As another new year begins, the world looks forward to what 2018 may bring. The cannabis industry had what was likely its best year ever in 2017, but there are still many things to look forward to in the cannabis industry in 2018. However, it is important to reminisce on 2017 and what were some of the most important cannabis stories of the year.

Canada Legalizes Cannabis Nationwide

One of the most noteworthy successes of the cannabis industry in 2017 was Canada’s announcement of plans to legalize cannabis nationwide by July of 2018. Should that occur, Canada will become the first large scale industrialized country to legalize both recreational and medicinal cannabis use nationwide. Some estimates peg revenues from recreational marijuana in Canada at over $4 billion by 2021. Like Colorado and Washington when they first legalized recreational cannabis five years ago, the Canadian legal cannabis program’s success may be a determining factor for other major nations considering legalization in 2018 and beyond.

American Officials Change Their Tune

Canada was not alone when it came to progress in the cannabis industry in 2017. In the United States, many government officials began to shift their opinions on the subject, due in  large part to cannabis reaching its highest favorability rating (64%) ever. Some, like Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, had been against cannabis legalization their entire careers, only to see the tangible benefits of cannabis and change their views. In 2017, Sen. Hatch specifically mentioned the “possible benefits of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids.”

Sessions Fights Against Legalization

Even with the mounting evidence supporting the legalization of cannabis specifically for medical use, 2017 saw a crackdown on medical marijuana states by the United States Department of Justice led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In May, Sessions sent a letter asking Congress to repeal the protections for medical marijuana states known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. That amendment protects medical marijuana states and their patients from federal prosecution. Luckily, the amendment was renewed at the end of 2017 in the budget to fund the government through January 19th, 2018. While the amendment could still face scrutiny at that time, it is unlikely to be repealed unless the budget undergoes radical changes.

Cannabis’ Ability To Help The Opioid Crisis

What may have been the most important story regarding cannabis in 2017 was the proven success it had in combatting America’s devastating opioid epidemic. The opioid crisis in America claimed over 65,000 lives in 2017 and that number is expected to rise in 2018. There is little that has been proven to slow down the overdose rates and addiction numbers continue to rise. However, in states where cannabis is legal, there is a 23% reduction in opioid related hospitalizations and a 13% reduction in opioid related deaths. Of course it is not clear whether or not this is completely due to the legalization of cannabis, but many doctors and patients have been providing anecdotal evidence that cannabis is a preferred substitute to opioids for pain management.

Cannabis In 2018

2018 will be another landmark year for cannabis. Many more American states are expected to legalize cannabis for either recreational or medical use this year. Some states like Vermont and New Jersey are expected to legalize cannabis for recreational use and others like Oklahoma and Kentucky will allow voters to determine whether or not medical marijuana should be legal in their states. Some states like Nebraska and Utah have initiatives that are gaining the necessary signatures to face a statewide vote in November.

The tides are changing for cannabis around the world. The cannabis industry had its biggest year ever in 2017 and the progress is not stopping there. More countries and many more states will legalize cannabis in 2018. New studies will also be conducted that may shift how we all view and consume the cannabis plant. In 2018, the cannabis industry will face more scrutiny and see more changes than ever before.

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