New Year’s weed

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

Hey can you do one of those “looking back at the last year” sort of things?

Yes I can! 2019 was a wild year for cannabis. First, I would like to wish all of my readers a Happy ChrisHannuKwanzaa and a prosperous new year! May your troubles be few and your weed be full of good terpenes and nice effects.

2019 international high: Cannabis legalization goes global! Trinidad and Tobago just announced a plan to decriminalize cannabis, expunge some criminal records and let people out of jail. It’s a Christmas miracle. Of course, the law won’t take effect until 2020, but still. T&T joins Mexico (legalization should happen any minute now), Thailand (brand new medical cannabis program, complete with “Dr. Ganja” dolls) and a bunch of other countries that have relaxed their cannabis prohibitions. Aw yeah!

Lows: Weed is still illegal in most parts of the world. In Dubai, you can get four years in prison just for having THC in your bloodstream. So no edibles before heading to Saudi Arabia, OK?

2019 high state: More states are legalizing! Illinois is gonna start selling weed in about a week. Michigan is now a legal cannabis state. And 18 other states will most likely have some form of cannabis legalization on the ballot in 2020. Just about every state has some form of medical cannabis law on the books except for Idaho and the Dakotas. However, cannabis legalization is unstoppable.

Lows: Progress in New York and New Jersey has ground to a halt. And hemp farmers keep getting their shipments seized and their drivers arrested because the police apparently can’t tell the difference between hemp (below 0.3% THC) and cannabis. I’m sure someone will figure out a way to solve this problem. It will probably cost millions of dollars.

2019 hella high: California raked in more than $200 million in cannabis taxes in the first half of 2019. And that’s just the state taxes. Add that to the amount of money saved in court and prison costs, and legal weed is already making a profit, although the state seems to think that weed should be even more profitable. Which leads us to:

2019 hella low: High taxes, lack of access and high barriers to entry are keeping the California cannabis market from being great. Listen: High taxes at the clubs keep the black and gray markets in business, so why would the Bureau of Cannabis Control want to raise taxes in 2020? I have no idea. Lower taxes and increased access (75% of California cities and counties still prohibit cannabis businesses) would create more revenue—and keep the black market in check. Hopefully, the state will figure out that fast nickels are often more profitable than slow dimes.

All in all, 2019 has been a great year for weed, and this decade has seen cannabis legalization grow to unprecedented heights. May the next decade be even more successful.