FILE - Legal recreational marijuana, cannabis, weed

Strains at a recreational marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colorado. (My 420 Tours | Wikimedia via Creative Commons)

As big as 2018 has been for marijuana, one industry expert said 2019 is likely to be even bigger.

Over the past year, Michigan and Vermont legalized recreational marijuana use, and Utah and Missouri approved medical marijuana programs. And the entire nation of Canada decided to allow people to use cannabis.

David Goldstein, with the cannabis information company Potbotics, said 2018 was a huge year for marijuana. He said 2019 could be even bigger.

"What I would like to see in 2019 is a de-schedulization," Goldstein said. "From a Schedule One drug that says marijuana has zero health benefits. To either a Schedule Two or a Schedule Three."

The federal government considers marijuana to be a Schedule One drug, the same category as heroin. Schedule One drugs have "no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse," according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Many prescription opioids, including some preparations of fentanyl, are classified as Schedule Two controlled substances.

Goldstein said he'd also like to see the Justice Department clarify banking rules for marijuana businesses.

As for the money to be made in states, Goldstein said there is a lot to be made.

Which is good, because leaders in Illinois are eyeing legal marijuana as a way to pay for everything from potholes to pensions.

Illinois' incoming governor, J.B. Pritzker, has said legal marijuana could pay for new roads, or bridges, or social services. Chicago's outgoing mayor, Rahm Emanuel, says government-approved-pot could pay for the city's pension debt.

Goldstein said there might not be that much money, but he said there will be a lot of money to go around.

"When we look at scales up to 2025, expectations are that the U.S. market will be worth about $100 billion worth of cannabis sales," Goldstein said. "That's slightly below beer, and just north of coffee."

Goldstein said the market for legal marijuana will vary from state to state, as will the taxes.

He said states are also looking to see which early legal marijuana state is doing it best, and which is the national model.

Reporter

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois statewide issues for INN.

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