It was a big year in the cannabis world, to be sure. We saw a wave of support for marijuana on almost every front in 2013—opinion polls, politicians, voters, science. It's hard to imagine a better year for cannabis. Let's take a look at a couple of reasons:
Since the 1960s, Gallup has been asking people if they support making marijuana legal for adults. When the first poll came out, it showed 12 percent of Americans favored legalization. This year's poll showed 58 percent support it. I think the most significant aspect of this is the sudden rise in support. I've written many times about the slippery slope toward legalization, but it seems to be picking up speed: 58 percent is a 10-percentage-point jump over 2012.
The only age group opposing legalization was 65 and older. This might explain why the numbers are shifting so quickly. As older Americans die, we are left with fewer and fewer opponents. It's a little sad that people have to die before we can have legal cannabis.
Perhaps Americans' shifting views on cannabis were most visible last year in the collective halls of government. We got two new medical states (Illinois and New Hampshire), and two states moved to full legalization (Washington and Colorado).
Those last two dragged feet for much of the year, hesitating to put recreational systems in place or devise rules without federal input. They got it in October, when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called off the dogs. The feds won't interfere in states that legalize, he said, as long as the operators are legal. That doesn't mean there won't be raids, BTW. There are plenty of dispensaries out there breaking the law. Just because they get busted doesn't mean the feds are going back on their word.
A few days after Holder backed off, the Treasury Department chimed in, saying it would back off from banks that do business with the cannabis industry.
The banking decision might be the biggest thing to happen in cannabis industry this year.
Dispensaries everywhere have had headache after headache dealing with banks. Banks are understandably scared of the feds' looming threat because the bottom line is that banks are breaking federal law when they work with the cannabis industry. It's a major block to interstate commerce and commerce in general. But the Treasury is expected to issue guidance in the coming months that give banks more leeway. Once that happens, making money will get easier, and the cannabis industry will explode across America.
Show us the money. ;)
There has been a lot of talk in the cannabis world and in the news about the effectiveness of cannabinoids in treating childhood epilepsy. There is a shit-ton of anecdotal evidence that cannabis oils are amazingly effective. Parents are moving to Colorado just so they can treat their children with cannabis and get them off dangerous drugs like Dilantin. But so far, all the evidence has been anecdotal. Not for long.
The feds approved a clinical trial for a drug called Epidiolex, which is a concentrated oil of CBD. I don't want a megacorporation to treat our children with brand-name drugs when we have a plant we can grow and extracts we can make ourselves, but a successful cannabinoid extract clinical trial could pave the way for a widespread rethinking of cannabis' usefulness.
Also this past year, clinical evidence emerged that cannabis is effective against Parkinson's disease, Crohn's disease and leukemia, and that it can help you quit smoking, lose weight and control your risk of diabetes.
Clearly 2013 was a big year for cannabis, and it seems like most of it is just laying groundwork for the coming year. I think all these shifts in 2013 will lead to bigger shifts in 2014. This year, we won't just talk about legalization; we'll have it. We won't just speculate about clinical effectiveness; we'll see it. We won't just hope for a good cannabis year. We'll have one.