a party horn to illustrate a marijuana event

Cannabis in 2018, a Year That Made History!

As this year comes to a close, it’s essential (and fun) that we reflect on the history that was made and when it comes to cannabis in 2018, it was quite a year. Here’s our list of the most significant things that happened in cannabis in 2018.

Canada Implemented Marijuana Legalization in 2018
image of canadian prime minister justin trudeauIt’s one thing to go state by state, or province by province, but for a whole country to end prohibition—that’s amazing. Canada is only the second nation in the world with legal cannabis. Keep in mind if you go travel to Canada bringing marijuana back to the US is highly illegal.

Michigan Voted Yes For Legal Cannabis.
The mid-term election brought a solid win for Michigan’s cannabis advocates with 56 percent of voters marking the ballot for cannabis legalization. The election results were verified and on December 6, possession and home growing became two parts of the law that were quickly enacted. Sales to the public likely won’t begin until 2020.

Hemp Makes it to The President’s Desk
hemp plants which are about to become legal across the USFinally, after almost seven decades of being illegal, hemp, the non-psychoactive brother to marijuana will be legal to grow and process across the US. This is excellent news for CBD-makers and farmers wanting to grow the plant for industrial purposes. It’s a versatile plant that can be used for paper, building houses and oil.  The farm bill, which includes hemp was passed by the house and senate is now awaiting the President’s signature.

Expungement Moves Forward
One of the benefits of legalizing marijuana is the expungement of criminal records for people who were convicted of cannabis possession. Michigan’s governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer is planning taking action on it and the cities of Seattle and Oakland, CA have already started the process. In Oregon, California, Colorado and Maryland similar actions are taking place. A marijuana possession conviction can prevent someone from getting a job or other public benefits.

Goodbye, Jeff Sessions
The cannabis-hating Attorney General of the US was shown the door late in 2018, thankfully. After rescinding previous federal documents that discouraged law enforcement in cannabis legal states, his threats went nowhere and he was out of power before the year-end.  

Michigan Takes it Slow in Licensing
Michigan’s licensing of Medical Marijuana Businesses began in December and it’s been a hot slow mess for almost a year. It’s as if the folks at LARA never thought about supply chain, with provisioning centers, labs and transporters getting operating licenses before growers did, creating a SNAFU in the system. The upside is caregivers are now providing cannabis to patients, the downside is patients have to sign a waiver that the product might not be as pure as they expect from a regulated system. Further, the licensing board has been vague, uninformed and punitive in issuing licenses—using the moral conduct clause over and over to deny people a license for cannabis in 2018.

California Opens its Adult Markets
photo of the Hollywood sign in CaliforniaA little more than a year after Californians voted to legalize cannabis, the state opened its markets to adult-use cannabis on January 1, 2018. California is a big state, with the sixth largest economy in the world and projections are putting the industry at 5.1 billion dollars. It’s been a rough go though, with many communities opting out and regulations just now being finalized.

Cannabis as an Exit Drug
More research about opioid and cannabis was completed in 2018 and there’s increasing evidence that for pain, cannabis is a viable alternative. For people who are heavy opioid users or are addicted to painkillers, medical marijuana can help move them away from those drugs.

Survey Says 
Another Gallup poll in October this year showed that 2 in 3 Americans (66 percent) favor cannabis legalization. Gallup has been polling Americans about marijuana since 1969 and it has been trending upward since then and the last three years have shown the most significant increases. The research showed that Republicans and older adults are showing support—which isn’t a great surprise since Baby Boomers who came of age with marijuana are now older adults.

Facebook Gaslights Cannabis Businesses
Over the summer people in cannabis noticed that the search function in Facebook wasn’t working for any words related to cannabis or marijuana. Long established brands, businesses and support and advocacy groups were getting a page not found or no posts message. Despite outreach to the platform, the ban remained in place until just before October 17, the date Canada legalized cannabis.

Michigan Grandmother Arrested for Cannabis Possession
Legalization didn’t come fast enough for an 80-year-old woman from central Michigan who was popped at her home when police arrived to locate her great-granddaughter who had lost her wallet and phone. The officer smelled marijuana and asked to see her card when it was found to be expired she was arrested and jailed overnight. She was released the next day and charges were dropped. She had less than ⅛ ounce in her home.

It’s a been a remarkable year in cannabis and from Canna Communication we wish everyone happiness and success in 2019.

How Will we Celebrate The End of Marijuana Prohibition?

