Move over Pope Francis, because marijuana just had the Best. Year. Ever.
From popular support nationwide to the federal government's decision not to oppose Colorado and Washington state's marijuana laws, to Uruguay's marijuana trade legalization, it has been a big year for the little green plant.
Here are the top 13 reasons why 2013 was the best year ever for weed:
1. Medical Marijuana Helped Kids
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
When people think of the typical medical marijuana user, 6-year-old Charlotte Figi may not be the kind of person who comes to mind. Charlotte, along with more and more children who experience debilitating epileptic seizures, saw tremendous benefits from using medical marijuana to help treat their condition this year. So much so that parents were uprooting themselves from around the country to move to Colorado, where their children could take advantage of the state's medical marijuana laws and the high-CBD/low-THC marijuana varietal that six brothers in Colorado Springs have grown to help children with epilepsy. They named it "Charlotte's Web," after Figi.
2. Marijuana Went Mainstream
For the first time ever, a majority of Americans favored the legalization of marijuana -- a whopping 58 percent, according to Gallup's October poll. That's alongside 83 percent of Americans who already supported marijuana for medical use.
Even CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta changed his mind about marijuana.
3. The Federal Government Said "Yes Weed Can"
The federal government took a historic step away from its long-running drug war in 2013, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would let Colorado and Washington state's new recreational marijuana laws go into effect.
4. States Also Tried To Join The Green Rush
(AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Lawmakers in 31 states and the nation's capital introduced bills seeking to legalize medical marijuana, to decriminalize possession of marijuana, or to tax and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Two of those, Illinois and New Hampshire, signed their medical marijuana bills into law this year.
And although they didn't pass, bills like the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013 and the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013 were introduced at the federal level, where the drug war has been waged for decades.
5. Marijuana Compounds Killed Cancer Cells
If there was any doubt about medical marijuana's potential as a miracle drug, a scientist in the United Kingdom found that compounds derived from marijuana can kill cancerous cells in people with leukemia, a form of cancer that the National Cancer Institute has estimated will cause nearly 24,000 deaths in the U.S. this year.
6. Banking For Marijuana Businesses Was Actually Taken Seriously
(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
One of the biggest problems for marijuana businesses is banking: Issues like taxes, payroll and even general business checking accounts are all negatively affected because of the federal government's stance against marijuana.
Worried banks, afraid of breaking a federal money-laundering law when entering into partnerships with state-sanctioned marijuana businesses, are finally getting much-needed guidance on how to provide services to these companies. The Department of Justice announced in 2013 that it is "actively considering" how to regulate interactions between banks and marijuana shops that operate within state laws and don't violate other federal law enforcement priorities.
In early 2014, marijuana businesses are unlikely to get access to all of the banking services that non-marijuana businesses already enjoy, but they are expected to get a "yellow light" from the feds as soon as the new year, according to Colorado officials familiar with the federal negotiations.
7. Hemp Was Grown On U.S. Soil (Again)
Farmers in Colorado made history this year when they harvested the first hemp crop produced in the U.S. since 1957. In October, Hemp advocates across the nation came to harvest 55 acres of the crop planted by Springfield farmer Ryan Loflin in May.
8. Marijuana Legalization Brought Us Together
(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
In a recent poll from Reason-Rupe, majorities of Democrats (55 percent) and independents (51 percent) favored the legalization of marijuana.
Despite a strong libertarian streak in the GOP, a majority of Republicans surveyed still opposed its legalization. But two out of three groups isn't bad.
9. The World's First Recreational Marijuana Sales License Was Issued
The world's first recreational marijuana retail license was granted to a dispensary in Colorado in November. Recreational marijuana shops in the state will debut in the U.S. on Jan. 1, 2014.
10. Marijuana Business Poised To Grow Faster Than Smartphones
(AP Photo/Armando Franca)
Cannabis has been called "the next great American industry," and with legal marijuana among the fastest-growing markets in the U.S., it's no surprise. The legal marijuana market is growing so fast that it's poised to outpace the growth rate of the global smartphone market.
