Former U.S. Marine  Ryan Begin rolls a medical marijuana joint at his home in Belfast, Maine, in late November.  (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)


Support it or not, there’s no denying that this was a watershed year for marijuana.

Within hours of the new year, the nation saw the first legally sanctioned sales of marijuana for recreational use in modern history. Throughout, states considered and often passed expanding access to the drug and, as recently as last weekend, Congress was interfering in D.C.’s pot policies and promising to stay out of the states.

Based on exchanges with pot advocates, we rounded up 22 of the most significant moments for marijuana in 2014, most of them advancing the cause though the list includes a few notable setbacks. Click the links below to jump to each moment or keep scrolling to read them from start to finish.

1. Legal sales begin in Colorado
2. Obama: ‘I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol’
3. Congress allows hemp cultivation
4. CNN chief medical correspondent backs medical marijuana
5. Poll finds more Americans identify tobacco, alcohol and sugar as “most harmful”
6. Utah passes limited medical marijuana law
7. D.C. decriminalizes
8. Maryland approves medical marijuana and decriminalizes possession
9. Minnesota approves medical marijuana
10. New York approves medical marijuana
11. Legal pot sales begin in Washington
12. New York Times editorial board calls for an end to prohibition
13. Study: Medical marijuana laws associated with 25 percent fewer prescription overdose deaths
14. Philadelphia becomes largest U.S. city to decriminalize marijuana possession
15. Federal court considers whether marijuana should be classified as a Schedule I controlled substance
16. Two more states and D.C. vote to legalize
17. Florida medical marijuana loses, with 58 percent of the vote
18. Native Americans reservations allowed to legalize marijuana
19. Congress blocks D.C. legalization
20. Congress ends the ban on medical marijuana
21. Colorado approves $8 million for marijuana research
22. Oklahoma and Nebraska are suing Colorado over marijuana legalization

1. Legal sales begin in Colorado (Jan. 1)


Sean Azzariti, a former Marine who served in the Iraq war and has post-traumatic stress disorder, smiles as he makes a cash transaction, the first to buy retail marijuana at 3D Cannabis Center, which opened as a legal recreational retail outlet in Denver on Jan. 1, 2014. (Brennan Linsley/AP)

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The year began with an historic moment: the first legally sanctioned sale of recreational marijuana in modern history. Buyers lined up at dispensaries throughout the state to take part in the historic moment, despite the occasional snow flurry. Swarmed by cameras and journalists at a planned media event, former Marine Sean Azzariti was among the first to make a purchase. He bought 3.5 grams of “Bubba Kush” for $40 and some pot-laced chocolate truffles for an additional $9.28.

2. Obama: ‘I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol’ (Jan. 27)

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(Petr David Josek/AP)

In the Jan. 27 issue of the New Yorker, Editor David Remnick published a long piece based on a wide-ranging interview with President Obama. In it, the president shared his thoughts on marijuana, which advocates felt gave legitimacy to their long-held argument that marijuana does relatively little harm. Here’s Remnick:

When I asked Obama about another area of shifting public opinion — the legalization of marijuana — he seemed even less eager to evolve with any dispatch and get in front of the issue. “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

Is it less dangerous? I asked.

Obama leaned back and let a moment go by. That’s one of his moves. When he is interviewed, particularly for print, he has the habit of slowing himself down, and the result is a spool of cautious lucidity. He speaks in paragraphs and with moments of revision. Sometimes he will stop in the middle of a sentence and say, “Scratch that,” or, “I think the grammar was all screwed up in that sentence, so let me start again.”

Less dangerous, he said, “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer. It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”

3. Congress allows hemp cultivation (Feb. 5)


Long-stemmed hemp plants grow in a Murray State University research plot in Murray, Ky., in August. Researchers and farmers are producing Kentucky’s first legal hemp crop in generations. Hemp has turned into a political cause in the Bluegrass state. (Bruce Schreiner/AP)

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The farm bill signed by the president  Feb. 7 included a provision allowing colleges and state agencies in the handful of states where hemp cultivation is allowed to conduct research on the crop. The text of the provision was crafted in part by incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). By the fall, the state he represents, Kentucky, would become home to the first legal hemp harvest in decades.

4. CNN chief medical correspondent backs medical marijuana (March 6)

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CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta said he was “doubling down” on medical marijuana after initially opposing the drug altogether. “I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana,” he wrote in a commentary on the evolution of his beliefs. His reversal, and a special he starred in, added high-profile legitimacy to the argument for medical marijuana.

5. Poll finds more Americans identify tobacco, alcohol and sugar as “most harmful” (March 12)

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(Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg)

A Wall Street Journal and NBC News poll finds that more Americans cite other commonplace substances as “most harmful,” confirming recent polls that have shown huge shifts in attitudes toward pot.

“When Americans were asked their opinion on the most harmful of four substances, tobacco (49 percent) and alcohol (24 percent) came in first and second place, followed by sugar (15 percent) and marijuana. Only 8 percent said marijuana was the most harmful substance,” the Journal reported.

6. Utah passes limited medical marijuana law (March 25)

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Utah’s new medical marijuana law is significant not for what it does, but where it comes from. Though limited in scope, the law is a sign that medical marijuana is no longer as politically toxic as it once was among conservatives. The measure won the approval of the state’s Republican House, Senate and governor. Deep red North Carolina would pass a similarly limited measure in June.

