this, in late 2022 or even in 2023, the information in her article will have certainly changed. This is a fast-moving industry (hence all the emotions). Every now and then, it’s helpful to remind ourselves of how far the space has come (and how far it has yet to go).