American attitudes toward cannabis are dramatically shifting from those of fear and mistrust to curiosity and appreciation. These positive beliefs about marijuana aren’t new, though. In fact, they represent a return to values espoused by North American colonists.

This past year was a big one for marijuana. Here are the most important milestones for the plant by month in 2016.

January

The first ever Cannabis Wedding Expo is held in Denver, Colorado on January 17.  This world-first event enabled marijuana vendors to collaborate with soon-to-be-married couples with the desire to incorporate marijuana into their weddings in a legal and classy manner.

Data is published in the scientific journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicating that marijuana does not affect intellectual declineDespite claims that marijuana use during adolescence can adversely affect brain development and intellectual growth, a longitudinal study examined the effects of cannabis use on sets of twins who were assessed at ages 9-12 before becoming cannabis users and then at ages 17-20.  The study found no direct relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ scores.

February 

The High Times hosts the High Times SoCal Cannabis Cup in San Bernardino, California during the weekends of January 30-31 and February 5-6.  This enormously popular festival and competition between marijuana vendors in categories such as best pot, best hash, and best edibles in Southern California included music performances by De La Soul, The Roots, Ghostface Killah, Redman, Method Man, and Wiz Khalifa.

March 

Supporters and opponents discuss a marijuana proposal at the Massachusetts Statehouse on March 7.  The proposal received enough support to be moved to the November ballot, and, if passed, would allow the government to regulate recreational marijuana.  Spoiler alert: it passed.

April

The High Times attempts to host the Denver High Times Cannabis Cup in Denver, but ends up in San Bernardino, California the weekend of April 16-17.  This eveCannabis Cup, Cannabis news 2016nt came with some drama.  It was originally supposed to be held in Denver, but after Adams County commissioners denied the event permit, the High
Times decided to relocate to Pueblo, Colorado.  Additional regulatory and timing concerns eventually pushed the High Times to move the competition to San Bernardino, California while keeping the award show in Pueblo, Colorado on April 19.

May

Colorado Marijuana taxes exceed expectations based on data collected over the year.  Colorado was recorded to have generated over $1 billion in total marijuana revenue and earned $150 million in marijuana taxes over a 12-month period, from May 31, 2015 to May 31, 2016.

June 

The Cannabis Business Summit and Expo is held in Oakland, California the weekend of June 20-22.  This event was touted as America’s most significant marijuana event because of the policy makers and industry leaders who were in attendance.

Washington State taxes exceed expectations based on data collected over the year.
In a 12-month period beginning and ending in June, Washington State’s marijuana industry earned over $1 billion in recreational marijuana and more than $250 million in tax revenue.

July

A study published in July in the medical journal, Health Affairs, finds that medical marijuana laws are connected to decreased prescription drug use.  According to the study, the legalization of marijuana is linked to a decline in the use of prescription drugs, especially opioids.

August 

Data published in August 2016 in the European Journal of Internal Medicine shows that cannabis users do not access health care services more than non-users.  The lack of data on this issue spurred one study to determine whether or not there was a correlation between increased health care access and marijuana use.  The study found that there was no significant association between the two regardless of the frequency of marijuana use.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denies two petitions to remove CBD from Schedule I on August 11.  DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg rejected two requests for marijuana to be rescheduled, citing the lack of valid scientific evidence supporting the safety and efficacy of marijuana in addition to the drug’s “high potential for abuse” as the DEA’s rationale.

The Boise Hempfest is held in Boise, Idaho on August 13.  This free, educational cannabis event featured 50 vendors and provided attendees with music entertainment and the opportunity to explore the history and socio-political climate surrounding marijuana.  Because marijuana use was (and still is) illegal in Idaho, attendees were warned to refrain from consuming marijuana in any way.

The Seattle Hempfest is held in Seattle, Washington the weekend of August 19-21.  legal cannabis This enormous and highly political festival included six stages for musical performances, marijuana activists and speakers, cannabis businesses and advocacy groups, 400 arts and crafts exhibitions, and, of course, lots of food vendors.

September

The Boston Freedom Rally is held in Boston, Massachusetts the weekend of September 17-18.  This rally was the 27th Annual Freedom Rally focused on ending the prohibition of marijuana by informing citizens on the issues surrounding cannabis use.  The event came at a particularly significant political time since Question 4, the initiative to regulate and tax recreational marijuana, would be on the November ballot.  The rally featured bands, speakers, and vendors.

Feds raid homes across Colorado and seize 22,400 pounds of cannabis plants in El Paso, Pueblo, Crowley, Bent, and Otero counties on September 28—the DEA worked with local police officers to raid homes across southeastern Colorado affiliated with illegal marijuana distribution across state lines.

October

The Great Midwest Harvest Festival is held in Madison, Wisconsin the weekend of October 1-2.  This political and educational event was the 47th annual of its kind and featured music, speaklegal cannabis, cannabis 2016 ers, and vendors.

60% of Americans support Legal Marijuana. A Gallup poll conducted in October of 2016 found that the majority of Americans support the use of legalized marijuana. The 60% approval rating marks the highest level of support recorded in 47 years.

November 

The November 8th national election ironically produces the legalization of marijuana in seven states in addition to anxiety about marijuana’s future in the country. California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts legalized recreational marijuana.  Arkansas, North Dakota, and Florida legalized medical marijuana.  Arizona rejected a recreational legalization proposal.  Donald Trump won the presidency, but his position on marijuana legalization is unclear.  However, his nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has been a critic of marijuana, leaving marijuana advocates in a state of anxiety regarding the direction the federal government will head in.

The Oregon Marijuana Business Conference is held in Ashland, Oregon on November 19.  The highly informative business conference centering on the marijuana industry came at a stressful moment in history for marijuana advocates and investors; a lot of attendees were worried about the Trump administration and the nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, a known anti-weed proponent.  The biggest draw for the event was guest speaker Tommy Chong of Cheech & Chong.

December

A study showing reduction in traffic fatalities when medical marijuana is legal is published in the American Journal of Public Health in December 2016.  The study identified a relationship between legalized medical marijuana and the decline of traffic fatalities in people under age 44.

Despite the incredible gains made by the legalization movement, it is hard to say what the future holds.  This country has loved and demonized marijuana, and with the change of the nation’s political leadership, who can say which position America will take next?

Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.