In 2015, California became the first state in the nation to legalize the use of medical marijuana for chronic pain.
The measure received a resounding “yes” from voters.
Since then, the number of Americans using marijuana for their symptoms has exploded.
This is a key point for the future of the drug, according to medical marijuana advocates: if the country wants to have a national cannabis trend, it needs to start with California.
“California will be a real model for the rest of the country,” says Ethan Nadelmann, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The California medical marijuana law, which was passed by voters in November, has helped make the drug a legitimate and widely-available option.
But in order to ensure that its use is more widely available, medical marijuana providers are now legally allowed to cultivate and sell the drug for personal use.
California now has about 60,000 patients who are using medical marijuana to treat conditions such as pain, cancer and seizures.
“In terms of legalization, it’s an example of what’s happening,” says Dr. Nadelman.
“We’re seeing a lot of things that people were hesitant to do.”
The state also became the world’s first to legalize recreational marijuana use in 2016, with the approval of voters in California’s heavily Democratic Bay Area.
Now, more than 70,000 people in the state have voted in favor of the ballot measure.
Medical marijuana advocates say that in the future, the medical use of the drugs could spread to other states, including the US.
“The more we see this legal cannabis trend growing, the more likely it is that other states will follow,” says Nadelmussen.
“This is a real possibility that’s happening.”
How will the legal weed trend affect medical marijuana businesses?
The legalization of medical pot in California could also lead to the introduction of medical cannabis dispensaries in the US, according the Marijuana Business Alliance, a trade group for the cannabis industry.
That would mean that medical marijuana dispensaries would be able to operate legally and provide medical marijuana-related services to patients, which would be good news for patients who need access to medical cannabis.
“I think there’s a very good chance that other parts of the world will be following California’s lead,” says Matthew Dannemann, an analyst with IBISWorld, a consultancy that analyzes the cannabis economy.
“A lot of this will be driven by the growing acceptance of medical use and the fact that the people that are benefiting from this are also consumers.”
Legalizing marijuana could also make it easier for medical marijuana companies to access federal government grants.
The federal government recently gave more than $400 million in grants to medical dispensaries.
Those grants are available for research into marijuana and other medicines, and are meant to be used in developing and approving new medical products.
“With the federal government providing funding, it would be a good thing for any company to consider and consider,” says Danneman.
If medical marijuana can eventually become a mainstream drug in the United States, then the US could see the world turn more towards the drug as a treatment option.
“It’s going to be an exciting time in our country’s history,” says Paul Klee, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
NORML has long called for marijuana to be legalized.
In the 1990s, it introduced a petition calling for marijuana’s legalization, and in 2011, NORML endorsed Proposition 215, which legalized recreational marijuana in California.
In 2016, it also launched a campaign to get Congress to legalize marijuana.
“That’s the only reason why we’re even doing this now,” says Klee.
“Because it’s a matter of principle.”