With Democrats poised to take over both Congress and the White House, there is one industry set for a dramatic expansion in 2021: the cannabis industry. “We believe there’s no better time to be in the cannabis sector,” Joe Bayern, CEO of Curaleaf, recently told Joe Mathieu on Morning Edition. He joined Mathieu to talk about the rapidly shifting business landscape for marijuana in the US, and what it means for companies like his.

Although Massachusetts was a pioneer in legalizing marijuana, it’s still not legal on the federal level. Bayern said that Curaleaf, based in Wakefield, Mass., is looking to capitalize on the nationwide “green wave of acceptance” as cannabis becomes more mainstream and Americans embrace its many uses.

“We have a lot of momentum behind us,” Bayern said. “There aren’t many industries growing at the rate we’re growing, and the best part is consumers and constituents want this.” Bayern said he anticipates the industry to continue to skyrocket and grow to around $100 billion.

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With dispensaries in 23 states and 2 million square feet of cultivation space, Bayern said Curaleaf is positioned to expand even more in 2021. He credited the Democrats’ Senate victory in Georgia, and the five states — Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota — that voted for legalization on Election Day in November. Bayern said the momentum is especially strong in the Northeast, and in states like New York, where the governor has called for legalization of recreational marijuana sometime this year.

The industry growth will be aided by what Bayern called “legacy consumers,” those who use cannabis in traditional ways, but he also has his eye on new consumers who will use cannabis to treat conditions like depression, anxiety and chronic pain. And amidst the coronavirus pandemic, his company is eager to tout their products as natural substitutes to alcohol and prescription drugs.

While legalization on the federal level is an ultimate goal for companies like his, Bayern cautioned that widespread federal legalization, involving banking regulation, and enforcement, should be done in “a methodical and logical way” to make sure legalization doesn’t come with unintended consequences. In the short term, Bayern said he has his eye on legislation like the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow American banks to participate in the industry.

Bayern views that bill as the least controversial and most probable of those proposed to date, while legislation like the MORE Act, which would remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances, looks less likely to pass as it stalled in the Senate when introduced in December. He’s also closely watching the SAFE States Act, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act and remove the conflict between federal and state government on enforcement.

“We believe there’s going to be continued momentum to enact legislation at the state level and federal level, because it’s just an exciting growth category with a lot of upside,” he said. “2021 is going to be a fabulous year for the cannabis industry.”

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