Dispatch From The International Cannabis Business Conference: Berlin, Day 2

Berlin: There is a whiff of federal exceptionalism in the air. Yes, I made up that term. But there is something undeniably cosmopolitan about the governments of Uruguay, Germany, and imminently, Canada, federally blessing the legalization of cannabis in one form or another, with limited legal variations in Australia, Israel, Jamaica, Ireland and Portugal.

Some of these countries, through participants here at the ICBC, remind me that in contrast, the catalyst to regulated cannabis access in the United States is not our federal government, but our states. Over half of the United States has galvanized itself into decriminalizing or legalizing the medical and/or recreational use of cannabis. Fortunately, more states are poised to follow suit, giving credence to ‘states’ rights.’ Right?

But still, our international standing suffers: cannabis continues to be a Schedule I violation of U.S. federal law. By design or default, this makes heroin or cocaine a more acceptable sin in the eyes of the law, as they are classified as a Schedule II violation. This strange precedence in our American criminal justice system does not go unnoticed at an international cannabis conference, though it does earn us respect and consolation from much smaller nations, who urge us to keep fighting the good fight.

Berlin is my second international cannabis-related conference, my first being in Uruguay, and it’s evident that these conferences transcend a global movement. In many different languages, the attendees, some you might mistake as hippies or Wall Street types, caucus, debate and plot the hottest industry in the world.

A constant topic in their discourse is that federal and legal recognition of cannabis access comes with scientific advantages. This is not true for the United States, where clinical research on the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis is essentially stunted, despite the 22,000 published studies or reviews in medical and scientific journals referencing cannabis and its cannabinoids, as well as the endocannabinoid regulatory system. As long as modern research conflicts with arcane federal law, then federal law will continue to treat cannabis as a highly dangerous substance, worthy of criminalization.

Federal exceptionalism—not to be confused with American exceptionalism—is elevating other nations in ways that exceptional Americans, especially those in Washington, D.C., need to heed.


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