You may be done with 2016 but 2016 isn’t done with you. That’s pretty much the sentiment going into the holiday season this year. 2016 has undeniably been trolling pretty hard between political depression and celebrity deaths. But in the spirit of the season, I think it’s time to look back on the good things that happened this year. 2016 was actually a pretty monumental year for weed, from legalized marijuana in several states to decriminalization in several cities. Let’s just stifle our pessimism for a few minutes while we look back over the year and send our sincere gratitude for the victories we achieved in the arena of marijuana. Who knows, we might even get some Law of Attraction action happening and attract some more of this good stuff.
1.) 1 in 5 U.S. Adults Can Use Recreational Marijuana Now
No one really wants to revisit the November election but 4 states legalized recreational use of marijuana and 4 additional states legalized medical marijuana. Of course, not everyone’s smiling about the legalization bills and I’m not just referring to the prohibitionists. Several California growers aren’t too keen on increased taxes and feel that the passage of Prop. 64 will effectively pave the way for big businesses to infiltrate and take over the marijuana industry. What we can say for certain is that the country is sending a clear statement that the people want legalized marijuana; a stance that could come in handy as Trump promotes staunch prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to an Attorney General position.
2.) Decriminalization Hits the Dirty South
Quite a few cities decriminalized marijuana this year but the truly remarkable examples all came from the dirty south. Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans all saw decriminalization bills pass this year, freeing up monetary resources and further echoing the growing public sentiment that marijuana is a plant, not a crime. This also means a drop in arrest rates which brings me to my next point of gratitude.
3.) Marijuana-Related Arrests Hit 20-Year Low
This technically involves data from 2015 though we didn’t process it until 2016: arrests related to marijuana dropped to their lowest point in two decades. This is actually sort of a silver lining to a fairly dark cloud because a marijuana arrest is still made every 49 seconds in America. However, with more states legalizing and more cities decriminalizing, we can expect arrests for outdated, archaic laws to continue to plummet.
4.) PTSD Finally Recognized as a Qualifying Condition in New Jersey
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is no friend to marijuana so it was interesting to see him gradually soften his stance against weed this year. He came out swinging against legalized marijuana states during his disastrous presidential bid but the public sentiment wasn’t too receptive to militant prohibition. Regardless of Christie’s personal feelings about marijuana, he did the right thing and approved PTSD as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in New Jersey when he could have stopped it dead in its tracks. It almost made us feel bad to hear about him running to get Trump’s McDonald’s order. Almost.
5.) Research Restrictions Lifted…Allegedly
While the DEA unsurprisingly voted to stay the course yet again by retaining a ludicrous Schedule I classification for marijuana, they threw out the consolation prize that marijuana research would be less restrictive going forward. This was probably more to save themselves from a full scale riot than any real interest in re-scheduling marijuana in the future. Who doesn’t love job security? This is sort of a pre-emptive showing of gratitude because there hasn’t been a whole lot of evidence of the lifted restrictions thus far but it did
take the DEA over half a year to decide to keep things pretty much the same so they’re not exactly known for their speed. They approved some PTSD research this year so that’s something at least.
6.) Medical Marijuana as an Alzheimer’s Treatment
Speaking of medical marijuana breakthroughs, a research group published findings this year that illustrate new ways that cannabis can be used to treat Alzheimer’s
. Marijuana had already been tested as an Alzheimer’s treatment but this research showed its positive effects on inflammation of the brain tissue. If the DEA keeps their word on lifted restrictions, we’ll hopefully see rapid developments over the coming years in how cannabis can be used to medicate Alzheimer’s patients more effectively.
7.) Raid Police Charged in Crimes Against Dispensary
As much as I’d love to keep this a malice-free zone today, if we’re sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner, we might as well serve up a side of ice cold revenge. Or let’s call it hot justice if that sounds better. Who could forget the vicious raid on medical marijuana dispensary Sky High Holistic
that went down in May of 2015. After months of paid leave, it seemed like the officers that ate dispensary edibles and berated an amputee volunteer in a wheelchair with threats of violence would get off without so much as a slap on the wrist. Yet, in March of 2016, the officers were finally charged with petty theft while another officer at the scene was charged with misdemeanor vandalism. The officers plead not guilty but were still permanently relieved of duty. In October, the city of Santa Ana paid Sky High Holistic $100,000 and dropped all charges against the volunteers working at the dispensary.
8.) Legalized Marijuana vs. Bullies
While we gear up for Melania Trump’s war against cyber bullying, Colorado put its money where its mouth is by using marijuana revenue to set up programs to prevent bullying. $2.9 million thus far will be going to the bullying prevention grant. Schools are eligible for up to $40,000 each if they form their own bullying prevention committees. This is a direct example of how legalized marijuana can actually help the youth contrary to what prohibitionists claim.
9.) Tightened Regulations on Edibles
This may seem like a strange detail for which to be thankful but there’s a deep benefit to Colorado’s increased regulations on marijuana edibles. It’s a benefit that has to do with the public image of marijuana. We understand marijuana and know how to ration out edibles but not everyone is so knowledgeable. Novices gorging themselves on marijuana edibles and checking themselves into emergency rooms later the same night do nothing good for marijuana’s reputation, especially with pharmaceutical companies and the alcohol industry waiting in the wings to demonize it. Safeguarding edibles keeps the marijuana industry professional and responsible, even at the cost of those cute little gummi bears. Sure, prohibitionists are certain to keep spouting baseless stupidity but it’s our job to keep it baseless.
10.) Marijuana at the Oregon State Fair
This may not seem like that much of a big deal but really think about this: marijuana plants were actually on full display at the 2016 Oregon State Fair. It seems simple but that’s the point. True victory will come when legalized marijuana is accepted as commonplace. The normalization of marijuana saps prohibitionists of their power. Lies can bloom in a mystery but are harder to cultivate in a well-known commodity. Every year, marijuana becomes more and more acceptable to the status quo. Its place in the Oregon County Fair is a great example of how far we’ve come.
Yes, it’s easy to loathe 2016. It’s brought a lot of pain and hardship, much of it by complete surprise. But let’s not forget our victories and accomplishments. Now is not the time to deny ourselves a morale boost. We in the 420 community have a lot to celebrate in 2016 and we can’t lose sight of that. This isn’t a mission accomplished celebration by a long shot but we’ve reached heights this year that were unimaginable a decade ago. For these moments, I sincerely say “thank you, 2016”.