The Best Things that Happened to Cannabis in 2023

Here's a look back at the good news of the past year.

Every year in cannabis brings its own unique set of challenges, but 2023 also delivered lots of good things to those in the business.

As we head into the next year, here’s a look back at the Best Things that Happened to Cannabis in 2023.

Welcome Newbies

Four additional states – Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio – and one U.S. territory (the Virgin Islands) enacted policies legalizing adult-use marijuana possession and regulating retail cannabis markets.

That means that, for the first time since the adoption of federal marijuana prohibition in 1937, more Americans reside in a jurisdiction where cannabis is state-legal than do not, according to NORML.

Maryland, which only started adult-use sales in July continued ramping up through the fall, setting yet another new high-water mark in November with $55.9 million in recreational sales.

Pardon Me

While this was originally announced in October 2022, President Joe Biden officially started pardoning people with nonviolent cannabis convictions in March. Those individuals can now receive a certificate demonstrating lawful receipt of the pardon via an application form launched by the Department of Justice on March 3.

Recipients of the pardons will face fewer issues regarding housing, employment, education, and civic duties, such as holding office, voting, or serving on a jury. The government said that certificates will provide tangible proof of the pardon.

The announcement from the Department of Justice underscored the value of both the pardons and the certificates of pardon.

Just Say Yes

In August, Green Market Report wrote that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under the Joe Biden administration formally recommended to its peers at the Department of Justice that marijuana be moved to Schedule 3 on the list of federally controlled substances.

The move could be the potential first step toward full cannabis legalization in the United States since Schedule 1 is reserved for drugs that have “no currently accepted medical use,” such as heroin, while Schedule 3 is defined as having “a potential for abuse” and “may lead to moderate or low physical dependence.” However, Schedule 3 drugs are easily available for medical patients, and the category includes ketamine, Tylenol with codeine, and some anabolic steroids.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to respond, but there are high hopes it will follow that recommendation. Doing so could nullify the effects of tax code 280E, at least for medical providers, and potentially lead to interstate commerce for the industry.

I Heart NY

Technically, New York began adult-use cannabis sales on December 29, 2022, but the program really got underway in 2023. While the launch has been messy, to say the least, it is expected to be one of the largest markets in the country.

And when we say messy, hoo boy, this state has been a doozy. Mired in lawsuits, the New York Cannabis Control Board ultimately threw in the towel to give social justice applicants a head start and opened the program to all applicants regardless of their status. By December, several new legal dispensaries were able to open.

Of course, the unlicensed operators have proliferated, but we’re going to focus on the positive aspect of the New York business owners who finally got the green light to operate.

LPP FTW

In 2023, the Last Prisoners Project accomplished many great things. the nonprofit organization provided 65 constituents with reentry grants and $344,000 was directly distributed to constituents this year. Another $79,000 was distributed to constituents commissaries.

We’d like to highlight a couple of individuals who benefitted from LPP’s work this year. In December, Alfredo Gutierrez was released to a Residential Reentry Management facility and is one big step closer to full freedom. And in October, Ruben Barraza was released to a halfway house after serving 16 years and 4 months of a 24-year sentence for conspiracy to possess cannabis with intent to distribute. Ruben will remain there until July 2024. Also in October, Christopher Duncan was released on parole.

Lowered Insurance Premiums

A recent study published in the Journal of International Drug Policy found that in states with legalized medical cannabis, residents reported significant reductions in private health insurance premiums.

The study found sustained reductions in annual premiums of as much as $1,663 per year compared to demographically similar states without any form of cannabis legalization based upon analysis of healthcare data spanning 2010-2021.

According to the authors, previous studies suggested medical cannabis can impact insurance premiums by:

Moving On Up

Two multistate operators celebrated moves to the Toronto Stock Exchange this year. TerrAscend and Curaleaf both uplisted to the TSX, which is considered the best of the Canadian exchanges. Both companies left the Canadian Securities Exchange.

The moves required some legal maneuvering due to connections with U.S. markets, which the TSX won’t allow due to cannabis being federally illegal.

Being on the TSX opens these companies up to more institutional investors. TerrAscend also benefitted when Morgan Stanley and BNY Mellon removed the ban on providing custodial services for the company’s TSX listing, further reducing mainstream financial stigmas.

Debra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the Co-Founder, and Executive Editor of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Master's degree in Business Journalism from New York University.


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The Green Market Report focuses on the financial news of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Our target approach filters out the daily noise and does a deep dive into the financial, business and economic side of the cannabis industry. Our team is cultivating the industry’s critical news into one source and providing open source insights and data analysis


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