7. D.C. decriminalizes (March 31)

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Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray signs a bill that decriminalizes possession of marijuana (up to an ounce) in the district and imposes a $25 fine per offense, which advocates say is among the lowest in the country.

8. Maryland approves medical marijuana and decriminalizes possession (April 14)

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The Maryland Senate during debate on the last day of the Maryland Assembly in Annapolis on April, 7, 2014. Decriminalizing marijuana was one of the issues the Senate was voting on. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

Maryland became the 21st state to legalize medical marijuana, while also decriminalizing possession of the drug.

9. Minnesota approves medical marijuana (May 29)

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Jon Thompson of Minnesota Medical Solutions holds a sample of marijuana pills on Dec. 1  in St. Paul, Minn. Thompson’s company was one of two manufacturers selected by the state to grow and cultivate marijuana for Minnesota’s new medical cannabis program. (Kyle Potter/AP)

Minnesota became the 22nd state to legalize medical marijuana.

10. New York approves medical marijuana (July 7)

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New York became the 23rd state to allow medical marijuana.

11. Legal pot sales begin in Washington (July 8)

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Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, left, shakes hands with clerk Pam Fenstermacher after purchasing marijuana at Cannabis City on July 8 in Seattle  on the first day that sales of recreational pot became legal in the state. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

Washington became the second state to successfully implement pot legalization, with sales beginning about six months after they began in Colorado.

12. New York Times editorial board calls for an end to prohibition (July 27)

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In a landmark six-part series, the New York Times editorial board called for the end of prohibition on marijuana, stating in no uncertain terms that “the federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”

13. Study: Medical marijuana laws associated with 25 percent fewer prescription overdose deaths (August 25)

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(Matt Rourke/AP)

A study published in the Aug. 25 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine finds that the annual number of deaths from prescription drug overdose is 25 percent lower  in states with legal medical marijuana, giving credence to arguments that the drug has medical benefits and could save lives as an alternative to existing medicines.

14. Philadelphia becomes largest U.S. city to decriminalize marijuana possession (Oct. 20)

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Philadelphia became the largest city in the country to decriminalize marijuana this fall.

15. Federal court considers whether marijuana should be classified as a Schedule I controlled substance (Oct. 27)

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A federal judge granted a three-day hearing on whether marijuana should be classified in the same way as heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Advocates viewed the hearings as having historic significance, though it would hardly be the final say on the issue even if the judge did rule against the classification.

16. Two more states and D.C. vote to legalize (Nov. 4)

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Taylor Bickford, right, spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol; Chris Rempert, center, the campaign’s political director; and Bruce Schulte of the Coalition for Responsible Cannabis Legislation talk to reporters Nov. 5 in Anchorage, Alaska. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., voted to legalize marijuana within their borders, not only doubling the number of states where voters have approved legalization, but also helping advocates in portraying such a policy shift as inevitable. They are already targeting a number of states in 2016.

17. Florida medical marijuana loses, with 58 percent of the vote (Nov. 4)

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Despite a string of victories elsewhere and throughout the year, the marijuana movement suffered a setback on Election Day when a proposal to legalize medical marijuana failed to get the 60 percent of the votes needed to pass. However, the proposal did earn well beyond a simple majority, earning 58 percent support.

18. Native American reservations allowed to legalize marijuana (Dec. 11)

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The Justice Department announced that it would no longer prosecute federal marijuana laws on reservations, even when state law bans the substance.

19. Congress blocks D.C. legalization (Dec. 13)

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Adam Eidinger, left, Dr. Malik Burnett and Michael Brown, right, depart the Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, after staging a sit down protest over the overturning of the marijuana law recently passed  Dec. 10, 2014. in Washington, D.C. Eidinger and Burnett are with the DC Cannabis Campaign, and Brown is one of the District’s shadow senators. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

A Republican provision inserted into the $1.1 trillion spending deal bans the use of taxpayer funds to enact marijuana legalization, though city officials appear to be preparing for a showdown over legalization regardless.

20. Congress ends the ban on medical marijuana (Dec. 13)

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An oral administration syringe loaded with high CBD hemp oil for treating a severely ill child is shown at a private home in Colorado Springs, Colo., in April.  (Brennan Linsley/AP)

At the same time that Congress meddled with D.C.’s legalization efforts, it agreed not to interfere with medical marijuana at the state level. The massive spending bill included a provision that bans the Justice Department from spending money to prosecute dispensaries or patients operating in accordance with state law.

21. Colorado approves $8 million for marijuana research (Dec. 17)

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The Colorado Board of Health approved up to $8 million in grants to fund eight studies on medical marijuana, which the Denver Post described as “the largest-ever state-funded effort to study the medical efficacy of cannabis.” More from The Post:

The studies will look at whether marijuana can be used to treat childhood epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pediatric brain tumors and spine pain. The results of the studies will provide some of the best — and most respected — evidence to date on whether marijuana is a useful medicine.

22. Oklahoma and Nebraska are suing Colorado over marijuana legalization (Dec. 18)

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Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning speaks at a news conference in Lincoln, Neb. on Dec. 18, announcing that he and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt are filing a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a declaration that Colorado’s legalization of marijuana violates the U.S. Constitution. (Nati Harnik/AP)

The two states argue in a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that Colorado’s law unconstitutionally circumvents federal statute and interferes with their ability to uphold their own state laws.