Accelerated legalization, rising consumer awareness and active government support are combining to make the medical cannabis market one of the fastest growing wellness niches. Data from Market Data Forecast shows the market to be worth about $16.5 billion worldwide in 2021, a figure that’s expected to leap to more than $46 billion by the end of 2026.
Over the past five years or so, attitudes towards cannabis have shifted dramatically. Not only has the world woken up to medical applications, but its recreational use is also becoming more widely acceptable. Websites like Cannaconnection (https://www.cannaconnection.com) discuss different strains in the same objective way that a wine tasting site might compare varieties of grape.
While recreational weed is gaining, if not respectability, at least tolerance and acceptability, the medical applications of cannabis are becoming too compelling to ignore. Cannabis is already in use across the globe to treat a range of symptoms. Although the FDA has yet to approve it as a medicine and clinical data is thin on the ground, there is an immense body of anecdotal support, not to mention thousands of dedicated users who are adamant that medical cannabis has been instrumental in making life tolerable during their darkest hours.
The most common conditions that medical cannabis treats are chronic pain, for example that caused by arthritis or fibromyalgia, plus insomnia, PTSD, depression, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. It is also used by a growing number of cancer patients, not because it can fight cancer per se, but due to the anti-emetic properties of certain indica strains. These can significantly ease the unpleasant side effects that tend to accompany chemotherapy.
In 2020, North America accounted for 80 percent of the global medical marijuana market. This market domination is predicted to continue throughout the 2020s as the US market continues to expand. Just last month, South Carolina became the 39th state to pass a medical cannabis bill through the state senate, and this is expected to be signed into law by the State Governor during the course of 2022.
Europe has, for some time, given the appearance of taking a watching brief, waiting to take some lessons from North America before moving forward itself. While that is still largely the case where recreational cannabis is concerned, EU nations are now advancing their own programmes relating to medical cannabis. Germany is leading the way, having attracted some significant investors, and it is anticipated that more than a million German patients will have access to medical cannabis by 2024.
Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa are all expected to follow. In each case, medical cannabis initiatives are in their infancy, but are taking the same early steps seen first in North America and then in Europe.
Potentially the largest growth area of all, however, could be Latin America. Here, the climate is ideal for cultivation while costs of production and infrastructure are low. Brazil is leading the charge and could emerge as a major player in the medical cannabis market over the next five years.