The year 2015 will go down as a big year for cannabis. Here are some of the biggest stories of the year:
1. Taxes go up, Teen use doesn't rise
Colorado raked in a record $70 million in cannabis taxes, with $40 million earmarked for schools — leading to the first-ever, weed-supported scholarship fund in the state. Amid widespread medical and adult-use legalization, teen use rates haven’t climbed a bit.
2. California regulates medical marijuana in historic midnight vote
The 8th largest economy in the world just green-lit official state licenses for medical pot activity, bringing stark legal clarity to a 19-year-old, multi-billion dollar industry
3. Landmark study shows pediatric seizures reduced with marijuana extract
Three studies presented at the American Epilepsy Society’s 69th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia Dec. 7th found a marijuana-derived extract slashed pediatric seizures in half, and completely stopped seizures in nine percent of cases. Sixteen clinics in the U.S. are giving a marijuana extract rich in the molecule cannabidiol (called Epidiolex) to a total of 261 people — mostly children with incurable epilepsy, a sometimes deadly seizure disorder.
“After three months of treatment, the frequency of all seizures was reduced by a median of 45 percent in all participants. Almost half (47%) of the participants in the study experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in seizures and nine percent of patients were seizure-free. Among specific patient populations, DS patients had a 62 percent reduction in seizures and 13 percent were seizure-free. Patients with LGS experienced a 71 percent reduction in atonic seizures,” stated a release from the American Epilepsy Society.
4. Ohio Voters Rejected Marijuana Legalization
If it had passed on Election Day, it would have made Ohio the fifth state to legalize marijuana in the U.S. But, alas, voters failed to support this historic opportunity because they didn't like the ballot language, which benefitted investors and created a monopoly. So it's back to the drawing board in the Buckeye State. And good riddance.
5. Decriminalization spreads
Delaware became the 16th state with a marijuana decriminalization law in June; it went into effect in December. Possession of up to one ounce is now punishable by a $100 fine. Also, pot laws were liberalized in Louisiana, Nebraska and Oregon, and decriminalized in Milwaukee, Wichita and Miami Beach, as well as in several towns in Michigan. However, in Illinois, the governor vetoed a decrim bill in September.
6. Celebrities enter the canna-biz
Following Privateer Holdings' 2014 announcement that they had teamed up with the Bob Marley Estate to manufacture Marley-branded cannabis products under the name Marley Natural, Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg made moves to exploit the Green Rush. The country star's Willie's Reserve and the rapper's Leafs by Snoop were both announced, though no products have yet to be released. Others celebs looking to enter the cannabiz include Tommy Chong, Melissa Etheridge, Wiz Khalifa, Rihanna and Jimmy Buffett.
7. Testing found to be inconsistent
The testing of marijuana will likely continue to be a big story as we move into the New Year, impacting not only cannabis consumers, but also other states looking to legalize cannabis in 2016 and beyond. Several media outlets did investigations of marijuana testing and found some rather alarming results. Sage Analytics provided a partial solution when they introduced "The Beacon" - a portable testing device that can be used anywhere and is based on the same proven, FDA-approved technology used by major pharmaceutical companies. Consumers and some in the industry are pushing for increased testing standards and protocols.
8. Oregon Legalizes
Oregon voters chose to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana by passing Measure 91. The Beaver State officially became the fourth state to legalize marijuana possession on July 1st. Since Washington State doesn’t allow home cultivation, Oregon became the third state to legalize cannabis cultivation. Thanks to Oregon legislators wisely deciding that adults over the age of 21 could legally purchase marijuana flowers from existing medical marijuana dispensaries, the state became the third to regulate cannabis sales.
9. Senate bill introduced to end cannabis prohibition
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders proposes a bill to deschedule marijuana. If passed this bill would effectively end federal cannabis prohibition. It won't pass.
10. Technology enters the cannabis industry
New compliance software by CannaScore is just one of the many technology-driven products to enter the cannabis arena. From delivery and social networking apps, to water and light monitors, to high tech extractors, new technologies are flourishing - and helping the industry in many useful ways.
11. Cannabis stocks reveal business fundamentals
Now that the heady rush to buy cannabis stocks is over, investors looked more closely at some of the cannabis stocks and concluded that many companies didn't have strong fundamentals to support a high stock price. These stocks tanked. On the other hand, companies like Kush Bottles went public with a strong balance sheet, real products, and growing sales. Investors in the cannabis sector have learned to separate the winners from the losers.
12. Experts proliferate
From consultants that can help newcomers get licenses and stay compliant like the team at the Denver Consulting Group, to lawyers that specialize in canna-law, to advertising and marketing agencies like the Innovation Agency that creates stellar brands and moves their clients way in front of the competition, the maturing of the industry has created a demand for experts that really know their stuff.
13. Stoned Bunnies May Take Over the World
This is our favorite story of the year: DEA special agent Matt Fairbanks is convinced that legalization would turn Utah's cutest mammals against them. He told Utah lawmakers, “I deal in facts. I deal in science,” he said, and then warned that he saw “rabbits that had cultivated a taste for the marijuana.” If ever there was a convincing argument against legalization, that was it.