2018 turned out to be another stellar year in cannabis legalization, development, and destigmatization. As the globe creeps towards widespread medicalization and legalization, we’ve taken the end of the year as an opportunity to review the biggest hits in 2018.
In the US the year began with then-Secretary General Jeff Session rescinding guidelines from the Obama Administration that protected state cannabis laws, despite this, a plethora of US states proposed and pass legalization bills in 2018.
Vermont has allowed for personal use and cultivation, though a legal marketplace is not yet approved. Same goes for five cities in the state of Ohio, whose citizens voted for decriminalization. While three primarily conservative states; Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah have all legalized medical cannabis, changes in liberal California allowed for adult use from the 1st of January. As the year draws to a close, other states including New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York are also considering regulatory changes in the near future.
Image: Marijuana Policy Project, German Lopez
The highly anticipated change in Canadian law to allow for adult-use, in addition to its 18-year running medical program was huge news worldwide. Each Canadian province and territory were responsible for dictating local legislation, which has created a patchwork of regulations controlling recreational use and retail distribution across the country. The Canadian market is ripe and ready to be a testing ground for large-scale legalization in other western nations, with the country expected to consume 810,000kg of cannabis annually by 2020. Legalization in Canada is expected to generate C$6.5 billion in the same timeframe – if retailer and producers can keep up with supply demands. Shortages are currently impacting operations in some provinces, but we can expect that to clear in the coming months. With only one other market of its kind in the world, there is little precedent for Canada to follow, yet the eyes of the world are closely monitoring their successes and pitfalls.
Image: Leafly, Jesse Miln
The Philippines, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and South Korea have also come on board with medical cannabis, with programs announced or initiated this year. Other nations such as Mexico and South Africa are considering opening up to adult-use following recent decriminalization and medicinal availability. Panama, Barbados, and Thailand are also taking steps to allow for access to medicinal cannabis in 2019.
Early in the year, Israel became the first country to grant medical device approval to a vaporizer. Kanabo Research, friend’s of iCAN and winners of CannaTech London’s Pitch Event, have initiated pre-clinical trials into their proprietary formulations, targeting sleep disorders with the approved VapePod device. The approval from the Medical Cannabis Unit of the Ministry of Health allows cannabis patients to utilize the advantages of inhaling cannabis without the negative side effects of smoking.
Image: Kanabo Research
Multiple studies conducted this year are beginning to shift our understanding of cannabis in relation to schizophrenia. There has been a long-standing belief has been that cannabis increases the risk of schizophrenia, concurrently the last three decades have seen an increase in positive results pertaining to CBD as an antipsychotic. This study suggests a correlation between cannabis use among schizophrenic patients as having a genetic component and is often used as a self-medication tool after diagnosis. Additionally, research released midyear, showed that CBD led to increased communication between parts of the brain involved in cognitive processing, which is impaired in schizophrenic patients.
Image: Getty Images
In other medical cannabis moments GW Pharmaceuticals feature product, Epidiloex, was announced as FDA approved. Though technically only available to patients suffering Dravet’s or Lennox Gastaut syndromes, doctors will have the option to prescribe for other uses. Research coming out of Europe, Canada, and Israel in 2018 has expanded our understanding of the mechanism of action behind cannabinoids anti-nausea action. And further confirmed the importance of the Entourage Effect, especially in relation to cannabis’ anti-tumor effects.
Globally patient number continue to grow. Notably, in Australia, the last year has an 860% increase in application approvals since January totally 2336 approvals through the Special Access Scheme. CannaTech, iCAN’s premier events platform, visited Sydney in October and Aussies saw their stocks soar with the arrival of this widely renowned event. CannaTech Sydney saw international experts and entrepreneurs travel down under to share their insights and partake in the most sophisticated cannabis conversation this industry has to offer.
Hong Kong also got the CannaTech treatment in 2018, with the region’s first medical cannabis investor symposium being held in conjunction with Uri Fund and the ArcView Group. This was a milestone event for a nation with such stringent rules on cannabis and little education surrounding its medicinal values in modern medicine.
This year saw some big beverage players enter the cannabis ecosystem. Constellation Brands, owner of Corona beer, increased its investment in Canopy Growth Corp to 38% of shares, investing US$4 billion in October. Brewing giant Molson Coors and medical cannabis company The Hydropothecary Corporation also announced a deal to create a new entity, set to supply the Canadian market with non-alcoholic cannabis-infused drinks. Big tobacco also began its soiree into cannabis in 2018, the UK based Imperial Brands invested into Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde and Marlboro maker, Altria, purchased a 45% stake in Cronos, setting the Canadian stock soaring up to 28%.
Announcements throughout the year showed that some of the globes most influential brands and corporations are beginning to burst into the cannabis arena. Each year the market surprises us with such tremendous advancements in technology, accessibility, and strong investment. Here’s to another year of growth and positive impact.