Thailand’s government voted to legalize medical cannabis in December, according to The New York Times, becoming the first Asian nation to do so, and a beacon of reform in Southeast Asia, which is known for its especially draconian drug laws.
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Mexico is now the third country in the world to roll back the prohibition on cannabis use. The other two are Uruguay and Canada. The decision also leaves the U.S. as the last nation in North America to maintain a ban on cannabis use although there is a continuous stretch of jurisdictions along the Pacific coast of North America in which cannabis is legal.
The Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (STATES) Act was introduced a day earlier, and immediately stood out from the plethora of cannabis bills that had already been introduced, but had failed to garner much support. The bill would amend the Controlled Substances Act to exempt those following state laws “relating to the manufacture, production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of [cannabis]."
The panic surrounding Jeff Session’s ominous January decision to revoke the Cole Memo that protected state-legal cannabis operations buried yet another groundbreaking moment in cannabis history. On the same day, January 4th, Vermont became the first state to legalize cannabis through their legislature.
As we enter the new year, Californians have something else to celebrate in 2018. January 1st marked the start of legal recreational cannabis sales in the Golden State. While doubt persisted for much of the year over whether regulators would meet the deadline to make room for a recreational cannabis industry in the country’s most populous state, at least some areas of the state have started to enjoy legal sales since the first day of the year.
Alongside much less populous Maine (who voted for legalization the same day) Massachusetts is also the first state east of the Mississippi to legalize cannabis (Washington DC being not quite a state and not quite having full legalization). While it has admittedly come a long way from its Puritan roots, in many ways Massachusetts is a bastion of east coast traditionalism, sandwiched between places like Connecticut and New Hampshire. While California’s legalization was in many ways only a matter of time, the Massachusetts vote came as a shock to a lot of people. It appears that the current tide of legalization has spread far beyond its western birthplace. How exactly did this happen?
In November, California passed Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), allowing cannabis use for adults over the age of 21. The state is required to open applications to license recreational cannabis businesses on January 1st of 2018 – just over three months away. As the largest state in the US to move towards legal cannabis, California faces a number of regulatory hurdles on the way to implementing the plan.
This past July, in a move that received relatively little attention in North American cannabis circles, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the sale of cannabis across its entire territory. Sales began last month, but significant challenges from international financial institutions may still stand in the way.
In the first few months since Trump has taken office, his administration has expressed some concerning sentiments regarding cannabis. With new Attorney General Jeff Sessions leading the charge, spokespeople for the Trump administration have created an atmosphere of uncertainty, having failed to clarify any official position on the matter.
What could better capture the spirit of California in 2017 than a project that combines the one-click convenience, near instant gratification, and professionalism of the Silicon Valley tech world, with the burgeoning medical cannabis industry? Eaze does just that, providing a fast and easy way for California patients to get their doctor’s recommendations and on-demand cannabis deliveries.
It appears that state governments and newly elected/ appointed federal officials seem to be at an impasse when it comes to marijuana laws. Newly appointed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions - who has a history of being in staunch opposition to legal marijuana and is also as a big proponent of marijuana enforcement on a federal level - recently commented that - "States ... can pass the laws they choose. I would just say it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.” Not only have these statements echoed anti-marijuana sentiments made by the Trump and administration, but they have also more than implied the possibility of federal crackdowns in states with legal marijuana programs.
Washington state Initiative 502 appeared on the general ballot in November of 2012 – the same month Colorado passed Amendment 64. Also in line with Colorado, commercial sales began in January of 2014. Yet somehow, Colorado seems to have carved more of a niche for itself in the nationwide public consciousness as a pioneer of legal cannabis. Washington state was there too, at the very beginning of the unprecedented trend that California is only now catching up to.
These days, just about wherever you are on the political spectrum, following the news can be exhausting at best, and truly depressing at worst. Many of us have gone so far as to avoid the news entirely. However, if you’ve been ignoring the news in the last few months you may have missed developments in the one area where momentum seems to be on the side of the forward-thinking, common sense outcome. Unthinkable ten or twenty years ago, public opinion – nationally too, but especially in California – has shifted towards the majority of citizens supporting the legalization of recreational cannabis.
It is hard to wrap one’s mind around such momentous change, but the truth is that the legal marijuana industry - the fastest-growing industry in the United States - is here to stay. Despite the doubters and detractors, the traction gained by the legal marijuana industry cannot be stopped. Currently 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Four states have legalized recreational use. Two of the four states, Colorado and Washington, already have experience with the taxation and regulation of retail marijuana and have seen astounding results.