The Story of Cannabis: What Investors Need to Know
It’s not often that a multi-billion dollar industry appears out of nowhere.
Despite the fact that the first-recorded cannabis use by humans was from as far back as 6,000 years ago, the emerging cannabis market remains a challenging enigma for most investors to wrap their heads around. The opportunity is there, but there are few precedents for companies pioneering in the space.
What will users look for in a legal cannabis product, and how can investors and companies prepare to make the most of this Wild West of a market?
What Investors Need to Know
Today’s infographic comes to us from The Green Organic Dutchman, and it serves as an introduction to the story of cannabis, providing context around the plant, its history, market trends, and the potential of emerging legal markets.
It’s the first part in an eight-part infographic series called “From Soil to Sale”, that will dive deeper into these trends and what they mean to investors.
The Bird’s Eye View
Cannabis has a 6,000 year history of human use – however, since becoming illegal in the early 20th century, it’s fair to say the knowledge gap has broadened as to the plant’s uses and potential.
A Quick Overview:
The female cannabis plant produces clusters of buds which are trimmed down for commercial use. Trichomes are small “hairs” on the outside of cannabis flower that produce and secrete resin, including the cannabinoids and terpenes sought after by users.
There are over 750 compounds found in the plant, including at least 104 cannabinoids.
THC is the cannabinoid you are likely most familiar with (it’s the psychoactive one), but another cannabinoid that is being intensely studied is CBD – a non-psychoactive medicine that has wide applications to several diseases.
Key Industry Trends
As the legal industry takes off, here are three consumer-focused trends to keep in mind as you watch the cannabis sector:
1. Environmental Sustainability
Indoor cultivation of cannabis is both energy and carbon intensive, while outdoor cultivation uses massive amounts of water. With these potential impacts in mind, consumers will demand cannabis products that minimize effects on the environment.
2. Organic Products
More consumers are leaning organic. The global organic market is expected to blossom into a $320.5 billion market by 2025 – and organic cannabis will likely see similar uptake.
3. Cannabis Retail Products
The market for cannabis-infused food and beverages is expected to grow at a 25% CAGR between 2018 and 2022.
In large legal markets like California and Canada, there is a multi-billion dollar opportunity for investors and companies in the cannabis space – and we will continue to demystify the legal cannabis market and how it works as we continue through this infographic series.
This is part one of an eight-part series. Stay tuned by subscribing to Visual Capitalist for free, as we go into the cannabis market in more depth.
9 Things Investors Should Know About the Cannabis Industry in 2021
This graphic provides an overview of 9 key developments in the cannabis industry that investors should be aware of going into 2021.
9 Things Cannabis Investors Should Know in 2021
Unlike dozens of other industries across the globe, cannabis experienced significant growth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, with consumption for both medical and recreational products on the rise, 2020 was a record-breaking year for the industry. After years of investor uncertainty, analysts are predicting a continued bull market in 2021, with several new and exciting developments on the horizon.
Here are nine things cannabis investors need to know.
1. Cannabis Stocks on the Rise
While asset prices took a dip during the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak in March, the cannabis sector recovered swiftly after reporting impressive numbers.
Even though cannabis investors have experienced some ups and downs in the last several years, 2021 looks more hopeful.
2. COVID-19 and Cannabis
Cannabis has become an attractive option for people spending more time at home, both as a means of entertainment, and to reduce stress and anxiety associated with the pandemic.
As a result, cannabis sales are soaring. In Canada, monthly sales reached an all-time high of $270 million (CAD) in October 2020, a dramatic increase from $180 million just six months earlier.
3. Cannabis Black Market No More?
For millions of U.S. citizens who live in states where the sale of cannabis is still restricted, the illicit market continues to be their only option.
But with loosening restrictions and legal cannabis becoming more widely available, legal sales are predicted to reach $50 billion by 2026 while illegal sales will plummet to less than $1 billion by the same year.
|Year||U.S. Legal Cannabis Sales||U.S. Illegal Cannabis Sales|
|2016||$6 billion||$25 billion|
|2026||$50 billion||<$1 billion|
4. Political Change Driving Market Growth
Almost 70% of Americans now support the full legalization of cannabis—the highest figure ever recorded.
States where cannabis is legal are now paving the way for cannabis sales, with California expected to pull in over $6 billion by 2021 alone. If federal legalization comes to fruition over the next several years, the already booming U.S. market could see further growth.
5. All Eyes on the European Cannabis Market
The European cannabis market has been on investors’ radar for several years, and with good reason—it is one of the largest cannabis markets in the world.
Driven primarily by medicinal products, the market will be valued at over $39 billion by 2024, with countries like Germany—Europe’s largest economy—leading the way.
In late 2020, the market experienced its biggest breakthrough yet, with the European Union ruling that products containing CBD (one of the most active ingredients in cannabis) are no longer listed as narcotics.
