We’ll look back at 2018 as the watershed year, not just in the U.S. but worldwide for cannabis legalization. A watershed year is when so much happens, everything seemed to have hinged on that year moving forward. A tipping point if you will, and that pretty much defines 2018 and all the activity around the re-legalization of cannabis in the U.S. and globally.

Without getting into the weeds (pardon the pun) on the details, here’s a brief overview on why 2018 will go down as the year cannabis re-legalization efforts achieved critical mass. It doesn’t mean cannabis will be legal everywhere all of a sudden. But 2018 will be seen as the tipping point where re-legalization appears inevitable. Here are the 8 reasons cannabis may have hit a watershed in 2018.

1. Investment

Real investment broke through in 2018. John Boehner, Altria, and Constellation Brands just to name one well-known figure and a two companies that made cannabis financial news in 2018. Altria makes Marlboro cigarettes and Constellation Brands owns Corona beer among other alcoholic beverage companies. John Boehner (R) was Speaker of the House and previously an outspoken opponent of legal cannabis…until 2018. These are just three of the names that continue to add mainstream credibility to the cannabis sphere. More and more people are jumping on the cannabis bandwagon. The amount of celebrity and corporate investment in cannabis companies this year is staggering. Now that mainstream Republicans are investing, we won’t have far to go until cannabis is a normalized part of life. When the world begins to see investment in cannabis industries as a positive, this is a sign that things are changing. And things certainly changed in 2018.

2. States Legalization

Both Vermont and Michigan have legalized adult-use cannabis. Vermont legalized cannabis legislatively and is the first state to have done so. Several other states (New Jersey and New York) are considering legislative legalization. This is an amazing change in the legislative tenor of the states in the U.S.

Michigan voters legalized adult-use cannabis with a ballot initiative, by a large margin. Several other states opened dispensaries in 2018 after legalizing several years ago. Even Oklahoma has legalized medical marijuana. 33 states of our 50 United States now have legalized medical marijuana. A majority by any measure. More are scheduled to come on stream in 2019. In 2018, many states saw the positive results from legalization and now want to jump on the cannabis bandwagon, and not all of the reasons altruistic. But whatever the reasons are, legalization is a good thing. The aggregate population in states that are legalized, or have begun legalization, is about 65% of the overall population in the U.S. Coming into 2018 about 35% of the population in the U.S. had legalized cannabis in some form or another. Heading into 2019, it’s a majority of the U.S. population with legal cannabis. This seems like the tipping point into Federally legalized cannabis.

3. Expungement Programs

Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire, and Oregon have expungement programs. California is just passed an expungement program. Several other states are either passing laws that would expunge non-violent crimes like small quantity marijuana dealing, where people should never have been thrown in jail in the first place. We need to release people who are in prison for non-violent, cannabis-related crimes.

Expungement (vacating) of convictions of ill-conceived cannabis laws will allow many good people to leave the prison system. Perhaps this will end the prison cartel in the U.S., where many prisons are run by for-profit, private companies. Private companies make more money when there are more prisoners. They are not in favor of expunging non-violent crime from their prisons. The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. The Federal, 2018 far-reaching criminal justice reform law, along with the legalization of cannabis, will help reduce our prison population. We’re beginning to see the prison population fall. All because of laws and expungement that occurred in 2018.

4. Local Municipalities Coming Around

Most of the cannabis legalization laws that have passed in the last decade or so have allowed individual municipalities to deny licenses for cannabis sales in their borders. In California, a majority of cities do not have cannabis shops in their towns and cities. That wall is beginning to crumble as well. It won’t change completely. There are still cities and counties all over the country that are alcohol ‘dry’. If the citizens in a dry county or municipality want alcohol, they go to a community that has alcohol to purchase. Why would cannabis be any different? If your community doesn’t have any pot shops, you’ll go where the shops are to purchase your weed. Then your town will be out the taxation revenue of weed legalization. The towns that are remaining cannabis ‘dry’ are, in the main, going against the will of their populations. We do understand there’s still a stigma associated with cannabis, but it’s quickly becoming an excuse. Each and every argument against legalizing and selling cannabis has been refuted. When the anti-legalization crowd gets into the picture, all they can do is quote outdated and disproved ‘studies’ and stories about the evils of marijuana. Fresno and many other communities in California and Nevada originally outlawed cannabis stores in their city limits. That wall is starting to crumble and 2018 is the year that began. Most towns that wanted to remain ‘cannabis-dry’ are beginning to take another look. 2019 should see many more towns begin to allow cannabis inside their borders.

