It is now December, and if you’re like most people, this month is mostly about looking ahead. Whether you’re looking towards the Holiday Season, you’re possible New Year’s plan or 2018 in general, it’s easy to overlook a lot of the things happening right now. But there are still plenty of things in 2017 that could greatly impact your life, particularly if you’re a fan of marijuana.
Here are eight stories to keep an eye on for the rest of 2017 in the world of marijuana.
Will Congress Protect Legal Medical Marijuana States?
In September, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment that prevents the federal government from using its resources to prosecute medical marijuana cases in state’s where it’s legal was set to expire. But Congress included the amendment in a bill that funded the government until December.
That bill will expire again on December 8th, which means Congress has one week to decide whether to extend the protections once again or let them expire. Extending the protections has received bipartisan support from many members of Congress, but many Republican leaders are anti-marijuana and may decide to let it expire. That could have drastic effects on the industry, particularly with Jeff Sessions leading the Department of Justice.
Jeff Sessions Reviewing Marijuana Policies
Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the Department of Justice is “reviewing” its marijuana policies. While he said he wants to take a more “rational” approach, many people fear his form of “rational” involves cracking down on legal states. The DOJ could reveal more information about their upcoming cannabis policies this month, and they may not be good, particularly if Congress doesn’t extend the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment as mentioned above.
California’s Marijuana Legalization Saga
On January 1st, recreational marijuana will become legal in California. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to buy it wherever you want starting in 2018. Many cities and localities are still hammering out the details on their marijuana laws, meaning recreational sales could still be illegal in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco on January 1st unless they can figure out their regulations. So keep your eye on the news in California to figure out where you’ll be able to ring in the new year with some legal weed.
Massachusetts and Nevada Laws Continually Changing
Nevada officially legalized marijuana in July, but the state is still trying to figure out some major issues. The biggest two are public cannabis lounges and casino regulations. There continues to be an ongoing debate on whether to amend the current laws to allow more free use of marijuana, which may change before the year is over.
Likewise, Massachusetts is going to legalize recreational marijuana next July, but the regulations to do so are not entirely in place. The state government continues to look into how to implement these big rule changes, and we might have a better idea what the legal market in the state will look like before the year is over.
State Ballot Initiatives Taking Shape for 2018
As 2017 comes to a close, it also means the possible last effort in certain states to get marijuana onto the ballot in 2018. A Michigan campaign has already received enough signatures to get recreational cannabis onto the ballot next fall, and we may see that initiative certified at some point this month.
Another effort in North Dakota is looking to collect signatures for a similar initiative. While it will still take a few months, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on that campaign before the year’s over.
Trump Administration’s War on Opioids Takes Shape
This week, Jeff Sessions unveiled the Trump administration’s plan to fight America’s opioid crisis. Unfortunately, they did not include using marijuana as a possible alternative. The administration will probably slowly begin implementing their new policies this month, and we’ll see if anyone begins putting pressure to include marijuana as well.
Pro-Marijuana Candidates in 2018
We’re getting close to primary season, which means politicians looking to get into elected office next fall will need to start campaigning soon to earn their party’s nomination. Many people believe next November will be a huge opportunity for Democrats to unseat unpopular Republicans with ties to President Trump. The most important races will be governor races in states with anti-marijuana Republican incumbents, such as Illinois. We’ll see if more pro-cannabis candidates come forward this month.
General Chaos in the Republican Party
The Republican Party tends to oppose marijuana more than the Democratic Party. And right now the GOP is in something of a crisis. They’ve failed major legislative hurdles already this year, primarily in repealing Obamacare and introducing their own healthcare legislation. And right now they’re struggling to get enough votes to pass a controversial tax bill. Add in members of the Trump administration being investigated by a special prosecutor, and some of them actually pleading guilty to certain crimes, and it looks like the Republican Party may be digging themselves a deep grave that will be difficult to climb out of in 2018. And a struggling GOP is good for pro-marijuana fans.