On November 8, 2016, America voted to legalize weed. Nine states included cannabis legalization of some form on their ballots, and eight of those states voted to regulate the controversial plant. The majority of Americans welcome the change, but many see it as a dangerous shift. No matter where anyone stands on the spectrum, one fact is clear from both sides: the end of the election cycle was just the beginning for cannabis regulation.
Here are 10 major moves the legalization movement has made in the United States and worldwide in 2017.
Medical Cannabis Became available to Floridians
January 3 was the first day that medical cannabis became available to eligible Florida residents. The program allows patients with non-terminal, but serious conditions to consume low THC cannabis. It reserves psychotropic, high-THC cannabis for patients suffering conditions deemed terminal, including Parkinson’s disease, Glaucoma, muscle spasms, cancer, seizures, and AIDS.
The Rescheduling of Cannabis is a Hot Topic
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine called for the rescheduling of cannabis in a 440 page-report it released about the drug. The primary reason the DEA cites when defending its decision to maintain cannabis’s Schedule I designation is the lack of evidence supporting its medical use and safety.
Well, in early January, the National Academy of Sciences released a comprehensive report examining 10,000 scientific studies and concluding that cannabis has “both therapeutic value and public health risks.”
The report called for more research, arguing that the drug’s current classification as a Schedule I substance hampers this necessary process.
Germany’s Parliament Legalized Medical Cannabis
Like in the United States, the question of cannabis’ medical efficacy has been a polemical topic for decades. However, in mid-January, Germany’s parliament unanimously approved the legalization of cannabis for medical use. Germany’s program will make cannabis available to patients at pharmacies via physician’s prescription. One of the highlights of the plan is that it empowers insurance companies to cover the cost of flower and extracts for patients who are using cannabis as a last resort.
Argentina Legalized the Medical use of Cannabis Oil
In March, the South American country authorized a regulatory framework that would make medical cannabis oil available to patients. The Argentine law also established a research program that would guarantee free cannabis oil to patients who sign up to be a part of the research.
Israel Officially Decriminalized Cannabis
In March, the extraordinarily divisive political machine in Israel came together to decriminalize the recreational use of cannabis. The first two offenses will result in fines. The third offense will result in education, rehab, and a suspended driver’s license. It is only after the fourth offense that prison time may become an option. Israel has played an important role in the study of medical cannabis, so it isn’t a huge surprise that the nation’s attitude toward recreational use has become more lenient, especially in light of the global movement toward legalization.
Canada Introduced Legislation to Make Cannabis Legal at the Federal Level
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected with total cannabis legalization as a part of his platform, it was a powerful symbol to the world that cannabis legislation is in for a change. However, many people doubted that the symbolic would move into the tangible. But in mid-April, the administration filed legislation that would amend Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act so that cannabis becomes a federally legal substance.
The law would allow adults aged 18 and over to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis and to grow up to four plants
It would also authorize licensed business to produce cannabis. Recreational cannabis sales are set to begin in July 2018.
Mexico Legalized Medical Cannabis
Mexico is notorious for its bloody war on drugs. Tens of thousands of innocent Mexicans caught in the crosshairs have been murdered, robbed, and kidnapped all in the name of drug enforcement. Cannabis is one of those drugs. That’s why President Enrique Peña Nieto’s signature authorizing the use of medical cannabis in June is such a telling indication of the world’s attitude shift toward cannabis. The law falls far short of what Mexican residents are asking for—it merely authorizes the country’s Ministry of Health to develop and launch a regulatory framework that would make medical cannabis accessible to patients—but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Furthermore, that it is a national policy makes it far superior to the United States’ federal stance on medical cannabis.
Cannabis Sales Begin in Nevada
Las Vegas’ home was one of the eight states to approve its cannabis ballot initiative during the general election, making it the fifth state in the country to authorize recreational use. Unlike the other states, Nevada planned to launch its recreational cannabis sales in under a year. Though the road to legalization was complicated—no one was ready to sell by the time sales were supposed to begin—the state managed to meet its deadline of July 1.
A Cannabis Growing Company Buys an Entire Town in California
American Green, a publicly traded cannabis company in the United States, bought the city of Nipton, California in early August. The tiny town is home to less than 30 people but has been the place of dreams since its inception. Nipton was born out of the energy of the gold rush, and now may be resurrected by a green one.
Hawaii Opens its First Medical Cannabis Dispensary
In early August, Maui Grown Therapies opens its doors to smiling patients in Kahului, Hawaii. Though possession of cannabis has been legal for medical patients in the state for 17 years, 2017 is the first of those years in which patients have been able to easily and legally access their medicine if they chose not to grow it themselves. Before now, residents relied on the black market for their cannabis, a problematic situation for legal and health reasons. Black market cannabis is not subject to any regulations, and dealers have no incentive to have their product lab tested, a requirement that ensures medicine is at the highest quality.