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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Year in review:
Special report from The Cannabist
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.