Cannabis is clearly winning against prohibition in the United States. At least that’s what 2018 has shown us.
But why do we say so? The events that have unfurled, especially in the later part of last year, have proven to us that federal prohibition in the country has gotten a lot weaker.
Successful ballot initiatives
We have to start our list with the successful ballot measures to legalize cannabis during the midterm elections in November. For one, voters in Michigan have approved the legalization of recreational cannabis in the state. With this, Michigan became the 10th state to fully legalize the drug. Then there are the voters in culturally conservative Utah and Missouri, who approved the legalization of medical cannabis in both states.
Last year, Vermont also became the first state to legalize recreational pot through a legislative process in January. It became the ninth state to legalize adult-use marijuana, joining California, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Washington, Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts, plus Washington D.C.
Jeff Sessions’ crackdown on cannabis failed
The beginning of 2018 saw California launching its cannabis retail market. But it was also around that time when (then) Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo. The Cole Memo was the Obama-era measure that kept the Department of Justice from cracking down on cannabis businesses that have licenses to operate under state laws but not under federal law.
However, Sessions’ directive for the justice department to enforce federal cannabis laws in states that have already legalized the drug seriously backfired. Congress, for one, made a legislative move to prevent the Department of Justice from spending any money towards harassing cannabis businesses. This congressional rider is still in place even after Sessions resigned in November.
Hemp is now legal!
The Farm Bill of 2018 was approved in December. And because the bill includes the Hemp Farming Act, which ends the prohibition on growing hemp, this useful crop has become legal. The bill removes hemp containing up to 0.3 percent of THC from the Controlled Substances Act. This means that hemp has become a normal crop that’s readily available for research and eligible for crop insurance, and that it has been freed from federal regulation, with the exception of the Department of Agriculture, of course.
The Food and Drug Administration has also cleared hemp seeds as an ingredient for food products.
FDA approves first CBD-based drug
The FDA made history when it approved anti-epilepsy drug Epidiolex in June. Epidiolex is the first pharmaceutical drug based on the cannabis compound cannabidiol. The FDA’s approval put the Drug Enforcement Administration in a corner. So, despite its strong insistence that all forms of cannabis — including CBD — should be kept under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the DEA was left with no other choice but to remove all FDA-approved CBD-based drugs from Schedule I. Epidiolex was placed under Schedule V.
These developments in the U.S. are just a few examples of how and why federal prohibition is slowly losing traction. This year is showing a lot of promise and we can’t wait to see more progressive reforms and actions in favor of cannabis. We are excited to see more changes in 2019, to say the least!