2020 will go down in history as one of the worst closers to a decade. Politically and through the lens of public health, 2020 was a year of division and fear. However, the world of cannabis managed to shine (even when the cannabis industry, like all industries, faced inevitable hardships during the pandemic). Indeed, cannabis enthusiasts will recall several legislative victories this year that genuinely reflect an updated and supportive attitude towards cannabis among the public. Let’s take a look at this year’s biggest cannabis moments, and may many more come in 2021!
Drug Policy Wins Across the Board
The United States will likely be sandwiched between two legal cannabis markets in 2021 – Canada, who’s enjoyed cannabis legality for quite some time, and Mexico, who took a major step towards legalization this year. Mexico’s senate approved a groundbreaking cannabis legalization bill back in November – 82 votes in favor of the measure and only 18 opposed. This is one of many drug policy victories that occurred throughout 2020, such as Oregon’s decision to decriminalize small possession of all drugs.
This would make Mexico the world’s largest legal cannabis markets. Outside of legislative progress, we also saw the rise of the Mexican Cannabis Movement, led by grassroots activist Pepe Rivera. These protests seek an end to discriminatory practices that can come with legalization, the guaranteed right for citizens to grow/cultivate their own cannabis, and reparations for communities devastated by the drug war.
Five New U.S. Cannabis Markets
Moreover, the spirit of drug policy reform was especially felt in cannabis. Down the ballot, cannabis policy reform consistently proves to be a popular preference amongst Americans. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota all approved adult-use of cannabis (though legality begins in 2021 for the aforementioned states). Likewise, Mississippi voted in favor of medical cannabis, which in total brings five new cannabis job-creating and consumer-pleasing markets to the states. This is a great way to start the new year, and of course, additional tax revenue is considerably important during these economically fraught times.
The MORE Act
We would be remiss not to celebrate perhaps the biggest landmark cannabis legislative news of 2020 – the House of Representatives passing legislation to decriminalize cannabis nationally. His groundbreaking legislation, known as the MORE Act, marks the first time a chamber of Congress ever voted on federal cannabis decriminalization. Though the measure didn’t sport bipartisan favorship by any means, the milestone is an honest reflection of public opinion regarding cannabis. It signals to future politicians what the working class has known for decades – people ought to have the freedom to use cannabis if they’d like to.
Thank You to Our Essential Cannabis Industry Workers
There are a few other cannabis victories this year worth mentioning, such as the NBA’s decision to stop randomly drug testing their players for THC in 2021. Richard DeLisi, the longest serving nonviolent U.S. inmate for cannabis, was released after 31 years of unjust incarceration. But there was one piece of news that seems most appropriate to end this cannabis year in review with: amid a pandemic, many state and local officials deemed the cannabis industry as essential.
The fact that the government – an institution that spent decades demonizing cannabis users – has now come around and labeled the cannabis industry as essential is very satisfying. Though the concerns amongst medical cannabis patients continued throughout 2020, it is evident that the role of medical cannabis was recognized as indispensable this year. But the essential status extends beyond just medical cannabis dispensaries, which indeed ought to be considered akin to pharmacies during a pandemic. Instead, adult-use/recreational dispensaries were allowed to stay open. This speaks to the diminishing stigma surrounding cannabis, and that is perhaps complimentary to the previously discussed drug policy reform victories in this piece.
If you are a cannabis industry worker who remained working during the pandemic, thank you. If you know a cannabis industry worker who remained working during the pandemic, you ought to thank them. These workers were essential before the pandemic, and they ought to be appreciated as essential long after this pandemic. 2020 was a relatively successful year for cannabis, but that would not be the case if it wasn’t for cannabis’s frontline workers!
Moving into 2021, let’s continue our fight for cannabis acceptance and elevate our respect for cannabis industry employees.