Montana's cannabis victory may not seem groundbreaking, but it's arguably the most crucial cannabis victory of 2016. It held the distinction of having a booming medical marijuana program with over 13,000 qualified patients across the state, but an outdated 2011 law nearly dismantled the entire system overnight. Medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2004, but prohibitionists pushed for a law in 2011 that created tough restrictions on the program, forcing dispensaries to cater to only three patients and limiting the number of patients that physicians were allowed to certify.
The law was signed into law in 2011 and the number of patients dropped from almost 30,000 to less than 9,000. A state judge blocked the most restrictive clauses, but 2016 reared its ugly head, and a Montana Supreme Court judge upheld the law, essentially forcing dispensaries to close and patients to turn to the black market. Not only that, but opponents introduced two other initiatives aimed at further dismantling the cannabis industry in Montana.
Luckily, Montana is chock-full of determined pro-cannabis folks who led the charge to the ballot box, and the only initiative that made it on the ballot eventually won out in the election and overturned the 2011 law. Dispensary doors were allowed to reopen and patients breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Nevada's journey to legalization was better organized than many of the above efforts. The state has always been a bit wary of legalizing drugs for obvious reasons (Sin City, anyone?), but when it organized the medical marijuana dispensary infrastructure, it was already thinking even further ahead to the possibility of legalization.
When Question 2 passed, as expected, with 54.5% of the vote, officials were already prepared to jump right into implementation. Not only that, but it appears that the legislation's authors were paying close attention to other states in the process of legalizing; it's comprehensive, with a clear timeline laid out and achievable goals within reach. Nevada has set itself up to make a pretty penny in the cannabis tourism industry, and there will be plenty of people getting ready for a Vegas vacation in the near future.