The legal cannabis industry enjoyed some major victories in medical as well as recreational legalization in 2018. Can it finally be said that weed has entered the mainstream and activities in 2019 will prove that?
Exactly one year ago California, the largest cannabis-producing state in the nation, legalized adult use marijuana after over two decades of legal medical marijuana. Then the state’s Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Sept. 30 to recall or dismiss past pot convictions.
While California’s moves were to be expected, more conservative states like Utah and Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana in November’s midterms. There are now 33 U.S. states that have approved medical marijuana.
In those same midterms, Michigan became the first Midwestern state and the tenth in the country to legalize recreational cannabis.
Governors in New York and New Jersey are pushing hard for a similar law in their states in 2019, and momentum for broad legalization is building in Pennsylvania and Illinois.
“Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in late December 2018.
Adding to the historic events of 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first cannabis-derived medicine, Epidiolex, to treat children with certain forms of epilepsy.
In December, the 2018 Farm Bill was approved and essentially legalized hemp around the nation, opening the door to hemp-based CBD production.
In the international realm, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize marijuana (after Uruguay) and Mexico elected a new president who is likely to legalize cannabis and other drugs in an effort to stem cartel violence and relieve mass incarceration.
Speaking of incarceration, the First Step Act of 2018 passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and House in December. The landmark prison reform bill, among other things, will reduce life sentences for some drug offenders and hopefully open the door the clemency for pot lifers serving time in federal prisons.
As Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms, pressure is on to lift federal restrictions and give the legal cannabis industry access to the country’s banking system.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon noted that 2018 was a year for legalization and hoped for a change on the federal level.
“I have been working on this for decades, and this was the year that the movement crested,” said Blumenauer in the Washington Post. “It’s clear that this is all coming to a head.”
So, as the year comes to an end, we can only hope that 2019 will usher in the removal of cannabis from the DEA’s controlled substance list. To that end, we need to all do our part and keep up the pressure on our elected officials.
Happy New Year!