Delia A. Deschaine, Member of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, authored an article in Marijuana Venture, titled “A Hopeful Year in Cannabis: Predictions for 2021.”

Following is an excerpt:

With any new year, there is an opportunity to be hopeful. With a new administration taking office and recent changes to the international scheduling of cannabis — as well a focus by the federal government, including both Congress and the DEA, on improving access to cannabis for research — the marijuana industry has good reason to look forward to 2021.

In general, 2020 brought about changes to federal law that demonstrate gradual progress toward making the regulatory environment more favorable for the cannabis industry. The DEA issued a proposed rule that would allow, for the first time, the registration of additional cultivators of cannabis for research. And, just days after DEA finalized that rule, the U.S. Senate passed the Cannabidiol and Marihuana Research Expansion Act, which, if enacted, would make the regulatory environment even more favorable for researchers, cultivators for research and companies that are developing cannabis-derived drug products and their synthetic equivalents. Although it has yet to be enacted, the Senate’s willingness to pass such laws may provide a glimmer of hope for more progressive federal cannabis policy in 2021.

In 2020, several states also enacted adult-use marijuana laws. While the implementation of these laws will take time, businesses that intend to operate in the adult-use space will surely benefit from the opportunities created by these laws. Some are predicting that New Jersey’s adult-use program will generate close to $1 billion in revenue in the next three years, and that other East Coast states, including New York, may not be far behind in adopting similar programs.

There can be no question that the continued classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance remains the largest impediment to the success of many cannabis businesses. That classification not only creates a risk of federal prosecution, it imposes crippling financial and tax limitations on these businesses. Although 2020 did not bring a change to this classification, recent changes in the international control of cannabis and new leadership at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may open the door for at least an administrative down-scheduling of marijuana by the DEA.

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