Hitting the one year mark of legalization this past year, Canada holds a spot as one of the first developed nations to take a different look at marijuana. Now as the phenomena spreads across the world, other countries are looking to Canadian cannabis laws to understand how they can also reap the benefits of legalization efficiently.
Canadian Cannabis Laws Lead The Way
While Canada was not the first country in the world to legalize cannabis for adults (the title going to the South American nation of Uruguay), all eyes have been on the country as it succeeds, and fails, through the first year. Countries such as Mexico, New Zealand and Luxembourg have taken lessons from Canadian Cannabis Laws, while there are others, such as Russia, who are not very happy with the choice of legalization, claiming it is flouting international anti-drug laws and treaties.
This article is going to take a look at how other countries around the world are viewing drug policies, and how Canada’s cannabis culture and legalization model has set the stage for the next iteration of recreational and medicinal cannabis regulation around the world.
Last year, Mexico’s Supreme Court deemed that the government’s ban on the personal use of marijuana was unconstitutional. This ruling was a culmination of a long journey, working against prohibition in the country since 2015. Backed by the country’s new President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who before even being sworn into office, connected with Canada to discuss the Canadian Cannabis Laws and their approach to implementation.
With this latest ruling, legalization is just around the corner and the government is already working to build out what a regulated, legal cannabis system in Mexico would look like. There are many advocates and groups alike who are working to have this implemented, fast as it will impact a country with a very negative drug past, with a history that includes severe drug-war violence.
According to Mexican drug policy reform advocate Zara Snapp, “The importance of Canada having regulated is that it broke the taboo on an international level in a way that Uruguay did not,” continuing that, “For us, what it taught us is there is a path, and that path is possible without there being any apocalyptic sanctions from international bodies.”
We predict that Mexico will be the next country in the Americas to legalize cannabis for recreational and medicinal use.
Our neighbors to the south continue to struggle with finding a solution that fits the entire country, instead choosing going piecemeal and state-by-state. As of now, there are thirty-three (and Washington D.C.) of the fifty-one states that have legalized marijuana within their state borders for either recreational or medicinal cannabis use.
Each state continues to struggle against the overall anti-marijuana federal law, finding ways to make the argument that low-level marijuana-related crimes have been both draining and damaging to their populace and police forces.
The Federal US government is cluing in though; at the end of the year last year, there was a bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow legal marijuana businesses access to banking and funds while giving financial institutions freedom from persecution for handling and managing marijuana-related money. This is a big step in the right direction, allowing businesses to conduct sales in a safer way since many financial institutions would not accept money from businesses linked to cannabis dealings, meaning the businesses had to deal solely in cash. Being cash-only left them open for theft and robbery and gave them more ability to evade taxes.
The country has a lot of work to do to get to marijuana legalization, but this bill was a step in the right direction.
In September last year, Thailand came out as the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical cannabis. Traditionally a very anti-drug country, that still has capital punishment, it seems that they are starting to wade into the marijuana market. As of last year, according to Forbes, they have removed low-level cannabis and hemp extracts from the banned narcotics list. This means that families in Thailand can now grow their own marijuana plants, up to six per household.
Soon after this change in legislature, Thailand has also committed to allowing CBD extracts that have less than 0.2% THC and they hope to include CBD extracts to help make food, medicine, and cosmetics. Along with this bigger change come high hopes for also growing their overall economy and agricultural income with hemp and hemp products.
This European nation rarely makes it into the news, but the country decriminalized small amounts of marijuana and has started to allow medicinal use. With the goal of being the first European nation to legalize and regulate recreational sales, it could be the entryway to changing overall European perceptions of the drug.
In the next few years, the government is aiming to legalize sales. According to Health Minister Etienne Schneider, the country’s legislation is “inspired by the Canadian model.”
A landlocked nation in the middle of Europe, when contending with changes in policies — drug-related or not — Luxembourg has to manage the interconnectedness of the entire European Union. That being said, the Health Minister has also come out saying that he is hoping to speak to his counterparts in France, Germany, and Belgium (countries that border Luxembourg) to help encourage participation and explore a change in their own drug policies.
The positive change appears to be coming from our friends in the Pacific: next year New Zealand’s government has committed to holding a referendum on whether or not to legalize cannabis. This referendum would put New Zealand on the map as the first country to ever put marijuana legalization to a nation-wide vote.
While things have yet to be finalized, preliminary projections from a speech given by Justice Minister Andrew Little include:
- Minimum purchase age of 20
- A ban on public marijuana use
- A public education campaign
- Limits on home growing
- Limits on marketing and advertising and licensing requirements for all parts of the supply chain.
According to the Justice Minister at a drug policy symposium in New Zealand last month, “The approach we are taking is that in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum, it will be necessary to have a regime that affords maximum control so that the obvious risks can be minimized.”
While much of this is exciting for the small nation, there are advocates that have expressed concern over social justice throughout the legalization process. The NZ model could be a hybrid approach, tying in the model used in Uruguay, where cannabis access is tightly overseen by a small number of licensed pharmacies, and “a more commercial approach taken by some Canadian provinces and U.S. states.”