Photo: Chris Young / Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — The past year was a 12-month Champagne toast for the legal marijuana industry as the global market exploded and cannabis pushed its way further into the financial and cultural mainstream.
Liberal California became the largest legal U.S. marketplace, while conservative Utah and Oklahoma embraced medical marijuana. Canada ushered in broad legalization, and Mexico’s Supreme Court set the stage for that country to follow.
U.S. drug regulators approved the first marijuana-based pharmaceutical to treat kids with a form of epilepsy, and billions of investment dollars poured into cannabis companies. Even mainstream brands such as Coca-Cola said they are considering joining the party.
“I have been working on this for decades, and this was the year that the movement crested,” said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat working to overturn the federal ban on pot. “It’s clear that this is all coming to a head.”
With buzz building across the globe, the momentum will continue into 2019.
Luxembourg is poised to become the first European country to legalize recreational marijuana, and South Africa is moving in that direction. Thailand legalized medicinal use of marijuana on Tuesday, and other Southeastern Asian countries may follow South Korea’s lead in legalizing cannabidiol, or CBD. It’s a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana and hemp plants and used for treatment of certain medical problems.
“It’s not just the U.S. now. It’s spreading,” said Ben Curren, CEO of Green Bits, a San Jose company that develops software for marijuana retailers and businesses. “A lot of the problem is keeping up with growth.”
Gillian Flaccus is an Associated Press writer.