Ready for the New Year? Credit: Artem Kniaz / Unsplash

“There’s always someone smarter than you,” is a truism my grandfather told me. The thing is, my grandfather was a nuclear physicist at University of Chicago who worked with Enrico Fermi. So the idea that someone like him – a guy casually splitting an atom in the 1930’s – shared this wisdom, has made it more powerful as the years go by.

The cannabis business is a great place for discovering people smarter than you, or at least me.

I wrote 202 articles for Grown In this year, and along the way, I got to meet a lot of people smarter than me – and ask them questions. So here are the twenty most interesting cannabis things I learned this year.

  1. Just about every major state has at least one underground delivery service you can find through Google. Try it!,
  2. Mold can grow in pre-rolls, even after testing.
  3. Tribes in New York State are gearing up for legalized adult-use cannabis. And a few insider New Yorkers tell me there’s no state game plan to mesh regulations.
  4. 245 craft grow and dispensary licenses could be trapped in Illinois courts until mid-2022.
  5. Debt extended by “shadow banks” is playing a major role in legal cannabis’ growth, and that credit isn’t available to the smallest players.
  6. New York State has a goal of 50% of adult-use licenses going to social equity applicants. But current law requires a $2 million bond or secured property for medical license applicants. Will that change?
  7. Ascend Wellness and Green Thumb Industries each have a single Illinois dispensary bringing in at least $35 million a year in revenue. When you measure that against the companies’ annual revenues, that’s a pretty big chunk of change.
  8. Delta-8 is just one of many isomers of THC Delta-9, and in most states, they aren’t regulated – and state legislators aren’t taking action to regulate them. Since we don’t really understand how the isomers interact with the human brain, this is almost like willingly deregulating cannabis sales.
  9. In most states, underground cannabis sales is between 65 and 75% of the market. But in Michigan, caregivers and homegrow is about 40%, while legal, regulated sales is about 30%. Are they doing something right?
  10. Many operators think underground cannabis can be manufactured for $400/lb.
  11. Mexico is importing about $300 billion of illegal drugs in the United States every year. This estimate comes courtesy of The Dope, an incredibly detailed and highly researched history of the Mexican drug trade by Benjamin T. Smith.
  12. Illinois originally had another, unnamed company lined up to run its license application review, but at the last minute that company was inexplicably brushed aside for KPMG, which charged the state $4.2 million and contracted most of the application review work out for $700,000.
  13. Illinois dispensaries sold for an average $25 million a piece this year. 
  14. Cresco Labs’ Lincoln, Illinois cultivation site, which is well over 100,000 square feet of canopy, has a person whose job is just to manage water and nutrient flow.
  15. In Illinois, Teamsters and UFCW are competing to unionize dispensaries.
  16. Ohio doesn’t measure cannabis by eighths, it’s by tenths.
  17. When a municipality limits license locations through zoning, it’s cheaper to get into the action by buying purchase options for available locations, than it is to attempt to get a license. Eventually the license winners will have to do a deal with whomever controls the real estate.
  18. Michigan and Illinois legalized adult-use sales at about the same time, but Michigan, with 3 million fewer people, is selling about the same amount of legal weed as Illinois.
  19. States really want to make residency rules for licenses work, but courts don’t like them.
  20. Maine doesn’t require testing or seed-to-sale tracking for medical cannabis sales. Is this basically a smart way to integrate with the underground market?

Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...