2018 was a garbage year in a lot of ways, but a pretty good one for cannabis. Our favorite plant and its derivatives made some wacky headlines throughout the year. Let’s review the highs, lows, and hazy parts of cannabis news in 2018.
January — It’s crucial to preface this (mostly positive column) with one grim reality: cannabis is still federally illegal and minority groups are still disproportionately getting busted for it. Back in January, racial justice activist Shaun King wrote a report for the Intercept that showed despite liberalizing marijuana laws, the war on drugs still targets people of color. According to King, arrests in his home city of New York City, cops were still arresting more than 50 people per day for mere possession this year. Yikes.
March — Business continues to boom in Colorado, one of only four states in the country that allows for recreational sales. According to Colorado's Department of Revenue, the state set a new record by selling $106 million worth of the stuff during the month of March. Send some my way, please.
April — On 4/20, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that he would introduce the “Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act” a bill that would decriminalize marijuana on the federal level and take steps to help women and minority-owned businesses enter into the marijuana industry. Finally! However, since being read twice in June, that bill is still stuck in the Committee on the Judiciary for further review. Let's hurry up with this one.
May — A study from JAMA Internal Medicine found that legal cannabis can help combat the opiate crisis. In states with some sort of medical cannabis program, prescriptions filed for opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year, down from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year. That’s a big deal.
June — California opened the nation's largest legal marijuana market this year, but fascinatingly enough, the state’s first quarter tax haul lagged behind expectations, pulling in just $34 million. Could the high taxes and burdensome regulation be driving more people toward the black market? Me thinks so.
July — Maine didn’t make many national headlines for cannabis in 2018, but over the summer one lobster restaurant in Southwest Harbor went mildly viral after news broke that the owner sedates her lobsters with cannabis smoke before boiling them alive. It’s unclear whether or not this is a humane way to kill lobsters — because scientists don’t know how THC affects the crustacean’s brain — but its the thought that counts.
August — A Gallup poll found that support for legalizing marijuana nationwide is at an all time high with 66 percent of Americans saying they want it. Are we surprised?
September — According to a federal drug survey released in September, cannabis use is now as common among baby boomers as it is among teens. “As of 2017, Americans ages 55 to 64 are now slightly more likely to smoke pot on a monthly basis than teens ages 12 to 17,” concluded the study. While debate around marijuana use is focused on young people, let’s not forget that plenty of middle-aged and senior Americans spark up too.
October — Canada made history this year by being the first country in North America to fully legalize recreational cannabis nationwide. And people there are loving it. Up in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador for example, people bought six million dollars worth of pot in the first six weeks — that’s about 700,000 grams, or enough bud to roll two joints for every person in the province!
November — American voters did decent job of relaxing cannabis laws this year too. During the midterms full legalization won in Michigan, and medical legalization won in Missouri and Utah. After the midterms, eight other states and the District of Columbia legalized cannabis for recreational use, but not sales. Massachusetts did both though! They beat Maine and became the first state on the East coast to set up a recreational marketplace, with two adult-use pot shops opening their doors for business.
December — It’s not the same plant of course, but hemp was legalized this month through a new Farm Bill that passed in Congress (Mitch McConnell signed it, shocking). Farmers in big hemp states like Kentucky are hoping that it will be their next cash crop behind tobacco. It’s crazy that such a useful and non-psychoactive plant like hemp was classified as a Schedule 1 drug for so long, but hey, better late than never.