“All I want for christmas is weed!” During 2018, cannabis legalization conquered the world. At least one country from each continent has now joined the green revolution. During the past five years, countries from all around the world have legalized medicinal cannabis. The perception is rapidly changing. From a drug considered and scheduled as bad as heroin and LSD, today we look cannabis with different eyes.
Only in 2018, five countries and three states in the United States legalized cannabis in some way. Canada set the tone when it legalized recreational marijuana, becoming the first G-7 country to do it.
Let’s travel the world and see which countries said “Yes!” to legal cannabis.
United States -not the whole country, but some states- takes a step forward!
Cannabis was one of the big winners in this midterm elections. There are now 10 states, and the District of Columbia, that have legalized cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. On the other hand, two states approved bills to allow patients access to medicinal cannabis. And even more importantly, a recent bill is on the verge of legalizing industrial hemp on a federal level. Let’s take a quick look.
Michigan approved full cannabis legalization
On November 6, and in a very tight vote, the people of Michigan said yes to recreational marijuana. Proposal 1 allows adults 21 and over to use, posses and grow cannabis. Michigan, as from next year, will have a whole market created around cannabis. Dispensaries that want to become part of the green market will have to request a licence from the state. This will allow private companies to grow, process and sell recreational cannabis.
Utah passed the medicinal cannabis bill
Although medicinal cannabis legalization passed the November 6 ballot, there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the Beehive State regarding medicinal cannabis legalization. Even though Proposition 2 won with a 54.1%, politicians in favor and against the measure will write a new draft of the bill. Contradictors thought Proposition 2 was too light and that there was a very small margin for it to become a recreational ballot.
The result is a new bill. And a more restricted one. There will be only 6 dispensaries in the state, one of them public. Edibles and flowers are banned, just like home grown cultivation. The only cannabis products that you will find are capsules, tablets, concentrated oil, tinctures and sublinguals, among others. Wax or rosin will be allowed in very rare cases.
Missouri will allow cannabis for patients
Thanks to Amendment 2, patients will now have access to medical marijuana through licenced dispensaries. The only way for patients to buy medicinal cannabis is to present a doctor’s prescription. It will be illegal to sell cannabis to a patient without a prescription.
According to the bill, the state will start receiving applications for dispensaries no later than August 3. Tax from cannabis will be destined to veterans. The tax amount will be around 4%.
Hemp is going legal!
The best christmas present for cannabis advocates came from the United States Congress. On December 12, the House approved the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill, which is intended to boost and strengthen agriculture in the country, will also legalize hemp on a federal level. Why is this important? Because all cannabis strains with less than 0.3% THC levels will be removed from the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. Hemp, and all its derivatives, will be legal across the nation if President Donald Trump signs the bill.
This decision will boost the CBD and hemp market. This type of cannabis strain can be used in food, textile, fuel, and as a plastic and paper substitute. It will also open a window of possibilities to research CBD and its medicinal properties.
New York and the green hope
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that he is pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in 2019. “Let’s legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana once and for all”, Cuomo said during a speech in Manhattan. The Governor explained that legalizing recreational marijuana will “generate more than 1.7 billion dollars in sales, and it will put New York in line with several neighboring states”.
If his determination is as good as his will, there will be 11 states with legal recreational marijuana in 2019.
Canada has said “Yes” to weed
Justin, you did it! Canada’s Prime Minister was dead serious when early this year he announced his intention of legalizing recreational marijuana. He made legalization one if his campaign’s big promises. On July, he wrote on his Twitter account:
“It’s been too easy for our kids to get marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that. Our plan to legalize & regulate marijuana just passed the Senate”.
Three months later, exactly on October 17th, a cannabis fog settled across Canada. In just a few days, dispensaries ran out of weed. The law allows adults (18 or 19 depending on the state), to buy, use, possess and grow recreational marijuana. The only authorized stores to sell weed are dispensaries that have authorization from the Government to do so.
South Africa, “weed are free now”
One month before the big news came from North America, South Africa legalized cannabis use. “Weed are free now”, chanted the activists outside the Constitutional Court when the big announcement was made. South Africa’s highest court decided that growing marijuana for private consumption is not considered a felony.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said: “It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption”. But it is still illegal to publicly consume cannabis, as it is to sell it or supply it.
South Korea became the first Asian country to legalize medicinal cannabis. On November 23, the Government approved a bill that will allow import and distribution of CBD cannabis oil to treat illnesses such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer symptoms and chronic pain, among others. Korea Orphan Drug Center will control the medicinal cannabis import and further distribution.
However, the process is not that simple. Patients will need a letter from their doctor, in which he or she describes in detail the condition and how CBD can be used to treat that condition. You have to send a letter to the Korea Orphan Drug Center, located in Seoul, and wait for approval.
Shin Chang-Hyun a politician from the Democratic Party introduced the bill. He said that cannabis legalization will be a solution for minorities and people of scarce resources:
“The approval of imports of cannabis-composition medical products for self-treatment will strengthen the safety net for social minorities such as those with rare and incurable patients who cannot see treatment benefits if they don’t get treated in a certain time frame”.
Medicinal cannabis for New Zealand
The Kiwis are following Luxembourg’s steps. Earlier this month, the Government passed a law to make medicinal cannabis available for patients. According to the Bill: patients that are suffering from terminal illnesses, could smoke recreational marijuana without being charged with a felony.
David Clarke, Health Minister, told The Guardian that this measure will benefit thousands of patients suffering from chronic pain and other illnesses: “People nearing the end of their lives should not have to worry about being arrested or imprisoned for trying to manage their pain. This is compassionate and caring legislation that will make a real difference to people … they can use illicit cannabis without fear of prosecution.” And just like Luxembourg, medicinal legislation was just the first step to legalize nationwide recreational marijuana.
During the 2020 general elections, citizens will also vote in a referendum to legalize recreational use of cannabis. First medicinal, then recreational. Not bad, right?
Legalization in Luxembourg is the perfect example of how a step by step approach is a good way to convince people of cannabis benefits. It started back in 2017, when Health Minister Lydia Mutsch drafted a bill to start a two year pilot program for medicinal cannabis. After this period, the Government will review how many patients benefited from cannabis treatment and then make further decisions or modify the law.
The Congress approved the Bill in June 2018. According to Luxembourg News, the cannabis that will be used to treat patients all over Luxembourg will come from Canada and it will only be available upon prescription from a hospital pharmacy.
However, legalization didn’t stop here. On December 5th, the re-elected Government announced that they are moving forward to legalize recreational marijuana. If approved, Luxembourg will become the first country in the European Union to legally allow and regulate adult use of recreational marijuana.
Will Mexico join the club in 2019?
Mexico is facing a war against drug cartels. The elected president Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador is going to take a big step ahead where the drug wars are concerned. How? By legalizing recreational marijuana. His political party, National Regeneration Movement, has submitted a bill to legalize possession, public use, growth and sale of marijuana.
Mexico could be the third country, after Canada and Uruguay, to fully legalize recreational marijuana. For instance, it will also allow Mexicans to home grow up to 20 plants and produce 17 ounces per year.