5. Medical Cannabis Was Legalized in More States for Good Reasons

Texas, of all places, now has medical marijuana. Although there has been medical cannabis in Texas for several years, it was limited to one and only one disease; intractable epilepsy. Utah voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2018, but the legislature wants to do its own thing. Oklahoma too! And that was voted in as a referendum. Almost all the states who don’t have medical cannabis at the very least, are looking at some way to legalize medical cannabis, if not adult use. Even Indiana is considering it. There will be a few states (Indiana?) that will try to remain draconian in their regulation. If you study history, you’ll find the holdout states to alcohol prohibition, like Mississippi and Oklahoma, had liquor available everywhere. Organized crime was the monetary winner then.

S-T-U-D-Y  H-I-S-T-O-R-Y. Let’s not make the same mistakes again. If the laws are too draconian, the black market will continue to thrive. With reasonable laws, regulations, and taxes, states have a better than fighting chance to eliminate much of the cannabis black market.

6. The Pace of Research

There are many real ailments that can be effectively treated with cannabis. There’s the beginning of a body of cannabis research. I don’t normally plug websites, but Prof of Pot is one of the publications that’s reporting on the science of cannabis. Just one example; There are studies now that demonstrate that one of the many forms of THC can help the symptoms of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Alzheimer’s is also affected positively by certain compounds in cannabis. There is just so much we need to know about the endocannabinoid system in our brains, how it works, and how cannabis works with it.

The Federal Government is beginning to recognize the needs for research and starting to fund some research. Since cannabis is still Schedule 1, even the government has a hard time creating research funding. But private industry is stepping up to the research plate, and that might or might not be medical. Some private research foundations are giving money for cannabis research. It’s beginning, but only a beginning. Researchers need to get deep into the (pardon my expression) weeds and details about cannabis. There was a major uptick in research in 2018 and the outlook is (so far) better in 2019.

7. Studies Show Children and Teens Use Less Cannabis Where it’s Legal

There have been several new studies designed to understand how teens are using cannabis with the results coming out in 2018. Guess what? All the studies, every single one, show underage use of cannabis is lower. Colorado has lower use rate for teens. Washington State had previously reported lower underage cannabis use. It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s actually not. If you’ve studied history of alcohol prohibition and its repeal by the 21st Amendment. While the prohibition of alcohol was in force in the 1920s in the U.S., youth under the age of 21 were normally consuming alcohol, even if it was illegal. After prohibition, teen alcohol use actually went down. Why should cannabis be any different? The realization that underage consumption might decline began in 2018 with several studies published that demonstrated the decline of teen cannabis use in places where it’s legal. There will always be underage cannabis-use just as there’s underage alcohol-use, but it won’t be a free-for-all that the naysayers predict.

8. Levity

Yes, laughter. Even Republicans these days are laughing about cannabis. Is it because they’re high? Could be. Might be. Who knows. Who cares. The main point is, as cannabis becomes normalized in our society, it’s makes us laugh. Cannabis can to do all sorts of positive things for our society, at least in our view. Laugh away Republicans. Laugh away. Now you’ll be laughing with everyone else. We view that as a good thing. Democrats need to laugh too. Our society has become too serious. 2018 saw some humor woven into the conversation about cannabis by both political parties, and that surely is a sign that the times they are a-changing. Let’s hope it continues.

Conclusion

Even though 2018 was the watershed year in the re-legalization of cannabis, there are still many hurdles our society needs to get past. A watershed is the dividing point, the tipping point where everything that came before is changed moving forward. The next most important thing that can happen is the removal of cannabis from Schedule 1. When cocaine is classed lower than cannabis on this so-called schedule of ‘illegal’ drugs, it’s a problem. Only Schedule 2 (where cocaine is) and below can be used as medicine and have research dollars applied to them. Congress needs to reschedule cannabis before any really great research can happen.

There are still too many people and governments who believe the propaganda and lies that were spread about cannabis starting in the early 1900s.

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