This piece is part of Cannabis Wire’s 2018-in-review package. Read about the cannabis research boom here, what lawmakers and advocates see for 2019 here, and our top stories of 2018 here.
What comes to mind when I think of the cannabis industry in 2018 is its breathtaking speed of global growth.
The catalyst for this boom was Canada: the launch of legal sales in October and the accompanying surge of investor interest. The industries in legal cannabis states across America are like Vegas: what happens there, stays there. But a Canadian cannabis company could ostensibly export cannabis to any country convinced to import it, or vice versa. Canada is now a country where people can safely invest in an industry without borders. Investors saw growth, and, soon enough, companies with revenue in the low millions were seeing valuations in the billions.
In recent months, Canadian cannabis companies have struck deals from the Caribbean, down to Latin America, and across the Atlantic to Africa. They’re importing cannabis from Jamaica, acquiring companies in Colombia, and building multimillion dollar operations in Lesotho. Not to mention the hundreds of kilograms and litres of cannabis and cannabis oil they were already exporting in 2017 to countries like Germany, Israel, Australia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Cyprus, and New Zealand. Next year, that list will likely include the UK.
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Canopy Growth and Cronos Group, two of those Canadian cannabis companies flag-planting across the globe, have seen the most significant investments made to-date in the cannabis industry — and they came from alcohol and tobacco companies. The industries most threatened by the legalization of cannabis are now competing for its future. In August, the alcohol giant Constellation Brands (Corona,SVEDKA) invested $4 billion in Canopy. This month, the tobacco giant Altria (Marlboro) invested $1.8 billion into Cronos.
This month, the World Health Organization was expected to issue a recommendation on cannabis to change its global classification for the first time in history, including descheduling CBD. Without public reason, that recommendation is being temporarily withheld. But should it go as expected, 2019 will be a year in which a truly robust multinational cannabis trade takes shape.