11. Study Showed Pot Smokers Are Skinnier
Despite the popular stereotype of the munchie-loving pothead, a 2013 study showed that marijuana users not only had smaller waistlines, but that their bodies also had better insulin control. That comes in addition to scientific reports that found a lower incidence of diabetes among pot smokers.
12. Thousands Of People Will Not Be Prosecuted For Pot Possession Because Of New Laws
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Nationally, one marijuana arrest occurs approximately every 40 seconds -- in other words, roughly 750,000 marijuana arrests occur each year, and most are for simple possession for personal use. But thanks to legalization and decriminalization laws nationwide, thousands of people will not be arrested, or face additional charges, over weed.
13. The First Country In The World Legalized Weed
Also on HuffPost:
Only 7 percent of Americans think the United States is <a href="http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/general_lifestyle/november_2012/7_think_u_s_is_winning_war_on_drugs">winning the war on drugs</a>, and few Americans are interested in throwing down more money to try to win, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released in 2012.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/01/mexico-guns-arturo-sarukhan-us-weapons-mexico-violence-gun-rights_n_1563250.html">Mexican authorities seized almost 70,000 weapons of U.S. origin</a> from 2007 to 2011. In 2004, the U.S. Congress declined to renew a 10-year ban on the sale of assault weapons. They quickly became the guns of choice for Mexican drug cartels. Some 60,000 people have died in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón launched a military assault on the cartels in 2006.
Americans have the <a href="http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve/?File_id=81b53476-64a3-4088-9bae-254a84b95ddb">highest rate of illegal drug consumption in the world</a>, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Several current and former Latin American presidents, like Fernando Henrique Cardoso, have <a href="http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/">urged the United States to rethink its failed war on drugs</a>, to no avail.
In an attempt to track guns as they moved across the U.S.-Mexico border, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms <a href="http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/atf-fast-furious-sg,0,3828090.storygallery">allowed smugglers to purchase weapons</a>. The ATF lost track of the guns and they wound up in the hands of drug cartels -- even as <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/09/11/atf-fast-and-furious-guns-appear-in-colombia/">far south as Colombia</a>.
Though the subject of marijuana legalization regularly ranks among the most popular at the digital town halls President Obama takes part in, he <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/07/06/askobama-twitter-town-hall-ignores-flood-of-marijuana-legalization-questions/">declines to address the issue</a> or give it a <a href="http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/03/obama-addresses.html">thoughtful answer</a>. Incidentally, a younger Obama <a href="http://www.wusa9.com/news/article/229756/82/We-Need-To-Decriminalize-Our-Marijuana-Laws----Barack-Obama">supported marijuana decriminalization and a rethinking of the drug war</a>.
Almost 800 prisoners accused of terrorism have have been held at the <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/06/guantanamo-ten-years">U.S. military prison of Guantánamo</a>, Cuba, where they are detained indefinitely without facing trial. The United States has drawn international criticism from human rights defenders for subjecting the detainees there to torture and other cruel treatment. The Cuban government opposes hosting the U.S. naval base on its soil.
The United States has <a href="http://www.prb.org/Articles/2012/us-incarceration.aspx">the world's largest prison population</a> by far -- largely fed by the war on drugs -- at 500 per 100,000 people.
Because the United States <a href="http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/ExposeAndClose">imprisons roughly 400,000 immigrants</a> each year on civil violations.
The U.S. Border Patrol has come under fire for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/border-patrol-killing-un_n_2018731.html">killing minors who were throwing rocks</a>.
When opponents of leftwing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez briefly ousted him in 2002, the United States not only failed to condemn the coup, it <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/16/world/bush-officials-met-with-venezuelans-who-ousted-leader.html">praised the coup leaders</a>.
When Colombia demobilized the largest rightwing paramilitary organization in 2006, if offered lenient sentences to those who would offer details on the atrocities the AUC committed. But rather than facing justice in their home country, <a href="http://www.propublica.org/article/colombian-paramilitaries-extradited-to-u.s.-where-cases-are-sealed">Colombia has extradited several paramilitary leaders to the United States</a> to face drug trafficking charges -- marking it harder for people like Bela Henríquez to find out the details surrounding the murders of their loved ones. "More than anger, I feel powerless," Henriquez, whose father, Julio, was kidnapped and killed on the orders of one defendant, told ProPublica. "We don't know what they are negotiating, what conditions they are living under. What guarantee of justice do we have?"
