This year was huge for cannabis and the industry continues to take shape as more states and nations soften their rules around marijuana. More consumers have more choices. And fewer people are put behind bars for possession of a plant.
What were the top stories of the year? The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been at the forefront of cannabis policy for 47 years. Since the Washington DC-based organization has been tracking trends and statistics for nearly half a century, we consider NORML’s list among the most informative and thorough.
1. Public Support In Favor Of Legalization Reaches All-Time High
Sixty-four percent of US adults – including for the first time a majority of self-identified Republicans – believe that the adult use of marijuana should be legal, according to nationwide polling data published in October by Gallup. The percentage is the highest level of support ever reported by Gallup, which has polled the question since 1969.
2. Legal Cannabis Industry Responsible For 150,000 Full-Time Jobs
The legal cannabis industry is responsible for the creation of an estimated 150,000 full-time jobs, according to state-by-state data. The total represents a 22 percent increase in the number of full-time cannabis-related jobs created since 2016. States reporting the largest number of cannabis-related jobs were California (47,711) Colorado (26,891), and Washington (26,556).
3. Adult Use Laws Do Not Adversely Impact Traffic Fatality Rates
The enactment of statewide laws regulating the adult use and sale of cannabis is not associated with subsequent changes in traffic fatality rates, according to an analysis of traffic safety data published in June in the American Journal of Public Health.
- Related Story: Driving And Marijuana: A Tale Of Two Studies
4. Canadian Lawmakers Pledge To Legalize Adult Use By 2018
Liberal Party members introduced comprehensive legislation in April to regulate the use, cultivation, and sale of marijuana by those age 18 and older. Members of the House of Commons overwhelmingly approved the measure in November. The legislation now awaits action from the Senate. Liberal Party members have pledged to enact the legislation by summer 2018.
5. Presidential Commission Ignores Evidence That Cannabis Mitigates Opioid Abuse
A final report issued in November by a Presidential commission on opioids refused to acknowledge science establishing that legal cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opiate use, hospitalization, and mortality.
- Related Story: To The Presidential Commission On The Opioid Crisis: Here Are Some Suggestions From An MD
6. Medical Marijuana Access Linked To Lower Medicaid Costs
Patients use fewer prescription drugs in states where access to medical cannabis is legally regulated, according to data published in April in the journal Health Affairs. Researchers reported, “[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied. … If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.”
- Related Story: Study: Medical Marijuana Could Save Medicaid $1 Billion
7. Anti-Cannabis Zealot Jeff Sessions Named Attorney General
Members of the US Senate in February confirmed the nomination of Republican Congressman Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General. As a member of the US House of Representatives, Sessions once supported the death penalty for certain marijuana offenders and stated publicly, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
8. Vermont Governor Vetoes Marijuana Depenalization Measure
Republican Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation in May that sought to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for the adult possession and cultivation of marijuana.
- Related Story: What’s Next For Vermont Now That Legal Marijuana Is Dead?
9. New Hampshire Decriminalizes Minor Marijuana Offenses
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed marijuana decriminalization into law in July. The law took effect in September. Under the act, the possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis and/or up to five grams of hashish by those age 18 or older is no longer criminal.
- Related Story: Great News For N.H. Cannabis Consumers: No More Jail Time
1o. World Health Organizations Says CBD Is Safe, Should Not Be Restricted
Use of the naturally occurring cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) possesses no likely abuse potential and should not be subject to international drug scheduling restrictions, according to recommendations issued in December by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile,” WHO determined.
- Related Story: CBD Has No Health Risks Claims World Health Organization