The Five Biggest Marijuana Stories of 2016

It's been a big year for pot. More than half the states in the country now allow marijuana use of some kind; Denver expanded its understanding of social use, and voters approved a ballot initiative that will allow marijuana to be smoked in public; and Colorado sold over one billion dollars' worth of weed in the first ten months of 2016 — yes, that's billion, with a "b." Here's our rundown of the top five marijuana stories in Colorado this year.

1. Legalization Sweeps the Nation

For the first time in history, more Americans are living in states with legal access to marijuana than those who don't. In November's election, eight more states legalized marijuana: California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada all legalized recreational use, and Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota legalized medicinal use. There are currently 28 states, plus the District of Columbia, with medical laws on the books and eight that allow recreational use — and Colorado will always be the first to have allowed recreational sales, on January 1, 2014.

States that allow recreational marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington.
States that have legalized medical marijuana in some form: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

2. Colorado Breaks Marijuana Sales Records

By the end of October, 2016,  Colorado's marijuana sales had topped one billion in 2016, and sales continued to boom during the two biggest spending months of the year. Dispensaries saw record-breaking sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the holiday season was busier than ever this year.

3. Gallup and Pew Both Report a Shift in Thinking About Weed

In October, Gallup released a study reporting that support for marijuana legalization is at 60 percent across the country. Gallup has been tracking data on this issue for 47 years, and this is by far the highest public support the issue has seen. The Gallup study came out on the heels of a Pew report that found 57 percent of Americans think marijuana should be made legal. The data shows public opinion shifting this year more than ever.

4. DEA Rescheduling Announcements

The DEA really wants us to know that marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. In April, the agency sent a letter to lawmakers saying that it would make an announcement regarding the rescheduling of marijuana before the end of the first half of the year. July came and went with no announcement, but this November, the agency made it clear that CBD — the chemical derived from the marijuana plant that has no psychoactive properties and is mostly for medical use — is considered to be a Schedule I substance, along with marijuana and other drugs like heroin.

That was as close as the DEA came to a rescheduling announcement. And so 2016 closes out with marijuana remaining a Schedule I substance, and all products with CBD or hemp in them required to register with a new code by the second week in January.

5. Denver Voters Approve Social Use

For the first time anywhere in the country, marijuana will be smoked socially, in public. That's once Denver works out the details, following the passage of Initiative 300. The city is still working through the logistics, but in January businesses will be able to access an application for social use; the city will start reviewing those applications this summer. And by the end of 2017, neighborhood-approved venues will begin allowing the social consumption of cannabis.