The Year in Legalization Nation: Top Pot Stories of 2010


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A look back at the major developments in global cannabis culture in 2010: January: Emboldened by a hands-off approach from the Obama administration, unregulated dispensaries proliferate in Los Angeles, sparking a citywide crackdown that lands in court for the rest of the year. Crass advertisers and high-profile armed robberies turn Los Angeles into the pariah of medical pot.

March: A ballot initiative to legalize marijuana qualifies for the California ballot; The West Coast's largest dispensary, Harborside Health Center, begins treating opiate addicts with marijuana, citing case evidence of efficacy.

April: A California bill to reclassify pot possession down from a misdemeanor to an infraction clears committee, and ultimately goes on to be signed by the governor.

May: Two firebombings of medical marijuana dispensaries in Montana signal unease over the issue in the red state. Oaksterdam unionizes, part of a wave of unionization in the California industry. The California Board of Equalization discloses dispensaries contribute $100 million in sales taxes each year. Riding the casual gaming wave, Facebook game Pot Farm approaches 500,000 growers, on its way to almost 1.5 million by year's end.

June: South Africa's World Cup brings Durban Poison back into vogue, and Paris Hilton gets popped with a joint at the festivities; High Times' first San Francisco Medical Cannabis Cup goes to "God's Pussy," irking activists who want to clean up weed's image.

July: An independent RAND study finds risk comprises 80-90 percent of bud's street price. The Veterans Affairs Administration eases penalties for ill vets using the drug. Medical Marijuana Inc. rents the neglected Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan for an industry convention — signaling cannabis' rise in the Midwest.

August: The powerful Chamber of Commerce, allied with Christian fundamentalists Vision to America puts Prop 19 on blast: promising stoned driving carnage and high surgeons.

September: California's Board of Equalization discloses plans for a marijuana tax stamp, like stamps on cigarettes.

October: Harvest season in the Emerald Triangle brings record news of shootouts between paramilitary eradication squads and armed growers, sparking Congressional plans for a major offensive to “take back the forests” in 2011. The San Francisco Giants' World Series home games expose visiting reporters to the city's pungent pot culture. The federal drug czar denounces dope in Los Angeles and says Prop 19 won't stop federal law enforcement.

November: Prop 19 loses 46 to 54, on low voter turnout among bud's key demographics and a divisively written initiative that unites in opposition both cops and criminals; Arizona becomes the fifteenth medical marijuana state, creating a billion dollar industry; Oregon rejects storefront dispensaries; “Tangerine Dream” takes the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam.

December: Teen cigarette use drops below teen pot use in the U.S. for the first time since the Eighties. Reformers note treating smoking as a health issue is more effective than criminalizing unhealthy behavior. Pot prices crash 50 percent to as low as $40 per quarter-ounce or $140 per ounce for patients at dispensaries in San Francisco, part of new pricing pressure driving down the cost of the plant nationwide — a result of changing laws, more supply, and integrated supply chains.