Welcome back to The Year In Weed, our annual roundup of cannabis-related stories. As usual, we’ll adopt Dave Barry’s Year in Review format and look at stories month by month. Last year, I wished for “better things” in 2021. Is that what we got? 2020 was such a low bar, it’s hard to see how any year couldn’t clear it. But 2021 started out badly and ended badly, with only a few nice days in the middle.
Let’s have a look back and see if 2021 was really just a “variant” (to use Mr. Barry’s word) of 2020.
We’ll begin in January when Arizona began legal marijuana sales. They take the prize for fastest implementation of an adult-use marketplace – ballot initiative in November, sales in January. Note: these results are not typical. On the federal level, the USDA issued its final rule on hemp. The industry wasn’t delighted with the new rules, but viewed them as an improvement over the interim rules.
And on we go to February, when New Jersey legalized adult-use marijuana. It was a long and winding road, and there were times when it seemed all was lost, but it turned out okay in the end for advocates of legalization.
Which brings us to March, when that federal hemp rule took effect. There had been some thought of delay or additional review, but all went forward as planned. March is, in many parts of the country, Girl Scout cookie time. Happily, one Michigan troop was able to keep selling outside a marijuana dispensary.
April was one of the biggest months for cannabis news. New York legalized. New Mexico legalized. And, more ominously for legalization proponents, the South Dakota Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the 2020 ballot initiative allowing adult-use.
And then it was the merry, merry month of May. Merry, that is, for supporters of medical cannabis in Alabama, where the Governor signed a program into law. Considerably less merry for MMJ advocates in Mississippi, who saw the state’s Supreme Court overturn a ballot initiative. The problem was not in the substance of the initiative itself, but in the fact that the state lost a Congressional seat in 2010, and the state never updated its initiative rules.
On we went to June, where we saw Amazon weigh in on the MORE Act (in favor) and employee testing for cannabis (no longer happening). And Connecticut joined its New England neighbors in legalizing adult-use marijuana.
July brought us the Olympics (a year late) and the banning of athlete Sha’Carri Richardson, after a positive marijuana test. If you’re thinking that the disconnect between state and federal law on cannabis is a dumpster fire of a problem, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shares your view.
The year pressed on to September where New York‘s new governor made appointments to the state’s cannabis boards. Meanwhile, on the federal level, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) announced his opposition to the SAFE Banking Act.
October brought us Halloween, and the fear that there’s cannabis in the candy. Don’t worry – there’s not. Turning our gaze to Europe, Luxembourg became the first country on the continent to allow growing and using cannabis.
And, all of a sudden, its was November. Polling showed that 68% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, an all-time high (no pun intended – oh please, who are we kidding? Pun very much intended). Perhaps the strong support was what prompted Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) to introduce a legalization bill.
Finally, we arrived at December, the month of holidays and year-end reviews. Speaking of endings, that’s what happened to legal adult-use cannabis in South Dakota, as the state’s Supreme Court struck down the ballot initiative. That wasn’t the only setback for marijuana advocates; the SAFE Banking Act was stripped out of the National Defense Authorization Act. But, there was news from Europe to warm proponents’ hearts – Malta legalized cannabis.
So that’s your 2021 in a nutshell. There are so many questions left to be answered in 2022 – and just imagine the ballot initiatives we’ll be discussing! Enjoy your New Year’s celebrations, and we’ll be back beginning January 7 to bring you a look at the news throughout the coming year.