political | 12.12.2018

2018: A Year in Cannabis

Adrian Daniel Schramm

Staff

2018 was a momentous year for cannabis. The biggest year, arguably, in the history of Western culture. Despite a rocky start, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in January of his general disdain for marijuana (“pot smokers aren’t good people,” he said), the year turned out to be one of major (positive) changes on just about every level.

The mainstream media seems to believe that the world is always going to hell in a handbasket. It doesn’t matter who you ask; left wing, right wing, middle wing, no wing -- they all seem to agree that doomsday is upon us, albeit for different and often opposing reasons. But despite the tumultuous election of President Trump and heavy partisanship that divides the country, both Democrats and Republicans are putting aside their differences to make a positive change in America by legalizing marijuana.

The Year in Cannabis, 2018

Canada Legalizes Marijuana

In November, Canada became the first major industrial economy to legalize marijuana at the federal level. They rolled out a system of state-run recreational and medical cannabis programs that I hope U.S. lawmakers are taking notes on. Canada being one of only two countries that the United States shares a border with this is great news for us.

If you want to know more about Canada’s legal marijuana system we created a guide to cannabis in Canada that spells out all of their new laws and regulations.

Legalization Through Government Instead of Voters

In order to legalize marijuana through a ballot measure, a state government has to draft a proposal, get it through a whole bunch of checks and balances, and then rely on voters to show up at the polls and support the bill. And that’s all before they can even start the process of legalization.

Vermont legislators already knew that its constituents supported marijuana legalization and decided to take matters into their own hands. Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed the legislation, which allows adults to grow and possess small amounts of cannabis but does not provide for a system of legal sales. That made Vermont the first state in the nation to pass legalization by an act of lawmakers instead of through a ballot initiative.

Utah, Missouri, Oklahoma

The above three states have three things in common:

  1. They are all landlocked.
  2. They almost always vote Republican.
  3. They all voted to legalize medical marijuana.

When red states start giving the OK to use “that hippie wacko tobacco” it became clear that changes nationwide were well underway. Support for medical marijuana is already transcending party lines and after seeing how much tax money Colorado is making even the most conservative legislators are getting dollar signs in their eyes.

Would it be better if their motives were more humanitarian? Maybe. But if the profit motive works to get good legislation through antiquated local governments, then, well, that's pretty much been the American way. We'll take it.

We covered the State of Cannabis in Utah, and Missouri, more in depth if you’re interested in a deeper take.

Cannabusiness Becomes Big Business

Another 2018 landmark for cannabis was Tilray Inc.’s listing on the NASDAQ. This was the first Canadian-based marijuana stock to go public on a major U.S. exchange and after other companies saw that it could be done more followed suit.

Cannabis entrepreneurs are to be taken seriously from now on, and with that comes access to bigger funding sources and more political power. Continued support, both in terms of funding and the continued ability to research, learn, and share information on the positive attributes of cannabis, is likely.

Trump Becomes First U.S. President to Support Ending Federal Prohibition

If you told me earlier this year that Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump would be working together to weaken federal jurisdiction over cannabis I would tell you that you are crazy. But that’s exactly what is happening.

Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) filed new legislation that would strengthen state autonomy with regards to marijuana by amending the Controlled Substances Act to exempt state-legal marijuana activity from its provisions. It would also protect banks that work with legal cannabis businesses and legalize industrial hemp. Although it hasn’t happened yet, President Trump said in a statement that he will likely support legislation.

The Big Winner in 2018? Cannabis (and those who use it)

Amid growing political polarization Americans are putting aside their differences and coming together to support legalization of marijuana.

Read more: Vote Green: Cannabis Emerges the Big Winner of the 2018 Midterm Elections

And, with three weeks still remaining in the year, there might be a few more victories still to come. 

For a look at the coming year, read this next: 10 people leading the way for cannabis in 2019