There's no doubt that 2015 was an eventful year in the world of cannabis. Here's a quick recap if you're not convinced. But 2016 could turn last year's momentum into a juggernaut charging toward widespread legalization.
Here are five things we hope will happen in the New Year.
1. Legalization Gets Underway in Canada
It started with an election promise that turned into an election victory, then a mandate to his justice, and finally an announcement in the throne speech that legalization was a priority for the Justin Trudeau government in Canada.
But when will the process begin? According to political columnist Joan Bryden of the Canadian Press, the prime minister will have to get to work immediately if he wants to finish the process of legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis before his term is up.
Hopefully we'll see substantial progress by New Year's 2017.
2. More Legal States
November will be a historic month in the history of cannabis in America. Right now, activists across the country are either gathering signatures to make legalization a ballot issue in their states in 2016. Some groups in Nevada and Massachusetts - have already gathered enough and are taking the next steps in their campaigns to persuade their states to vote green on Nov. 8.
But not all aspiring initiatives will get on the ballot, let alone convince enough voters to legalize. But Rob Kampia - Executive Director of the Marijuana Policy Project - predicts that at least four of these states will legalize in November: Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.
That number might seem small. But keep in mind that adding four would double the total number of legal states.
3. President Sanders
Speaking of election day, Americans could speed up the process of legalizing nationwide by electing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as the nation's 45th president. Sanders is the most outspoken White House hopeful when it comes to ending federal prohibition as well as the war on drugs.
4. A Pro-Cannabis Congress
Even if Sanders loses the White House, and even if his Senate bill to end prohibition fails, America's marijuana laws could change dramatically in 2016 given the number of pot bills being discussed by Congress. These include:
- Rep. Earl Blumenauer's Clean Slate for Marijuana Offenses Act;
- Rep. Ed Perlmutter's Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act;
- and Rep. Ted Lieu's Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act, which would cut the DEA's budget for cannabis eradication.
For more, check out this piece from Forbes.
5. Worldwide Cannabis Armistice
April 2016 could change cannabis history forever. From Apr. 19-21, 2016, delegates from around the world will meet in New York for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, an event that will decide the U.N.'s stance on international drug laws for the next decade. There's a strong chance that delegates from nations that are disenchanted with the Assembly's support for prohibition will urge the U.N. to change its position on cannabis and other illegal drugs.
If the U.N. decided to change its stance on international prohibition, the decision would have major rippling effects, forcing countries throughout the world (aside from Uruguay and North Korea) to reconsider their own policies on cannabis prohibition.
So 2017 could mark the beginning of legalization in Canada and a few more American states. Or it could herald the end of prohibition worldwide.