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Cannabis industry aims to build on Thanksgiving rush

By Reuters | Dec 7th 2020 | 3 min read
By Reuters | December 7th 2020

Cannabis sales in the US hit record levels over the Thanksgiving weekend, prompting industry predictions the combination of Covid-19 anxiety and a trend towards legalisation has triggered a permanent uplift in demand.

After years of sluggish official sales, buying soared in early March and April when lockdowns began and consumers, fearing supply disruptions, stockpiled the drug.

Though many expected the initial surge to fade, monthly sales have kept hitting records.

One of the top cannabis data aggregator and research companies, Akerna, said sales on Green Wednesday, as the eve of Thanksgiving is known, climbed by 80 per cent above the daily average this year, hitting an all-time one-day record.

The company's calculations, based on data collected from its partner dispensaries in 19 US States and adjusted to project the full market, show total cannabis sales of around $238 million during the Thanksgiving weekend, nearly 14 per cent above last year.

By keeping people at home, limiting their entertainment options and adding to stress, the pandemic has helped to drive demand for cannabis for much of the year.

Even if Covid-19 vaccines can bring back a degree of normality, insiders and observers say 2020 is likely to mark a watershed for the cannabis industry, as for many other sectors.

"The shutdowns created a real 'come to Jesus' moment for a lot of stakeholders," Avis Bulbulyan, Chief Executive of cannabis consultancy Siva Enterprises, said. "Consumer acceptance went through the roof."

As a result, operators upgraded their plans and attracted mainstream investors that before showed little interest in the nascent industry.

Further legitimacy came from the decision of state regulators to designate cannabis retailers as "essential business" during lockdowns, and, in the US elections on November 3, initiatives to legalise recreational or medical marijuana, which five states put on the ballot, sailed through.

Thirty-five states allow medical marijuana use, some with restrictions, and 15 states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalised its recreational use.

Opposition persists, however, with some groups saying it causes addiction and that not enough research has been carried out to prove medical benefits.

The States of Idaho and Nebraska have bans in force. Activists in favour of cannabis are seeking a vote to try to overturn them in 2022 mid-term elections.

Stuart Titus, an early cannabis investor and CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc, says 2021 could be the year when cannabis becomes as readily available as alcohol and tobacco.

"Shortly in restaurants, consumers will have the choice of an alcoholic beverage or a cannabis-based beverage," he said.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, which has limited the industry's access to banking services and funding.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has promised to change that and decriminalising weed is part of the Democrats' platform.

Industry insiders acknowledge it may take years for any changes to make their way through the legislative process, but shifts in sentiment are moving more quickly.

A Gallup poll in November showed support for marijuana legalisation had reached 68 per cent support, the highest level yet and up from 66% last year.

A separate Gallup poll found 70 per cent of US adults consider smoking marijuana to be "morally acceptable," a five-point rise in a year.

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