DON’T SMOKE THE MESSENGER: Oh The Times They Are A Changin’ -Cannabis Worldwide: Part 1
Since the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, over which the the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has partial authority, much of the international community has banned cannabis as a matter of law. Further, international agreements and Richard Nixon’s 1972 declaration of a “War on Drugs” in combination with a ramping up of U.S. influence and control around the globe created a tighter grip on cannabis worldwide, leaving few pockets of quasi-legal or ignored subcultures that have depended on cannabis as an economic and cultural staple while continuing the life of the plant.
Many of us know the story of cannabis in the U.S. that brought us to this point, but have you thought about how cannabis and the path to legalization has been developing elsewhere? I’m traveling to Spain this month to attend Spannabis, Europe’s largest cannabis expo and it got me thinking about how much things have evolved.
In 2017, W.H.O. declared that Cannabidiol (CBD) not be an internationally controlled substance and that it was not dangerous. Then, this February, reports came out that W.H.O. now recommends the rescheduling of cannabis worldwide, downgrading it from schedule IV to schedule I, stating that CBD products with less than 0.2% THC are “not under international control”.
Canada recently legalized recreational cannabis nationwide. And Mexico’s decriminalization seems to indicate they are hot on their heels, having legalized it for medical purposes already. Other Latin and South American countries have also evolved. Uruguay, like Canada, has also legalized cannabis nationwide. Columbia has a very progressive medical cannabis program with a focus on oil production. Jamaica has decriminalized small amounts and recently implemented their medical program. Other countries in the Caribbean seem to be following suit.
Some countries in Europe have slightly more progressive laws than the U.S. when it comes to high-CBD products and their allowable levels of THC. For example, in Switzerland the allowable amount of THC in hemp is 1 percent. The European Parliament recently recommended that EU countries legalize medical cannabis. Italy, Poland, Germany and others in Europe have done just that, while some have decriminalized or both. Portugal has simply decriminalized all drugs.
The Middle East is also changing. Israel is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to cannabis, with laws that in many ways put them at the forefront of medical cannabis research. Turkey has also legalized for medical purposes and so has India.
But as you head further into Asia, many countries still have harsh drug laws. However, recently some have truly made steps toward progress. Both Thailand and South Korea recently legalized cannabis for medical purposes and despite horror stories, the Philippines have a medical cannabis bill currently advancing. Australia has partially decriminalized and has made it legal medically as well.
The evolution of worldwide cannabis laws is taking place right before our eyes and the end of prohibition is on the horizon. Of course, if you plan on being a cannabis tourist, please be very cautious and do your homework. Don’t be careless, and don’t break any laws that will have you in a sticky situation in your quest for a worldwide cannabis experience.
Check in two issues for Cannabis Worldwide Part 2: A Journey into Spannabis and Spain’s Cannabis Scene.