A Dream of Global Legalization …
With over half the United States enjoying legalized marijuana—at least in some form—we all wonder when it will be opened up at the federal level. And we’re not the only country with that prize in sight. Canada is about a year away from full legalization, with new laws and a recreational industry ready to go. Spain is getting there, with its world-renowned cannabis culture growing more and more mainstream. And Uruguay is there—at least, legally speaking—flawed as their system may be.
“One nation will be the first to legalize recreational cannabis with an open, functional system that benefits everyone”
What’s the ultimate scenario here? First, complete legalization. We should be able to grow, sell and consume weed freely, without excessive taxes or restrictions. Second, there needs to be a robust, open economy; entrepreneurs need support and freedom to develop this new industry to its full potential. Third, we need to be able to grow our own. We owe it to ourselves as a society to free up this amazing plant for everyone.
It’s inevitable. One nation will be the first to legalize recreational cannabis with an open, functional system that benefits everyone. The question is, who will it be, and how long will it take? While not an exhaustive list of countries in the race, we’ve narrowed it down to the main six in the running.
Let’s start with ourselves. Twenty-nine states have legalized in some form—eight with full-on recreational adult-use laws. With states like Washington, Colorado and Oregon leading the way, we have the most exciting, robust commercial cannabis market in the world, and product development through the roof. That alone makes us a contender, but with Schedule I status still holding us back, we’re a long way off from national legalization. Hopefully, state by state, we’ll evolve a better system and see a cohesive, national policy within ten years.
People flock to Amsterdam to sit in coffee shops, roll up spliffs laced with hash, and pass the day away while high in public. Cannabis use is so open and tolerated in The Netherlands, it’s easy to forget that growing weed there is strictly illegal—and has been for decades. Recently, Dutch lawmakers voted on a bill that would legalize cultivation and the sale of marijuana to coffee shops. If it passes, the Netherlands will surely have a bigger seat at the table as a leader of the cannabis world.
Uruguay is the first country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana. If you’re a citizen, you can buy weed from pharmacies and drug stores and grow up to six plants for personal use. But the system is far from ideal. It’s so heavily regulated that many refuse to participate, preferring the ease and “freedom” of the black market. This way, they avoid the most unpopular aspect of Uruguay’s model: anyone who wants to buy or grow their own cannabis must sign onto a national registry of pot smokers. This invasion of privacy is a deal breaker for many, which some say could cause the system to fail.
Marijuana has flourished in Jamaica since the mid-1800s, when it arrived with indentured servants from India. ‘Ganja’ took root on the island and became an integral part of island culture and the Rastafarian religion. Even so, it has been illegal there for decades—and until recently, punishable by harsh fines and prison sentences. In 2015, Jamaica passed the ‘ganja law,’ allowing people to grow up to five plants at home and transport up to fifty-six grams at a time. Exceed that, and it’s a fine of about five US dollars. Jamaica is clearly moving in the right direction, and as their cannabis industry emerges from the shadows, they’ll surely join the ranks of legalized nations.
Spain is one of the most weed-friendly countries in the world. In many areas, public consumption is tolerated, and as long as it’s for personal use, anyone can grow their own. Spain has a rich and vibrant cannabis club scene, with more than two hundred clubs in Barcelona alone. Because they’re a decentralized nation with independent, autonomous communities, each region can set its own marijuana laws and standards. As these areas continue to grow and develop their cannabis cultures, it’s easy to predict that Spain will legalize sometime in the near future.
Canada is perhaps the closest to the legalization finish line. Their government recently approved Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bill to legalize recreational marijuana on a national level. It allows for home grows, adult-use dispensaries, and, depending on the province, on-site consumption. It’s scheduled to go into effect in July of 2018, and when it does, Canada is poised to become the world superpower of legal weed. With an already robust medical market, and hordes of investors pouring money into building Canada’s recreational industry, there’s nothing in the way to stop our neighbors from the north winning the Spaced-Out Race.
Victory for Us All
Whomever reaches the goal first, it’ll be a victory for us all. Just as each state in America serves as a test-case for legalization, so it will be with countries as a whole. We can look to Uruguay and see what works on a national scale, as well as what doesn’t, and we’ll soon have Canada to model as a larger example. The lofty ideal of cannabis uniting the planet may someday be reality, and not just another pipe dream.