This year, two major sports associations finally admitted they were way overreacting to weed. A bunch of new cannabinoids dropped—one was three times stronger than THC. And Rihanna slayed an editorial photo spread dressed as a whole-ass joint.
These were bright spots in a year when violent robberies and disciplinary disparities laid bare the Wild West realities of the modern cannabis industry. Unprecedented heat waves threatened users and farms alike, and fires once again swept through fertile Southern Oregon valleys and broad eastern plains, painting the skies apocalypse orange.
Even though this industry is still untangling itself from both a clandestine past and an inhospitable future, it’s capable of changing cultural and ecological landscapes for generations to come. So let’s look back and celebrate the highlights of 2021.
N.Y. Goes Rec
Using, having and growing (up to 12 plants per household) all became legal in New York in 2021, but the state likely won’t see its first recreational dispensaries until 2022—when the brand-new Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board hand down the state’s regulations. A bonus: New York intends to distribute a number of on-premises consumption licenses for dispensaries as well. New Amsterdam may be dead, but I’m booking my New New Amsterdam vacation ASAP.
NFL Stops Testing for Weed in the Offseason
The NFL finally backed down from requiring compulsory THC drug testing during the offseason, and players can no longer be suspended for testing positive for cannabis.
Sha’Carri Richardson Qualifies for the Olympic Games and Then Is Suspended for THC
Sha’Carri became an instant icon for her record-breaking speed, flawless lace fronts, glittering stiletto nails and captivating authenticity well before her unfortunate test results. Richardson consumed an edible in Eugene, where she was competing in her first Olympic trials. It showed up on her test and she was suspended for a month, leaving her ineligible to join the U.S. team. Still, the subsequent backlash prompted the World Anti-Doping Agency to reexamine its antiquated stance on marijuana, which was a huge step forward for the normalization of therapeutic cannabis, particularly in regard to mental health.
The World’s First Cannabis-Themed Comedy-Magic Show Launches in Portland
Ben Zabin, a lifelong magician (and former weed dealer of the skinny, white college-dorm variety), launched Smokus Pocus, a first-of-its-kind, one-man comedy-magic show created specifically for a stoned audience. Now tourists can add weed comedy to their must-do lists, alongside bookstore spectating and coffee sniffing.
East Fork Cultivars Opens Portland’s First Low-THC Cannabis Cafe
Taxonomically, there is no difference between low-THC hemp and cannabis. It’s all just weed, so East Fork Cultivars’ Hemp Bar is technically just a cannabis cafe that exclusively sells hemp. The shop’s opening, however, was groundbreaking with its super-accessible, neighborhood juice bar vibe. Order your CBD juice mocktails, coffee drinks and teas at the Gatsby-esque bar. Smoking is on the patio only.
Connecticut Goes Rec
The tri-state area continues its march toward total legalization as Connecticut becomes the newest state to approve cannabis for recreational use. In personal news, I will no longer be buying weed behind a gas station when visiting my in-laws.
Delta-8 Gains in Popularity
An old cannabinoid caught the attention of a new generation of users when delta-8 THC, a mildly psychoactive minor cannabinoid isolated from federally legal hemp, became available via mail order. Unlike its cousin delta-9 THC (the cannabinoid that gets us stoned), delta-8′s effects skew therapeutic. Data and time will tell what users can consistently expect from delta-8, but in 2021, every mail order CBD company had at least one vaguely described delta-8 gummy in its inventory.
Weed Returns to Apple’s App Store
Apple previously banned apps that facilitated cannabis sales or use, but as of August, apps like Weedmaps and Leafly—both of which let users to order weed delivery—and the Pax, which facilitates vape control on a user’s phone, were officially available for download once more.
N.J. Goes Rec
And just like that, the tri-state completes its transition from recreation holdout to full cannabis legalization.
THC-O, the cannabinoid three times stronger than THC, made headlines as a synthetic cannabinoid that—because it is derived from hemp—was federally legal. Perhaps someday soon we’ll all have the cojones to give it a try.
Rihanna Dresses as a Joint for Dazed Mag
Our queen, Rihanna, showed up for the culture once again, wearing an inconceivably chic, impossibly editorial, unreasonably camp joint dress for Dazed magazine’s 30th anniversary issue.
USPS Says No More Vapes
Due to federal legislation that primarily targeted the mailing of nicotine vaping devices, the United States Postal Service issued a rule that prohibits sending vaping products through the mail, including hemp cannabis products. Alternative cannabinoid companies that operate online only can still ship flower, edibles, tinctures and capsules. We’ll have to wait till the next regulatory overhaul to legally order THC-O vapes (which is just as well because we are still low-key afraid of them).