A volunteer helps harvest hemp during the first known harvest of the plant in more than 60 years in Springfield, Colo. (P. Solomon Banda, Associated Press file)

The 10 news stories that defined cannabis’ biggest year to date

We feel comfortable saying it: 2014 was the year marijuana came out of the closet.

Not only did two U.S. states open their recreational pot shops but two others voted to open stores of their own — and the wave of momentum continues to move forward. From issues with edibles to millions of dollars in research funding to lawsuits, lawsuits and more lawsuits, there was plenty of marijuana news to cover this year.

But what about the year’s biggest cannabis-rooted news stories of 2014? Here are 10 of them.

1. Legalized it a.k.a. The first day of legal recreational pot sales in Colorado, Washington: In a historic swirl of commerce and cannabis, the world’s first licensed stores able to sell marijuana legally to anyone over 21 opened in Colorado on Jan. 1, 2014. Washington state’s pot shops followed suit on July 8.

On Colorado’s opening day.

On Washington’s opening day.

2. 2014’s midterm elections a.k.a. ‘Sup Oregon, Alaska and D.C.? Voters in Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia approved ballot measures in November allowing the use of marijuana by adults, elating legalization activists who hope to extend their winning streak across the country. But one month after the election Washington D.C.’s hopes were crushed when Congress reached a $1.1 trillion spending deal that bars the District from legalizing marijuana.

On the election’s big wins for marijuana.

On Congress’ block on legal marijuana in D.C.

3. The year of the edible a.k.a. Overdoing it, tweaking legislation and a premature Halloween scare: The proliferation of marijuana edibles stunned state and industry leaders, making it one of the biggest surprises during the first year of legal recreational marijuana sales. Potent cookies, candies and drinks — once considered a niche market — now account for roughly 45 percent of the legal marijuana marketplace and led to the most high-profile marijuana controversies in 2014.

On edibles’ big year.

On edibles’ wildly inaccurate potency.

On getting the right dose of pot-infused edibles.

On Maureen Dowd losing her mind on legal, Colorado edibles.

On tweaking legislation on edibles.

On fearing pot-infused edibles in your kids’ Halloween candy.

On predicting absolutely zero incidents of pot candy making it into kids’ Halloween candy — and being right.

4. Some much-needed medical research a.k.a. $8 million in pot grants funded by the state of Colorado: Colorado’s Board of Health approved up to $8 million in grants to pay for eight studies on medical marijuana, the largest-ever state-funded effort to study the medical efficacy of cannabis. The studies will look at whether marijuana can be used to treat childhood epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pediatric brain tumors and spine pain. The results of the studies will provide some of the best — and most respected — evidence to date on whether marijuana is a useful medicine.

On the $8 million in research funding from the state of Colorado.

On the lawsuit that has pot patients suing state of Colorado for using registry fees for research grants

On why medical pot research needs state cash … for now — an op-ed written by a researcher who will receive $2 million in funding from the state of Colorado.

5. Some angry neighbors react a.k.a. Nebraska and Oklahoma’s lawsuit against the state of Colorado: In the most serious legal challenge to date against Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, two neighboring states have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the history-making law. Nebraska and Oklahoma filed the lawsuit directly with the nation’s highest court. The two states argue in the lawsuit that, “the State of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system.”

On Nebraska and Oklahoma’s lawsuit against Colorado.

On social media’s reaction to the lawsuit.

On why fair-weather federalists Nebraska, Oklahoma are dangerous — an op-ed written by a law professor.

Year in review:
Special report from The Cannabist

The big picture: How Colorado’s cannabis experiment put the state into a global spotlight

$573 million in pot sales: Here are 12 stats that define the year in marijuana

Pot journalism: A year in the life of the world’s first marijuana editor — The Denver Post’s Ricardo Baca, who oversees The Cannabist, talks about our changed perspective in Colorado

What about the kids? More pot arrests at Denver schools, but no signs of increasing teen usage

Poll: One year of legalized pot hasn’t changed Coloradans’ minds

Graphic: See the full results of the 2014 Colorado pot poll

Edibles everywhere: Appetite for edibles in Colorado big surprise of 2014

Black market: How the legalization of pot forced this weed grower out of his illegal business

Pot culture: Denver “is not a stoner town,” but cultural attitudes on pot are evolving

Weed not welcome everywhere: Colo. cities, towns take diverging paths on recreational pot

A new quest: U.S. patent protection for cannabis seeds

Portable vaporizers: The 12 vape pens that caught our attention

Just ask: The 15 most intriguing questions our readers had this year in Cannabist Q&A

Cannabis in the kitchen: Our most popular infused recipes, from pot brownies to mac and cheese (plus our cannabutter how-to)

Essential reading: Whoopi, Dr. Drew and 13 other pot op-eds that defined the year

6. Can my job fire me for testing positive for legal weed in Colorado? a.k.a. Brandon Coats vs. Dish Network: With legal recreational cannabis sales, one fact is sometimes overlooked: Employers still can fire workers for using it on- or off-duty. State law gives employers full authority to impose any drug prohibitions they wish, despite it being legal in Colorado for adults to possess and consume marijuana.

On the law that allows employers to fire employees who test positive for pot.

On the Colorado Supreme Court’s hearing of Brandon Coats vs. Dish Network: If it isn’t illegal to use medical marijuana, does that make it a “lawful” activity for which employers can’t fire you?

On why some Colorado employers still need no-pot policies — an editorial from the Denver Post Editorial Board.

On why Brandon Coats ‘was fired for legally relieving pain in his own home’ — an op-ed from a Denver marijuana industry attorney.

7. A business without a bank account a.k.a. The troubles with pot banking and the credit union the industry hopes will save the day: The world’s first financial institution established specifically for the marijuana industry could be open in Colorado by January 2015. The Colorado Division of Financial Services in mid-November issued Fourth Corner Credit Union an unconditional charter to operate, the first state credit-union charter issued in nearly a decade. The next hurdles will be obtaining insurance from the National Credit Union Administration, the federal regulator of credit unions, and getting a master account from the Federal Reserve System.

On the pot-rooted credit union.

On the tricky relationship between legal marijuana businesses and the banking industry.

8. Hemp hemp hooray a.k.a. The return of hemp to American agriculture: Ask farmers where they procured hemp seeds to plant last spring, and you may get an answer like this one from Bill Billings: “I got them from Mother Nature and God. That’s all I can say.” Don’t-ask, don’t-tell characterizes Colorado’s newest cash crop. Like its genetic cousin marijuana, hemp is legal under state law. But conflicts with federal law leave the future uncertain for the state’s hemp industry.

On Colorado’s first legal hemp crop.

On the changed regulations to come in Colorado’s legal hemp industry.

9. Hope, when all else has failed a.k.a. The emergence of CBD among young medical marijuana patients: Hundreds of families have moved to Colorado in hopes of healing their sick children after conventional medicine has failed them. They’re turning to a liquid form of marijuana that has helped some, but not all.

On 12-year-old Preston and his mother, Ana, who came to Colorado from North Carolina seeking a way to better control the seizures that have quaked through Preston’s brain every day since he was 3 months old — a Denver Post special report.

On a bill that would legalize non-psychoactive medical pot in U.S.

10. The case against VIP Cannabis a.k.a. The largest-ever federal raids on Colorado’s legal marijuana industry: Colorado marijuana businesses raided by federal agents were being investigated for a possible connection to Colombian drug cartels, sources told The Denver Post in November 2013. Investigators believe the raided businesses were all “one big operation,” one source said. In 2014, we learned so much more about these large-scale raids.

On the original raids.

On the secondary raids.

On the intrigue that followed the raids.