2016 was a bummer for a lot of people, but 2016 marked a turning point in cannabis prohibition.
Here are a few of the biggest cannabis news stories of the year:
In the early months of 2016, the presidential race had a slew of candidates -all with very different stances on marijuana. While the outcome of the election and its impact on the marijuana industry are still unclear, states overwhelmingly said ‘yes’ to cannabis.
As a result of November’s election, medical cannabis is legal in more than half of U.S. states. Medical marijuana measures were approved in Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota. In Montana, existing medical cannabis rules were expanded by removing the three-patient limit for providers.
Five states had ballot initiatives for recreational marijuana–California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Arizona–with four states approving the initiatives and Arizona as the only holdout.
More than 20% of the U.S. population will now live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal. Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states.
A host of polls and studies released in 2016 show the positive impact of cannabis legalization as well as just how much Americans’ views of marijuana have changed in the last few years.
In 2013, only 7 percent of adults said they were marijuana smokers. Gallup’s July poll reported that 13 percent currently use marijuana, equating to more than 33 million cannabis users in the U.S. About half of adults between the ages of 30 and 49 (50%) and between 50 and 64 (48%) report having tried it. 61 percent of Americans support marijuana legalization.
Marijuana has been a boon in states with medical and/or recreational marijuana laws:
In August, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency rejected a petition to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to Schedule II.
The DEA’s report stated that there is “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and that there’s “high potential” for marijuana abuse that can lead to “severe psychological or physical dependence.”
However, there’s a growing amount of anecdotal and scientific evidence that marijuana has the potential treat symptoms of a variety of medical conditions, including epilepsy and seizures, and to serve as an “adjunct to or substitute for opiates in the treatment of chronic pain.” Cannabis is also being used to treat heroin and opioid addiction.
Despite evidence to the contrary, in December, the DEA classified CBD, the cannabinoid that’s shown the most medicinal value and is non-psychoactive, as a Schedule I drug, right up there with heroin.
In the first ten months of 2016, medical and recreational cannabis sales in Colorado amounted to $1 billion. Yes, that’s ‘billion’ with a ‘B.’ The state was jut shy of that amount in 2015.
Medical and recreational cannabis can be a boon to a state’s economy, creating millions of dollars in tax revenues.
Florida, one of the states that approved a medical marijuana initiative, is poised to become the second largest medical marijuana market in the country, behind California.
Nationwide, some experts estimate that the legal marijuana industry in the U.S. industry could reach nearly $22 billion in total annual sales by 2020.