Nearly halfway through 2013 and it’s already been an incredible, unprecedented year for cannabis law reform. Things are moving at an incredibly fast pace all across the globe, and there’s not even the slightest indication that it’ll slow down until cannabis prohibition is put to an effective end.
Here’s a list, in no particular order, of some of the biggest and most impactful victories so far this year.
- Colorado now has a regulated and taxed recreational cannabis market.
In 2012, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, making legal cannabis a constitutional right. In addition to legalizing the possession and private cultivation of cannabis, the amendment legalized recreational retail outlets, with regulations handled by the state’s legislature.
In 2013, these regulations – from a governor-appointed task force to the governor’s recent signing of multiple cannabis regulation bills – have been ironed out in a surprisingly effective manner. Work is still left to be done, but enough of a framework has been established that cannabis retail outlets can open, operate and supply cannabis to the masses by next spring.
Even better, the regulations aren’t terrible. Not everything is ideal, but nothing incredibly strict was implemented, cannabis tourism is authorized, residents can grow up to 6 tax-free plants, penalties for minors were reduced to be analogous to a minor in possession of alcohol, etc..
Washington isn’t far behind, and they’re currently formulating their own regulations, but Colorado is clearly the example state that will lead the way for future reform. Everyone’s watching.
- 2013 has been one of, if not the best, year ever in terms of positive cannabis research.
A plethora of cannabis-related scientific research has been released this year, with the majority of the studies being the most comprehensive ever released on the connection between cannabis and that particular condition.
For example; a group from Neuroscience Research Australia has conducted promising early research indicating that cannabis may reverse the symptoms of dementia, multiple studies have been released – including one published in the American Journal of Medicine – which have found that cannabis may combat diabetes, and numerous other studies have found that cannabis may reverse or effectively combat the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Crohn’s disease, bladder cancer, HIV and brain damage.
- Legislative and political victories continue to mount.
This year alone, the state legislature for four states – Colorado, California, Vermont and Kentucky – have approved measures legalizing hemp cultivation. In Colorado, licensed hemp production could begin as soon as this year, as their law has been signed by the governor and isn’t contingent on a change in federal law.
Just weeks ago in Rhode Island, the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis became no longer a criminal offense thanks to recently approved legislation.
In Vermont, a measure was recently signed by the governor decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis.
In New York, their full Assembly has recently approved a measure decriminalizing the public display of cannabis. The Assembly also approved a measure legalizing medical cannabis, a measure that’s expected to pass the Senate, according to the bill’s prime sponsor.
In Nevada, the state’s governor has just signed a bill legalizing medical cannabis dispensaries throughout the state.
Although the law is far from perfect, Maryland became the 19th medical marijuana state by passing legislation to allow certain academic centers to distribute cannabis to qualified patients.
In France, a decree has just been approved which legalizes cannabis medicines such as teas, sprays and capsules.
In Israel, the number of doctors authorized to prescribe medical cannabis has more than doubled.
In the Czech Republic, it’s now legal for pharmacies to distribute medical cannabis to qualified patients.
- Politicians are beginning to take hemp and cannabis legalization seriously.
In April, Oregon’s House Judiciary Committee became one of the only legislative state committees in U.S. history to approve of the legalization of marijuana – they did so on a 6 to 3 vote: the measure would allow for the possession of up to 24 ounces and 6 plants, and would legalize state-licensed retail outlets. The proposal hasn’t moved forward since its vote in April, but it’s still alive, and advocates have filed legalization initiatives aimed at the 2014 ballot to push lawmakers to act.
Lawmakers in numerous other states – including Maine, New York and Ohio – have been working to pass legalization legislation as well. Multiple elected officials – such as California’s Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom – have come out in favor of legalization, urging other politicians to do the same.
On top of this, the two most legislatively powerful Republicans in the U.S. – Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader John Boehner – are now working towards hemp legalization. Boehner has only recently indicated that he’ll work towards its passage, but McConnell has been actively pushing for it, including being one of the prime sponsors on federal legislation to end hemp prohibition.
Although much work is left to be done, it’s clear that we’re at a breaking point. Cannabis legalization is nothing less than inevitable.
There are many victories that have occurred in 2013 that we didn’t list – we know we missed a lot – but taking a glance at the ones mentioned-above, it’s absolutely clear that it’s been an excellent year for cannabis law reform.
We couldn’t be more excited to see the progress that will be made in the coming year.
[ Editor’s Note: Sources are hyperlinked throughout the article. ]