by Beau Whitney, NCIA’s Chief Economist
As the largest national trade association of the cannabis industry, NCIA works to advocate for and advance the interests of hundreds of member businesses. The recent publication of the Whitney Economics U.S. Cannabis Business Conditions Survey Report offers a granular look at how respondents are feeling, and what they are worried about.
There were a total of 396 respondents to the Whitney Economics U.S. Cannabis Business Conditions Survey. Respondents were either licensed cannabis businesses or ancillary businesses to the cannabis industry, and were from 20 states across the country. According to the report, the objective of the survey was to “establish a baseline of data, and identify the successes and the challenges that operators in the industry are facing.”
The survey examined policy, regulatory issues, industry successes, and overall industry sentiment using questions around demographics, questions intended to definitively answer a specific question, and questions with the opportunity to offer multiple responses or comments. We are pleased that NCIA members participated in the survey. Because this survey is intended to be conducted on a quarterly basis moving forward, we expect that a growing number of the NCIA membership will want to participate.
Key Takeaways From the Survey
- Only 42% of respondents are turning a profit. Further, in terms of profitability, female respondents and non-white respondents are faring much worse than white, male respondents.
- While 58% of businesses overall are not making a profit (either breaking even or losing money), 62.5% of female-run businesses are not turning a profit and 67.8% of BIPOC businesses are not turning a profit.
- Lack of banking, market volatility, and state & federal taxation are the key issues facing cannabis operators.
- 72% of respondents stated that access to banking and other financial services was the top issue facing them.
- Smaller operators are struggling by being pulled in two different directions. On one side is the competition from the illicit market that competes for the same customers as the smaller operators and the other side is the ever presence of big businesses looking to consolidate the market.
- Taxation is an issue that impacts all businesses regardless of size. Cannabis operators run the risk of being taxed out of business. State policymakers are focused on state issues without considering the impact of federal policy and federal policymakers are not considering the state policy. This lack of a unified tax policy is creating strain on business operators.
- The concerns of the industry are weighing heavier on the minds of operators than are the successes, and this is impacting industry sentiment.
- Business owners are quite proud of their accomplishments over the past year, from increasing opportunities for women and minorities, to doing more for their workers and educating an ever-increasing clientele.
- Despite this success though, cannabis operators’ concerns far outweigh their feeling of success and this is impacting the overall sentiment.
- The word cloud on the successes tells a compelling story.
We are very excited that we have now established a baseline of new data that reflects operator sentiment and business conditions. This can help support the narratives with data when having policy discussions at the state and federal levels and to help shape strategy for operators in this space.
“We are delighted on how this initial survey turned out and look forward to surveying the cannabis landscape regularly in the future. We really appreciate the support we received from leading national cannabis organizations such as NCIA.” – Beau Whitney