Article by Bruce Barcott, Leafly
It would have been tough to top 2016—the year four states legalized adult-use cannabis—in terms of inspirational cannabis stories. But don’t poor-mouth 2017. Sure, we went through some tough times. Jeff Sessions had nary a good word to say about legalization. The California wildfires hit some in the cannabis industry especially hard. But there was plenty of good news to spread around, too.
Canada moved on its promise to legalize cannabis nationwide. Adult-use cannabis stores opened in Las Vegas. Orrin Hatch hopped on the medical cannabis bandwagon. It was hard to winnow the list to ten, and especially hard to choose between Jeff Sessions and Canadian legalization.
After many late-night debates among our editors, we finally reached consensus. In the end, what Canada did to push progress on national and global legalization will mean far more than what Jeff Sessions did not do to undermine it in the United States. Here are Leafly’s ten most important cannabis stories of 2017.
1. Canada Steams Toward Legalization
While Jeff Sessions and other federal officials in the US spat venom at state legalization, Canada’s prime minister, Parliament, and provincial governments all moved to end prohibition in 2018. Make no mistake: Legalization isn’t a theory in the True North, it’s really happening (and will open next summer). Provinces are crafting rules to regulate legal cannabis—and some, like Ontario, are actually going to open province-run cannabis stores. Meanwhile, leading Canadian LPs (licensed medical cannabis producers) expanded their global reach by exporting product to Germany, Croatia, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Chile, and Portugal.
Just this week, Mexico announced that it will allow infused medical cannabis products to be imported in 2018. Most likely source for those imports? Canada. (Of course, Canadian licensed producers famously cannot manufacture edibles. Yet. But edibles are coming, and the Mexican market might speed up their introduction.) By embracing regulated legalization, Canada is sprinting ahead to become the clear leader in the global cannabis industry.
2. Nevada Adult Use Era Opens
Long lines of happy customers turned out for the midnight opening of Nevada’s first adult-use retail stores on July 1. At Las Vegas stores like Essence, Reef, Jardin, Oasis, Acres, and The Apothecary, locals buzzed inside and outside the stores, celebrating the state’s newfound freedom. State Sen. Tick Segerblom, the political godfather of the state’s legalization movement, made the ceremonial first purchase at The Reef just after midnight. “When I was doing this back in the 60s, it didn’t look like this,” Segerblom said. “No seeds, no stems, no sticks. This is pure bud.”
3. Jeff Sessions Barks but Doesn’t Bite
We learned two things about US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017: He really, really hates cannabis. And he isn’t quite sure what he can do about it.
So he spent most of the year making snarky comments about state legalization, sending threatening letters to governors of legal states, and pressing members of Congress to end the Rohrabacher–Blumenauer medical marijuana protections.
It got so bad that former US Attorney General Eric Holder commented on Sessions’s “almost obsession” with cannabis, noting that it’s put the Justice Department in a “strange place,” with Sessions decrying legalization while the DOJ maintains its Cole memo policy that allows states to police legal regulation. By year’s end, the Cole memo remained in place and the DEA had not initiated any crackdown on legal states. Let’s hope the all-bark-no-bite policy continues in 2018.