6. Making History in Mexico
Mexico is another market that is piquing the interest of investors and cannabis companies the world over. That’s because it could soon be the third country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis by court order.
With a total addressable market of $2 billion and the potential to support up to 75,000 jobs, these new regulations could change the dynamic of the global market for the better.
7. Most Popular Cannabis Products
Given the flurry of product innovation in the market, consumption of cannabis is quickly changing.
Relatively new products such as edibles and oils are gaining traction, while consumption of flower appears to be declining. This could be due in part to oral products being perceived as a healthier alternative to smoking.
8. CBD Products are Moving into the Mainstream
Although CBD was once considered a niche product that could only be found in dispensaries, growing awareness of the benefits and safety of these products are causing companies operating in the consumer packaged goods industry to take notice.
The cannabis compound is a new addition to a wide range of products such as skincare, makeup, and supplements that can now be purchased almost anywhere—from ecommerce sites to local grocery stores.
9. The New Cannabinoids on the Block
Beyond CBD, scientists have discovered over 100 rare, or minor cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN, that could have even more significant benefits than their major cannabinoid counterparts.
For example, preliminary research shows that CBG could inhibit cancer growth, help treat glaucoma, bladder dysfunction, and kill drug-resistant bacteria.
These discoveries are not only attracting huge attention from the cannabis industry, but from the pharmaceutical industry as well.
Milestones in the Making
With all of these exciting developments coming to the fore, it’s safe to say 2021 could be one of the cannabis industry’s most transformative years to date.
Mapped: The European CBD Landscape in 2020
This graphic explains the innately complex legal status of CBD products in Europe and highlights the countries leading the CBD charge.
Mapped: The European CBD Landscape in 2020
To say CBD has risen in popularity over the last decade is an understatement.
Not only have CBD consumer products rapidly infiltrated a long list of industries, new research discoveries continue to prove their therapeutic benefits. By 2023, the European CBD market is estimated to reach €1.4 billion.
However, a big problem remains—there is an incredible amount of uncertainty surrounding what is legal, and what isn’t. The above infographic from Elements of Green sheds some light on the innately complex legal status of CBD products in Europe.
The Great CBD Debate
CBD—short for cannabidiol—is a non-psychotropic compound produced by cannabis plants.
While most European countries have legalised it in some way, the caveat for many is that it must be extracted from industrial hemp, thus containing less than 0.2% THC—the intoxicating compound also found in cannabis. On the other hand, countries such as France and Norway only permit CBD isolate (the pure form of CBD) with no THC.
In 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) designated CBD products as a novel food. This means that companies should seek authorisation to bring products to market, although it is not required by law.
However, the industry has now hit a fork in the road, as the European Commission (EC) recently announced it will be suspending applications for novel foods status while it determines whether or not certain CBD products should be labelled as narcotics instead.
The Legal Landscape in 2020
As the industry flip flops between regulations, consumers and investors need to understand that each country has its own laws surrounding the use of CBD.
|Country||CBD Legal Staus|
|🇦🇹 Austria||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina||Illegal|
|🇧🇪 Belgium||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇨🇿 Czech Republic||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇭🇷 Croatia||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇪🇪 Estonia||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇫🇮 Finland||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇭🇺 Hungary||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇮🇸 Iceland||Legal grey area (legal lean)|
|🇮🇪 Ireland||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇮🇹 Italy||Legal grey area (restricted lean/legal for medical use)|
|🇱🇻 Latvia||Legal grey area|
|🇱🇮Liechtenstein||Legal grey area|
|🇲🇹 Malta||Legal grey area/legal for medical use|
|🇲🇰 North Macedonia||Legal for medical use|
|🇳🇴 Norway||Legal for medical use|
|🇵🇹 Portugal||Legal for medical use|
|🇷🇸 Serbia||Legal grey area (restricted lean)|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||Unrestricted|
While a handful of European countries have made it illegal to import, buy, or possess CBD, the vast majority have legalised CBD products that either comply with the Novel Foods Act, or can be obtained from a licensed medical practitioner.
Of these countries, Germany and the UK lead the European CBD market, followed by Switzerland, Austria, Spain, and Greece.
A Call For Change
A progessive stance on cannabis legalisation combined with increasing consumer demand has led to several countries showing remarkable growth, such as Poland, Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
Luxembourg in particular presents a compelling growth story, as it plans to fully legalise adult-use recreational cannabis in 2021, which would make it the first European country to do so.
Despite its small size, Luxembourg could in fact be instrumental in encouraging neighbouring countries to implement similar reforms, also known as the neighbour effect.
Growing Pains of a Nascent Industry
Considering each country has its own unique restrictions in place, CBD consumers should educate themselves on the regulations and laws relevant to them.
Despite these often confusing laws and restrictions, it is clear that demand for CBD products is growing exponentially. As a result, the continent may have the potential to overtake North America as the largest CBD market in the world.
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