10 Countries Leading the Push for International Marijuana Legalization
In the same way that many legislators across America are keeping their eyes on Washington and Colorado, so are lawmakers and policymakers across the globe. The experiments in legalization that are playing out in certain U.S. states are not only going to be of paramount importance for the legalization movement in the rest of America, but likely in many other countries as well. Many people have known for years that there are certain places around the world that are known for marijuana tourism (like Amsterdam, for example), but are those individual locations actually helping press the issue on a larger scale?
The truth is, there is a lot happening in the marijuana industry, both domestically and abroad. Just as many U.S. states are actively in the process of legalizing, or already have, so are many countries across Europe and South America. So who’s already done it, and who’s on the precipice? Obviously, there are advantages and drawbacks to legalization, and each country has its own ways of handling sweeping change. But when it comes to marijuana legalization, it appears many countries might signal the green light in the near future.
Read on to see ten countries, in no particular order, that have or likely will give strong consideration to legalizing cannabis in coming years.
1. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic, located in central Europe, is still getting a grasp on its newly minted medical marijuana law, which was passed in early 2013. Many people are still having a hard time actually finding medicine to help cope with their medical needs, but it seems that the situation is improving. There is also widespread decriminalization, in which Czech citizens are allowed to grow up to five plants, or be in possession of certain amounts of cannabis without fear of being criminally prosecuted. Czech drug policy has been undergoing rapid change over the past few years, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if full legalization is pushed through, or at least considered, in the near future.
After all, Prague isn’t earning the title of ‘New Amsterdam‘ for nothing.
The South American nation of Ecuador, which shares a continent with the only country on Earth to have fully legalized cannabis in Uruguay, may be on its way to legalizing marijuana itself. The country has a long and rich history, filled with issues resulting from the international drug trade, and subsequent War on Drugs. Currently, possession of small amounts of cannabis is permitted, if it is for personal use and there is no intent to distribute. However, the Ecuadorian government could be poised to earn big bucks by legalizing in terms of tax dollars and potential trade revenue. The president has already issued a large number of pardons to drug offenders, possibly giving a glimpse into a more relaxed attitude toward controlled substances.
Though many people may have thought marijuana was already legal in the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica, that’s simply not the case. However, it does look like the country’s leadership is leaning toward going that route. Just recently, the country took a big step in relaxing its laws on possession, and also decriminalized it for a variety of reasons, including religious ceremonies and medicinal use. Jamaica may be swayed in coming years by increasing pressure from its in-house Rastafarian movement, as well as tourists from places like the U.S. where legalization is quickly sweeping the country.
One way to help cut down on the illegal drug trade, and the power of the drug cartels as a result, would be for the nation of Mexico to give its prohibition laws a second look. There has been plenty of talk over the past several years about the Mexican government looking at legalization marijuana and other substances, but political pressure from the U.S. government has helped keep those laws on the books — for now. The power of criminal organizations, including the infamous cartels that operate along the border, has been shown to be weakening as a result of American decriminalization, and Mexican leaders may be swayed to vote for legalization if it means a lessening of violence and corruption.
From America’s southern border to its northern one, Canadians have been able to enjoy relatively more lax marijuana laws compared to the U.S. Places like British Columbia are famous worldwide for supposedly growing some of the finest marijuana in the world, and it is one of the major sources of the plant into the United States. There are a majority of Canadian citizens who want to see the plant legalized, and much of what policymakers decide to do will likely come as a result of how the U.S. handles legalization going forward.
Certain places in Spain have also been called ‘The New Amsterdam‘ due to their high concentration of private cannabis clubs. Operating in a somewhat gray area within Spanish law, these clubs take advantage of new laws that have decriminalized possession, although the manufacture and sale of cannabis is still illegal. It appears that Spain is one of the countries that will ride the momentum of the legalization movement, and make more policy moves based on what happens as a result of its decriminalization efforts.
Uruguay, of course, has made a name for itself by becoming the first and only country on Earth to fully legalize marijuana. The laws themselves are still being ironed out, but Uruguay has taken an enormous leap by being the first country to put a legal marijuana market into place on a country-wide scale. The market itself will be tightly regulated on all fronts by the government, but prices are estimated to be incredibly cheap compared to what people are paying in Colorado and Washington. For a comparison, a gram of legal marijuana in either one of those states can cost anywhere from $10-$30 (cheaper through the medical market), where some estimates put Uruguayan marijuana at just 87 center per gram.
8. The Netherlands
The Netherlands — and more specifically, Amsterdam — has been a prime destination for marijuana tourists for a long time now. The city’s infamous ‘coffee shops‘ have attracted visitors from all over the world, seeking to partake in the world famous Dutch marijuana trade. Of course, there have been some bumps in the road, especially recently, in which the law has actually been changed to make it harder to track down cannabis. It’s unclear how things will actually turn out going forward, but for a country with a reputation and history of friendly attitudes toward marijuana, it’s not hard to imagine that the Dutch government would pass less restrictive legislation if their neighbors and other world powers do.
South America looks primed for sweeping changes in drug policy, and Argentina is no exception. There have been large rallies and protests urging lawmakers to reclassify marijuana as a legal substance, and as Uruguay and other South American nations have moved forward, it’s likely Argentinian leaders will take on the prospect as well. Argentina’s president has gone so far as to endorse a plan to legalize medical cannabis use, citing reasons that many in South America are familiar with. Particularly, Argentina would like to weaken outlaw drug syndicates and snuff out the black market.
The nation of India may come as a complete surprise to be seen among the many western European and South American nations on this list, but Indians are surprisingly open to the possibility of legalization. The Times of India has even gone on record supporting the idea. It’s already widely used in many religious ceremonies among the Hindu population, and its use is not enforced as stringently as many might suspect. Not only that, but wild cannabis grow in abundance in many parts of India, making it even harder to regulate.
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