For many of us, 2011 will end the same way it began: in a puff of green smoke. I’ve spent this year writing about medical marijuana and have seen changes to law, breakthroughs in knowledge about cannabis, and positive steps toward legalization.

As we ring in the new year–one in which we will see legal pot on the ballot–we reflect on the passing one. Here are my picks for the best and worst moments of 2011 for weed:

High: Pot shop reality show

I had some doubts when I first heard about Discovery Channel’s reality show about Harborside Health Center. But when it aired, I was impressed. The show reflects Steve DeAngelo’s attitude towards pot well. It’s a reality show, for sure–but it provides a positive look at dispensaries. And we need that in a time when these care centers risk federal shutdown.

Low: Northern Colorado weed sales up in smoke

This year Fort Collins joined a growing list of places in Colorado where dispensaries aren’t allowed to do business. Bans like these hurt patients as much as they do local economies. Thankfully, the bans haven’t hit Denver, but the patients who can’t make it to the capital aren’t so lucky. Only the ballot boxes can change it back, next year.

High: Fewer traffic deaths, thanks to… Medical pot?

Last month, a study by Daniel Rees, a professor from University of Colorado Denver, and D. Mark Anderson (of Montana State University) suggested a link between medical marijuana laws and low traffic fatalities. The professors found that a state’s traffic-death rate dropped by almost 9% after the laws were passed, the Denver Post reported.

Low: Papa John’s narcs on a customer

I was surprised to hear that Papa John’s stood by the delivery driver who reported a customer–and medical marijuana patient–to the police for smoking in his own home. Stoners are loyal pizza fans, and Papa John’s does not like that demographic. The event lead to a boycott of the pizza chain and local favorites Sexy Pizza sharing free pies with the victim.

High: Colorado cannabis wins at the Cup

As my colleague Connie Chronnoisseur reported, this year’s High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam saw Colorado scoring high marks on some of its primo dispensary weed. It was an award-winning year for Colorado all around, as many local businesses were also honored at High Times’ Medical Cannabis Cup, held this year in Denver.

Low: Money worries for the pot industry

As if sale bans on cannabis and DEA crackdowns weren’t enough: This year, Colorado dispensaries had to deal with their fair share of financial troubles. A number of shops had their credit card processing revoked or denied. Many also lost their bank accounts as banks shut their doors to any company selling weed. This stripping of financial power forced dispensary owners to act more like the dealers prohibitionists say they are.

High: Colorado asks for a federal reschedule

2011 ends on something of a high note for Colorado. Our state petitioned the federal government to reclassify marijuana, due to its medicinal value, joining Washington and Rhode Island. I still have mixed feelings about cannabis and drug scheduling, but I feel this is a step in the right direction. What are your picks for best and worst moments of 2011?

2012 is sure to be an incredible year for pot–both medicinal and otherwise–in Colorado and nationwide.
Happy New Year, Denver.

Austin Wulf is a freelance writer and cannabis activist. Read more of his THC-infused coverage of the pot industry. Want more updates? Follow @Cannabytes303 on Twitter.