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It may have been a landmark year for marijuana reform, but now that 2017 is dead, it’s time to look ahead to what the new year holds for cannabis.
States That May Legalize Marijuana
First up, let’s look at the states looking to join the eight who allow recreational marijuana. At least 12 are looking to legalize in some form. In the first week of 2018 alone, three state legislatures—Delaware, Maine and Vermont—met to discuss laws that would legalize weed sales to adults, as Tom Angell of Marijuana Moment reports.
The Delaware General Assembly’s Adult Use Cannabis Task Force held its final meeting Wednesday, assessing whether a legal cannabis market would work for the state. Their report is due at the end of the month. Vermont also considered a cannabis bill Wednesday, after weeks of state officials—including Republican Gov. Phil Scott—indicating that they will legalize weed. Maine lawmakers are also meeting this week to discuss their recreational marijuana bill, which voters passed in 2016, but Republican Gov. Paul LePage later vetoed, crushing the will of his constituents. It’s not yet clear what changes are necessary to appease the governor and finally get this bill into action.
(New Hampshire was supposed to meet this week to discuss a bill that would legalize possession and home growing, but not dispensaries; however, the meeting was postponed to next week.)
When he takes office this month, New Jersey Governor-elect Phil Murphy has said he plans to sign recreational cannabis legislation as soon as the state legislature gives him a bill to sign. Also in January, Rhode Island is supposed to finish ironing out recommendations for a legal pot market.
Somewhat further down the line: there’s a growing movement in Michigan to get a recreational marijuana law on the November ballot. Lobbyists in Connecticut and Ohio are both in the process of making ballot initiatives that could also end up on the November ballot.
Meanwhile, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota and even Utah are all in the process of passing medical marijuana bills.
Jeff Sessions Rescinds Cole Memo
But will any of these states pushing progressive marijuana laws actually matter? After all, on Thursday, January 4th, Attorney General Jeff Sessions finally delivered on a year of veiled threats against states with pro-cannabis laws and rescinded the Cole Memo.
If you’re not familiar, the Cole Memo was a little thing published by the Department of Justice in 2013 which shifted the priorities of federal prosecutors away from states with legal marijuana laws. Written by former Deputy Attorney General James Cole, it’s the reason that DEA raids on dispensaries finally stopped.
It’s not yet clear if there will be a cannabis crackdown, but removing this memo definitely opens the door for such prosecution. Attorney General Bob Troyer of Colorado said he would continue doing what he’s always done—prosecuting cannabis businesses that break state law (e.g. interstate trafficking) and nothing more.
Already, there’s been fierce backlash against Sessions by numerous groups, including bipartisan lawmakers and drug policy advocates. While this fight may not be pretty, and may involve many smashed-in, raided businesses by cops with assault weapons, marijuana is an estimated $16 billion dollar industry in the U.S., so states with pro-cannabis laws have a strong incentive to stand up for their state rights.
Who knows, this could lead to (finally!) overturning the racist, draconian federal law that makes use of a plant a felony. Many are already mobilizing to push back against Sessions, so this is far from the end for marijuana in America.
Other Things To Expect In 2018
Don’t forget Canada is legalizing recreational weed this summer, which could be worth as much as $4.5 billion by 2021. A nation as large and powerful as Canada sets a strong precedent for other nations to follow Uruguay’s example. Australia, which legalized medical marijuana in 2016, now wants to be a world leader in MMJ exports.
Rolling Stone expects there to be the first legal marijuana lounges this year. While cannabis is legal in many states, there’s nowhere to smoke it in public. You have to do it in your own home, but if you rent or are just visiting, you are out of luck. Hopefully, that will change this year, offering something akin to the coffee shops of Amsterdam.
Herb.co spoke to several industry insiders who feel that home-growing will be on the rise, stigma will dissipate, California’s legal market will dominate, and the “Wild West” of marijuana will disappear as the industry grows into a legitimate market space.
Finally, everyone is talking about cryptocurrency these days and the blockchain may make greater moves in the cannabis industry, according to a prediction by MG Magazine.
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