2021: The Year in Weed
2021 is coming to a close—and seriously, how did that happen so fast? Since it’s that time of year to reflect on the year that was, these were some of the biggest stories in weed in 2021:
The War on Drugs Wages On at the Olympics
Sha’Carri Richardson was denied the chance to compete in the Tokyo Summer Olympics because she tested positive for THC. Richardson dominated the women’s 100-meter qualifying race at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon. However, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) prohibited her from competing after the positive test.
“Richardson’s competitive results obtained on June 19, 2021, including her Olympic qualifying results at the Team Trials, have been disqualified, and she forfeits any medals, points, and prizes,” a statement from the USADA said.
Richardson, who had just learned about her mother’s death, consumed marijuana in Oregon, a legal cannabis state. Despite the lack of evidence that marijuana or THC enhances athletic ability and a petition signed by more than half a million people, Richardson could not compete.
Colorado Lawmakers Want to Reduce Access to Medical Marijuana Concentrates
Colorado’s Speaker of the House, Alec Garnett (D-Denver), introduced legislation to tighten rules for medical marijuana and marijuana concentrates. The Colorado Legislature passed HB 1317 in June, and Governor Jared Polis (D-Colorado), signed the bill into law in the same month.
A new state tracking system will monitor medical marijuana patients’ purchases to prevent them from buying more than the allowed daily limit. Additionally, the law lowered the purchase limit on concentrates for medical and recreational to 8 grams per day, down from the previous 40-gram limit. For medical marijuana patients between the ages of 18-20, the limit on concentrates was lowered to two grams per day.
Amazon Drops Marijuana Testing for Employees, Supports Legalization
Amazon, one of the largest employers in the United States, dropped drug testing for applicants and employees this year.
“We will no longer include marijuana in our comprehensive drug screening program for any positions not regulated by the Department of Transportation, and will instead treat it the same as alcohol use. We will continue to do impairment checks on the job and will test for all drugs and alcohol after any incident,” the company said in a blog post.
Going one step further, the company said that they would actively lobby Congress to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would legalize cannabis nationally.
Dems Move to Legalize Marijuana Nationwide in 2021, Improve Access to Banking
This may be the biggest story that wasn’t. We’re at the end of 2021, and there still hasn’t been any movement on ending the prohibition on cannabis or improving access to banking.
Several marijuana legalization and banking bills were introduced in the last few years, including the MORE Act and the SAFE Banking Act. In 2020, the House passed the MORE Act, but it never received a hearing in the Senate. The House passed different versions of the SAFE Banking Act five times, but like the MORE Act, it stalled in the Senate.
One of the sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), said in a statement, “[P]eople are still getting killed and businesses are still getting robbed because of a lack of action from the Senate. The SAFE Banking Act has been sitting in the Senate for three years and with every passing day their unwillingness to deal with the issue endangers and harms businesses, their employees, and communities across the country.”
Youth Marijuana Use Shows No Increase with Legalization
In states that have legalized adult-use marijuana, youth marijuana use has not increased.
A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that teen marijuana use decreased after legalization. Researchers analyzed data from 1.4 million high school students between 1993 and 2017 and found an 8 percent decrease in teen use after states legalized recreational marijuana.
The U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) analyzed ten years of data from students in grades 9-12 who reported marijuana use in the previous 30 days. They found that between 2009 and 2019, youth marijuana use has remained essentially unchanged.
“The overall percentage of students who reported using marijuana at least 1 time during the previous 30 days in 2019 was not measurably different from the percentage in 2009…. There was no measurable difference between 2009 and 2019 in the percentage of students who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property.”
The findings are consistent with prior data concerning youth marijuana use.