As with any year, there is hope that 2016 is going to be better than the last. As a society, we should be making progress after all, or else what is the point? For cannabis especially there are some potentially big changes emerging over the next 12 months. We cannot predict the exact path these avenues will take and for the first two really, the big events are not even necessarily going to impact us until 2017. At the same time, especially with a few on the list, our decisions are going to impact the future. And even if these things don’t come to fruition right away, they are going to matter in the longrun.
THE BIGGEST STORIES TO WATCH IN 2016
The 2016 elections are the biggest things to be watching, not just in the field of cannabis, but across the entire country. The presidential elections have the chance to write the next four years of political climate, and this election is certainly appearing to be decisive. There are going to be plenty of issues up for grab and one of them that will inevitably be discussed, and already has been to a large degree, is marijuana. Where it will likely not be the deciding factor for many voters, every politician is going to have an opinion on the plant.
So far, the presidential platforms have been interesting. While it is too soon to worry too much, there are some interesting statements coming out. Most of the Democratic contenders are not necessarily fully on board but have shied away from taking a definitive stance on the plant. Interestingly, many of the Republican candidates have joined suit with a few candidates claiming they would let states decide on the path they want to take, but would not impose their will on any state, instead leaving it up to the voters. This opinion is likely the one we will see more often than not with all presidential candidates.
Except, as in any case there are people on the outside, and this leads us to the crazy candidates. There are a few Republican candidates jumping aboard the sad train of government propaganda and are continuing to talk about how exactly pot is a dangerous gateway drug leading to increased crime. These are the politicians we should be afraid of, especially including Chris Christie, who has made such statements as “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it. As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws”. This is a sad backslide in government thinking and should be avoided at all cost if pot wants to make progress.
For cannabis, these elections are going to be bigger than the presidential one but sadly, are things the public doesn’t often talk about. Everyone generally focuses on getting voters out for the presidential election, but we can never sacrifice the fact that state elections are where power can come from. In the area of cannabis, there are at least seven states that will vote on recreational marijuana in 2016. These are the big ones because, with these votes, we are seeing citizens making the decision whether to legalize or not.
Where Ohio was a failed chance this last 2015 vote, in 2016, states including Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, and California will come to the ballot. These states are going to be huge, especially California where marijuana has teetered in a weird limbo for years and the neighbor states of Washington and Oregon have already legalized. With these elections happening, it is critically important that voters get out and show support for these ballots. With the potential to bring the number of legalized states to 10 in 2016, there is a chance to get marijuana legal in one fifth of the states. With a step like that, it will be hard for the federal government to keep pretending like the people are not speaking. At this point, we need forward momentum.
There is a slight chance, emphasis on the slight, that in 2016 the government might consider rescheduling the classification of marijuana. This step would be another large move in the further decriminalization across the federal perspective. Various politicians have favored lowering the classification to at least a Schedule II while others (Bernie Sanders) want to entirely remove it from the list of controlled substances which would end federal prohibition. The debate is still raging, however, and it is likely not much will happen this year. Although Schedule II would not be the brightest situation, the penalties dealt for possession would be lessened and it’s roughly a symbolic step in the right direction.
Old news, but in June of 2015, the White House loosened federal restrictions on research. Up until this point, all scientist had to go through the Public Health Service to approve cannabis research leading to an almost guaranteed no. With this research preface no longer a requirement, it opens us up to the potential that scientists with a larger spread of resources can begin studying the plant.
Make no mistake, these studies are already happening, even if they are not being discussed. People are researching, and 2016 will be the year we see the first few results. It is going to be exciting and interesting because with these results, the clear hope is our cannabis consumers will be given more freedom to use weed and governments will start to recognize the potential in this plant.
THE FIGHT AGAINST BIG POT
Ohio was an interesting case because marijuana could have been legalized in yet another state, but at the same time it would have been an issue because of how the legalization would come about. Ohio would have been the first real case of society being faced with Big Pot. If the state had legalized, only a few license holders, who had paid quite the hefty sum to be called such, would be allowed the opportunity to open dispensaries.
This would have produced something we have avoided in Colorado and the other recreational states. For now, where there are certainly a few very shrewd business people who have managed to make themselves richer using existing resources, the state has been very driven by small business and people invested in the industry.
As the year goes forward, more and more competition will likely arise in the arena of small businesses versus large corporations. Where the free market allows this, it makes many small business owners uncomfortable, and for good reason. It will be interesting to see what directions things take but rest assured, cannabis is going to get a whole lot more interesting.