I recently received an invitation to my local community foundation’s annual donor event. The headline reads: “Something’s brewing in Muskegon County!” It invites patrons to “distill the essence of new frontiers in placemaking and economic development through craft beer and spirits.” The speakers for the event are the founders and craftmasters from three local breweries and a distillery.

We’re in!

Celebrating the impact of craft beer and locally distilled spirits is important. The craft beer industry is still booming and Michigan is fifth in the nation for breweries with more than 240 in operation and more than 40 distilleries. Craft breweries are the new corner bars of pre-prohibition times, places where people gather with friends and family to talk, play games, listen to music and drink locally made beer, cider and spirits.

By the time the 18th amendment was adopted in 1920, the alcohol prohibition movement was gaining steam across America. Led by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and other religious forces, the movement to take alcohol away from people began in the Midwest and spread quickly. From 1920 to 1933 all of America was under prohibition—people could drink alcohol, but the amendment prohibited making, transporting and selling of booze. By all measures, the 18th amendment was a failure and it was repealed. Bootlegging and blackmarket booze was rampant.

So, What does this have to do with cannabis?

four cans of Michigan made beerWell, it’s a similar story of prohibition and acceptance.

Marijuana prohibition came shortly after the repeal of alcohol in 1937. As it often does, the feds held hearings on marijuana law in the 1930s to “fact check” claims about marijuana inciting violence in black men and causing them to solicit sex from white women. These claims, which were taken as truth, helped create the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which banned the use and sale of cannabis.

The Act was ruled unconstitutional and decades later under President Nixon it was deemed even more dangerous and given its Schedule I designation under the Controlled Substance Act.

So prohibition continues. New product, same failure.

One day, in the future, we expect that cannabis will be standing in the same photograph of marijuana flowersplace as alcohol as an economic and place-making entity. According to ArcView Market Research, Michigan has the potential to have the third-largest state medical cannabis state market by 2020, just behind California and Colorado. It is expected that we’ll have $556 million sales that year. And this doesn’t project what might happen if/when adult-use recreational is implemented in Michigan, which could be as soon as 2020.

We heard an interesting statement from the city manager in Muskegon Heights recently. He projected the tax and licensing revenue from just 14 medical marijuana licenses could bring in at least $250,000 in the first year—thus erasing the community’s budget deficit.

In the future, when marijuana prohibition ends and Michigan sees the benefit of tax income, jobs and tourism from all marijuana sales (which tend to be bigger than expected, as in Oregon) we envision that cannabis entrepreneurs will be invited to the stage and celebrated for the positive community change that they’ve helped make.

image of marijuana which is part of any new marijuana business

How Marijuana Prohibition Came to Be

GEE, ThankS, Richard Nixon

As much as we love science, we love history and the history of cannabis’ complete federal prohibition is quite new. Listing of cannabis as a Schedule I Drug was a 1972 political action from Richard Nixon who, among other things found the resistance to his policies and the Vietnam War, especially from people of color, women and young people, to be so galling that he thought the best way to fight back was to take away something people enjoyed. In brief, this is how marijuana became illegal.

When Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, it temporarily made marijuana a Schedule I substance an illegal drug with no approved medical purposes. It also acknowledged there was not enough information about marijuana to permanently keep it as Schedule I, they created a presidential commission to conduct research and make recommendations.

A Political Plan Gone Bad

President Nixon had some fairly strong opinions about the evils of marijuana. He believed that if he could appoint a commission with all the right people, he could prove the dangers of the plant and upend his opposition. Nixon appointed a Republican, Raymond Shafer, the former conservative Governor of Pennsylvania, as chair. The rest of the commission was stacked with law and order personalities from local, state and federal positions.

The Shafer Commission didn’t slack on its task. It created fifty research projects, conducted public polling; interviewed law enforcement and criminal justice experts and took reams of testimony. It still stands as the most comprehensive report ever written about cannabis.

The Truth Comes Out

The commission found that marijuana did not cause crime or aggression, nor did it lead to harder drug use or create significant mental or physical health issues. “Marihuana’s relative potential for harm to the vast majority of individual users and its actual impact on society does not justify a social policy designed to seek out and firmly punish those who use it.”

And it favored complete marijuana decriminalization.

A furious Nixon denounced the commission, shelved the report and made a permanent place for cannabis as a Schedule I substance.

Recently, John Ehrlichman (Nixon’s domestic policy chief) spoke to Harper’s magazine. “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”