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International Efforts to Legalize Cannabis Gain Momentum

International Efforts to Legalize Cannabis Gain Momentum

Legal weed in Luxembourg. Medical marijuana for Panama. Across the world, efforts to evolve cannabis policy are underway.


A decade ago, your best bet for getting high without getting arrested was to book a ticket to Amsterdam. Long reputed as one of the only places in the world with legal weed, the truth is that the Netherlands has never actually taken such a step. In reality, cannabis remains illegal in Amsterdam aside from personal use, while the recreational industry operates within a tolerated but not explicitly endorsed grey area.

Fortunately, the past ten years have brought with them a number of notable happenings in cannabis reform. In 2016, the voters of California approved a recreational adult-use market, creating a cannabis industry which is now able to operate in what amounts to the world’s fifth-largest economy. Likewise, in 2018, Canada became “the first major world economy to legalize recreational marijuana” in the words of the New York Times.

These are undeniably massive victories, to be certain, but they’ve also left much room for improvement.

While Canada’s legalization experiment continues to yield uneven results, top policymakers in the U.S. remain unable to even reach a consensus on how a federally-approved recreational market should operate. It’s an unfortunate stalemate and one only made worse in light of a recent Pew poll which found that fewer than one-in-ten (8%) of Americans feel marijuana should not be legal for use by adults.

For those who would argue the matter of cannabis is but another partisan spat that the U.S. Congress will be unable to resolve, bear in mind that this same poll found that 47% of those identifying as Republican or Republican-leaning were in favor of making cannabis legal both recreationally and medically. By contrast, 72% of those identifying as Democrats or Democrat-leaning were also in favor of the same, but even having the backing of nearly half of Republican-minded adults is a statistic of substantial importance.

Regardless of what the public wants, the day when the U.S. federally legalizes a recreational cannabis market remains seemingly close but nonetheless impossible to predict. In the interim, however, a diverse range of other countries from across the globe — including Mexico, Panama, and Luxembourg — have begun to undertake noteworthy efforts towards cannabis reform as well.

Title: International Efforts to Legalize Cannabis Gain Momentum (Luxembourg Philharmonic)

For instance, after many stops and starts, it once again appears that Mexico is poised to beat its neighbor to the north in the race to legalize cannabis at the national level.

As previously reported by Bloom & Oil, the prospect of legal weed in Mexico was first established nearly three years ago when the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the country’s prohibition on the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis was unconstitutional. Since that ruling, lawmakers in Mexico have failed to enact a policy change, instead fighting over the details of the legislation while the Supreme Court’s patience wore ever-thinner.

Here’s how Marijuana Moment summarized the chain of events that have since followed:

“At the request of legislators, the court agreed to extend its deadline for Congress to formally end prohibition on multiple occasions. But because of the repeated failed attempts to meet those deadlines, justices ultimately voted to end criminalization on their own in June. […] The Senate approved a legalization bill late last year, and then the Chamber of Deputies made revisions and passed it in March, sending it back to the originating chamber. A couple of Senate committees then took up and cleared the amended measure, but leaders quickly started signaling that certain revisions made the proposal unworkable.”

After much patience, it appears that meaningful action may at last be on the horizon, with Marijuana Moment reporting last week that Senate President Olga Sánchez Cordero is now suggesting that lawmakers “could advance legislation to regulate marijuana in the coming weeks.” While the situation remains a work in progress, it does appear that the end — and with it, hopefully countless fresh starts — may at last be in sight.

Continuing down the Southern Hemisphere, we arrive at Panama, where earlier this summer, the National Assembly League approved a bill that would legalize cannabis for therapeutic and medicinal use.

In the wake of that August vote, Panama now finds itself 90 days away from being able to usher in a new, cannabis-friendly era for the country. When that day comes, it will solidify Panama as the first Central American country to approve medical cannabis. As was the case with California and the U.S., when it comes to legalization — even for medical use only — never underestimate the power of a domino effect, which may inspire the other nations of Central America to follow suit. Furthermore, should this pro-pot move by Panama lead to quantifiable economic benefits, it will make the case for other countries to consider doing the same only more appealing.

As for what form this market will take, Al Dia offered the following details:

“The law will allow the import, export, cultivation, production and commercialization of cannabis and its derivatives through a series of licenses granted by the Panamanian state, which will be carried out in designated areas with limited access and under a control system with surveillance cameras. Finally, only pharmaceutical companies or companies specialized in therapeutic services will be able to acquire and commercialize it.”

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, there’s also some action across the Atlantic as Luxembourg prepares to become the first European nation to legalize the use and cultivation of cannabis. As you’ll recall, the Netherlands is sticking with decriminalization as its letter of the law for now, which makes this new venture quite a sizeable undertaking for a small, land-locked country that boasts a population of just over 600,000.

As reported by CNN, under the new laws announced by the Luxembourg government on Oct. 22, adults over 18 will be allowed to use cannabis and to grow up to four plants per household. While consuming cannabis in public will remain illegal, the hope with this change in policy is that it will help with efforts to crack down on drug-related crime and the illegal drug trade.

If Luxembourg is successful in that goal, it will only further underscore how behind the U.S. remains when it comes to embracing a federal policy in support of cannabis reform. With each new nation that sees the light on cannabis, it only makes the blindness displayed by many of the top lawmakers in the U.S. when it comes to legal weed on the homefront all the more difficult to stomach.

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