Last week was a remarkable one for the medical marijuana industry, with a handful of historic developments fueling optimism after a grueling year.
Here are five of these milestones and what they mean for marijuana businesses:
#1. Judge sides with MMJ in AZ: A lawsuit pitting local officials against a dispensary evolved into a hugely important case for Arizona’s entire MMJ industry, with the decision determining the near-term fate of medical cannabis centers in the state. Luckily, the industry was able to celebrate: The judge upheld Arizona’s MMJ law and said the state must finish the dispensary permitting process. Challenges remain, but the ruling provides a legal precedent that will make it much harder for the state to block the medical marijuana law going forward.
#2. Court backs Harborside in CA: Harborside Health Center – one of the largest dispensaries in the country – and its lead attorney Henry Wykowski won a huge legal victory that will force the federal government to reexamine its crackdown against MMJ. A court ruled that Harborside’s landlord cannot evict the dispensary despite receiving civil forfeiture threats from the federal government. As with the case in Arizona, this decision sets a legal precedent and could help other dispensaries facing civil forfeiture threats. It also ensures that Harborside can continue operating in its current location while a federal court decides whether the government can actually seize the property.
#3. 1st dispensaries in Arizona, NJ open: It may have taken years longer than anyone expected, but the first dispensaries in these two states are now up and running. As we’ve seen countless times across the country, simply passing MMJ laws is only half the battle. It’s often a huge challenge to get officials to agree on regulations and then get dispensaries and cultivation sites permitted/approved. The opening of the first dispensaries solidifies a state’s MMJ program and takes the industry to the next level, bringing with it numerous business opportunities.
#4. 1st two states officially legalizes cannabis: Marijuana legalization became a reality in Washington last week, with the state’s cannabis law taking effect just a month after voters passed the measure. Colorado followed suit today. The business side won’t really kick in until the states creates regulations over the next year and storefront operations begin to sprout up. But companies that cater to smokers – such as head shops – are already seeing a spike in demand.
#5. Survey shows support for CO, WA: A poll released last week found that 47% of the country thinks the federal government back off and let Colorado and Washington move forward with marijuana legalization. What’s really telling is that only a third of voters want the Obama administration to use federal resources to block all or parts of the new laws. We’re still not sure what the government plans to do, and in fact recent reports say that Obama is looking at legal action (somewhat dampening the enthusiasm over all these positive developments). But if the government does attempt to fight the laws, it will be going against the will of the people not only in those two states but also across the country.