The cannabis industry has had plenty to celebrate this year. Marijuana legalization is proving it can work in states that have passed adult use or medical programs, research is demonstrating marijuana’s effectiveness and safety, and support for cannabis legalization has never been higher. This Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to review all that the cannabis industry has to be grateful for this year.
1. Marijuana Legalization Efforts in the U.S. Increase This Year
Marijuana legalization spread across the nation this year, as six states approved medical marijuana programs and another four voted for recreational use of marijuana. These ten states are part of a swell of approval for cannabis as more and more regions are becoming open to the idea of legal marijuana.
The Pennsylvania and Ohio state legislatures passed medical marijuana laws in their states earlier this spring, tipping the scales for the first time to put medical marijuana states the majority and bringing access to medical marijuana to over half the U.S. population.
Further expansion of America’s medical marijuana came during November’s election. Four more states, Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota, voted on new or expanded medical marijuana measures in this fall’s election.
Additionally, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts, all passed adult use recreational marijuana this past November 8th, joining Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, all of which have existing adult use laws. Recreational marijuana is now legal up and down the West Coast and has a foothold in New England in the east.
Marijuana is also enjoying unprecedented support among American voters for both medical and recreational legalization, and we may soon see a more concerted push for federal legalization as more states move to allow the booming industry.
Visit our education page to learn more about the marijuana laws in the U.S.
2. The Cannabis Industry is Creating Jobs and Boosting the Economy
The legal cannabis industry has brought soaring economic benefits to the many communities around the country that have approved it. This past year, Colorado’s legal marijuana industry alone created over 18,000 jobs for the state, creating a $2.4 billion positive impact on the state economy. More than 1,300 companies applied for recreational cannabis licenses in Oregon, and the state’s cannabis industry generated $46 million in total wages in just 8 months.
In total, the cannabis industry has added 150,000 U.S. jobs this year during a time when many industries are still struggling to recover.
3. Cannabis Tax Revenue is Improving Local Communities
A major selling point for marijuana legalization has been the potential tax revenue to be earned for states and local communities. Colorado alone raised $121 million in tax revenue, using the funds for everything from stopping school bullying to supporting the homeless. In California, where the potential tax revenue is estimated to be up to $1 billion, recently passed legalization is expected to be a windfall for the state. This potential revenue stream for America’s communities can make an important impact on the lives of those dependant on local services like schools and health clinics.
4. We are Creating a Functioning Industry
Marijuana businesses are proving that they can work as a lucrative, well regulated industry in the U.S., smashing expectations and silencing critics. Alaska recently announced the opening of their first recreational marijuana dispensary after a careful two year rollout. Opening four months earlier than previous estimates, the new store strictly adheres to the testing regulations set by the state, as will others that open in the future. Michigan, California, Colorado, and Oregon also addressed their marijuana industries by passing further regulations this year to ensure the safety of consumers and surrounding communities. It is estimated that the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. could be worth $50 billion in just 10 years.
5. We Have the Support of Healthcare Workers
Health officials and medical professionals have come forward this year to offer their support for the rescheduling of cannabis and increased research into marijuana’s benefits. This fall the American Nurses Association acknowledged the potential therapeutic role of marijuana and called for it to be rescheduled. In fact, doctors aren’t even that concerned about cannabis use, worrying more about firearms in the house and tobacco use as negative health indicators than marijuana. Supporting the medical uses of marijuana, a hospital in California wants to be the first to allow smokeless forms of medical marijuana to be used inside the hospital. These steps toward the normalization of marijuana for medical use help validate the work the cannabis industry has done this year to increase the number of medical marijuana states in the U.S.
6. There is Increasingly More Research About Cannabis
Although the DEA declined to reschedule marijuana this past summer, they did take steps to ease the process to conduct research on cannabis. This is more good news in a year full of positive developments in the field of marijuana research. Connecticut recently invited researchers from hospitals, health centers, and universities in the state to submit proposals for funding for their cannabis studies. The marijuana research community also saw a new peer reviewed journal and a medical textbook released this year exclusively related to medical cannabis.
Visit our education page to read more about medical cannabis research.
7. Legislation Extended by Congress to Stop Federal Raids on Legal Cannabis Businesses
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment , which keeps the DOJ from using federal funds to raid state legal marijuana businesses was again extended by congress, protecting cannabis companies following state laws across the country from federal interference. This gives legal cannabis businesses the peace of mind to invest time and industry into building their companies and gives a sense of reassurance to everyone from employees to investors.
8. Attorney General Admits Marijuana is Not a Gateway Drug
For years, marijuana has been labelled a gateway drug, supposing that it inevitably led to the use of harder drugs. However, this fall U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch acknowledged what everyone already seemed to know: marijuana is not in fact a gateway to harder drugs. Lynch’s admission flies in the face of conventional wisdom and represents a new approach to the facts about cannabis. Despite this, cannabis advocates are serious about keeping cannabis products out of the hands of teens.
In states where recreational cannabis has been legalized, great steps have been taken to prevent children from accessing marijuana, and to their credit, Colorado has seen no increase in teen cannabis use since passing their legalization measure.
9. Marijuana Can Help Fight the Opioid Crisis
Finally, cannabis may be an important tool in the struggle against its current heroin and opioid epidemic. A number of studies presented this year have indicated that marijuana legalization for both medical and recreational uses can curb America’s growing opioid epidemic. Most recently, researchers from Columbia University demonstrated that access to legal marijuana reduces the use of dangerous opioids. A previous study also linked marijuana use to a reduction of opioid use by up to 64 percent. This data was backed up in another study on the effects marijuana access on opioid use. With painkiller and heroin overdose cases peaking in the U.S., cannabis could be the answer for which we are looking.
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