The U.S funded the Guatemalan military during the 1960s and 1970s anti-insurgency war, despite awareness of widespread human rights violations. Among the recipients of U.S military funding and training were the Kaibiles, a special force unit responsible for several massacres. Former <a href="http://ghrc-usa.org/Publications/factsheet_kaibiles.pdf" target="_hplink">Kaibiles have joined the ranks of the Zetas drug cartel</a>.
The rightwing military dictatorship that took over Argentina in 1976 "disappeared" some 30,000 people, according to estimates by several human rights organizations. They subjected countless others to sadistic forms of torture and stole dozens of babies from mothers they jailed and murdered. The military junta carried out the so-called "Dirty War" with the <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB104/index.htm">full knowledge and support of the Nixon administration</a>.
When it became clear that socialist Salvador Allende would likely win the presidency in Chile, U.S. President Richard Nixon told the CIA to "make the economy scream" in order to "prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him," <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB8/nsaebb8i.htm">according to the National Security Archive</a>. Augusto Pinochet overthrew Allende in a bloody coup on Sept. 11, 1973, torturing and disappearing thousands of his political rivals with the backing of the U.S. government.
The Brazilian military overthrew the democratically elected government of João Goulart in 1964, with the <a href="http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB118/index.htm">enthusiastic support of President Lyndon Johnson</a>, ushering in two decades of repressive government.
The Reagan administration funded the Contra rebels against the Marxist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Regarded by many as terrorists, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1985-03-08/news/mn-32283_1_contras">the Contras murdered, tortured and raped civilians</a>. When human rights organizations reported on the crimes, the Reagan administration accused them of working on behalf of the Sandinistas.
Through Plan Colombia, the U.S. has pumped over $6 billion into Colombia's military and intelligence service since 2002. The intelligence service has been disbanded for <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/national-security/us-aid-implicated-in-abuses-of-power-in-colombia/2011/06/21/gIQABrZpSJ_story.html">spying on the Supreme Court and carrying out smear campaigns</a> against the justices, as well as journalists, members of Congress and human rights activists. The military faces numerous allegations of human rights abuse, including the practice of killing non-combatants from poor neighborhoods and dressing them up as guerrillas to inflate enemy casualty statistics.
For 21 years, the <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/u-n-urges-end-u-cuba-embargo-21st-192516276.html">U.N. has condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba</a> and for 21 years the United States has ignored it. Some 188 nations voted against the embargo this year, with only the U.S. itself, Israel, Palau opposing.
At the behest of United Fruit Company, a U.S. corporation with extensive holdings in Central America, the CIA helped engineer the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954, ushering in decades of civil war that resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
El Salvador's military <a href="http://www.pbs.org/itvs/enemiesofwar/elsalvador2.html">committed atrocities throughout the 1980s with U.S. funding</a>.
Woodrow Wilson ordered the Marines to <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1914-1920/Haiti">invade and occupy Haiti in 1915</a> after the assassination of the Haitian president. The troops didn't leave until 1934.
One invasion wasn't good enough. The U.S. <a href="http://wws.princeton.edu/research/cases/haiti.pdf">military returned in 1994</a>.
The School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, trained soldiers and generals responsible for massacres and torture of tens of thousands of Latin Americans, <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/insidestoryamericas/2012/09/201292081054585410.html">according to Al Jazeera</a>.
Rafael Trujillo Sr. (Photo by Hank Walker//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
The so-called "Spanish-American War" began in 1868 with the first of a series of three wars for Cuban independence. In 1898, the U.S. got involved, invading Cuba and occupying the island after forcing Spain to give it. The United States then forced Cuba to <a href="http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=55">accept the odious Platt Amendent to its Constitution</a>, which allowed the United States to intervene in the country militarily and established the U.S. military base at Guantánamo.
As long as you're invading Cuba, <a href="http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/puerto-rico-invaded">why not take Puerto Rico</a> as well? The United States invaded in 1898 and the island remains a U.S. territory today.