The Year in Weed: 2020 Edition

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[author: Susan Ryan]

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 predicted that “…much will happen in 2020.”  Little did I know in December 2019 just how true that would turn out to be.  Whether you think that 2020 was the worst year ever, or only the worst year in your lifetime, no one is sorry to turn the page on the past 12 months.

So let’s get this “Goodbye and Good Riddance to 2020” party started.

High hopes characterized January, when it looked as if both New York and New Mexico would legalize adult-use cannabis this year.  Neither of them did.

In February, marijuana was a topic of conversation at the Democratic Presidential debates.  Ideas ranged from legalization on  day one (Sanders) to decriminalization and expungement (Bloomberg).  How the Biden administration will proceed is an open question.

And then came March, the beginning of the COVID Times.  In many states, cannabis stores and dispensaries were considered essential businesses.  That allowed them to remain open, which was good, as federal relief money was not forthcoming.

In April, South Dakota (more on the Mount Rushmore State later!) legalized hemp, despite the governor’s lack of enthusiasm.  Massachusetts decided that medical dispensaries could remain open, but recreational shops had to close. This was the beginning of a months-long saga.  Virginia decriminalized marijuana.  And Montana (more on that state later too!) was just one of several states facing problems with signature collection.

Which brought us to May.  The FDA cracked down on CBD companies making bogus claims about their products.  Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) objected to including cannabis banking in federal relief programs.  Republicans would use marijuana legislation as a talking point against the Democrats all year long.  Recreational shops reopened in Massachusetts.

And so on to June, the month of graduation celebrations, parties for Dad and summer vacations.  Just kidding – it’s 2020, so none of that.  What did happen?  The United Nations began the process of rescheduling cannabis.  A legalization campaign began in South Dakota.

July brought us news of legalization advocates in Arizona submitting enough signatures to put cannabis on the November ballot.  Pennsylvania’s Governor and Lt. Governor emerged as legalization supporters.  One place there was no call for legalization was the Democratic Party platform.

I’d call them the dog days of August, but in 2020, they’re ALL dog days.  Arizona’s legalization initiative made it on to the ballot.  The DEA released an interim hemp rule that the industry hated.  A lot.

With the crisp autumn air of September came the possibility of medical marijuana in Nebraska.  Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen.  Cannabis farmers suffered losses in the wildfires, their troubles compounded by their lack of insurance.  And the DEA’s hemp rule brought on litigation.

As homeowners set up candy chutes for trick-or-treaters in October, Vermont legalized marijuana sales, to start in 2022.  Maine, which legalized in 2016, started sales this month.  The DEA hemp rule continued its unpopularity.  Montana’s ballot initiative survived its many challenges, bringing the numbers of states voting on marijuana to five

And we all know what happened in November.  There was an election, and the winner was weed.  All five states where marijuana was on the ballot voted in favor.  Sure, one of them was the reliably blue New Jersey, and newly purple Arizona, but the others were South Dakota, Montana and Mississippi.

Which brings us, at long last, to December.  The United Nations voted to reschedule cannabis. New Jersey passed legalization legislation, but the Governor didn’t sign it.  On the federal level, both the House and the Senate passed marijuana research bills, but neither of them became law.   And the House voted for the MORE Act, which would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances list.  That didn’t become law either.

So finally, we come to the end of 2020.  It’s been our pleasure to bring you the news each week, even if so much of it this year was about COVID.  Let’s all hope for better things in 2021!

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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