Attitudes about cannabis production and use continue to shift. There is no better evidence of this shift than October’s marijuana news from around the globe. Surprising revelations and announcements from countries around the world signal monumental transitions in how many of us think about marijuana as a recreational substance and a cash crop. There are still crucial conversations still to be had. If there’s one major takeaway this month, it’s that it is clear support for improved legislation and decriminalization continues to grow.
President Biden Announces Mass Pardons for Simple Marijuana Possession Offenses
In a stunning October announcement, U.S. President Biden signaled that he is working with the Attorney General to pardon all prior federal offenses if simple possession of marijuana. The move could also help Americans with a conviction on their record restart their lives, giving them a clean slate. A criminal drug conviction can make seeking employment, housing, and educational opportunities challenging. Pardoning simple possession convictions may help dispel the perpetual shadow thousands of people in the U.S. live under daily.
President Biden called on governors to make the next move, asking them to consider pardoning individuals convicted of marijuana possession at the state level. The ask received full-throated support from some governors while garnering pushback from others.
President Biden also announced that he is asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Attorney General to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, the same as heroin. Rescheduling the drug may be a positive step toward eventually decriminalizing marijuana.
British Columbia Introducing New Cannabis Retail License
To the North, officials in British Columbia are introducing a new cannabis retail license that seeks to improve the quality of cannabis products in the legal market. The new license is part of the region’s farm-to-gate cannabis commitment, meant to support cannabis producers in rural and Indigenous communities. It will allow eligible producers to sell non-medical cannabis products from stores located at their farm or cultivation site, something current regulations restrict.
Proponents of the new license say the new model will allow cannabis producers to create more meaningful relationships with customers and lead to new, high-quality products. Some see the move as a way to bolster the “craft cannabis” movement, giving it a chance to succeed just like craft beer.
Costa Rica Marijuana Legalization Bill Heads to Lawmakers
To the South, in Costa Rica, President Rodrigo Chaves Robles is asking lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana. President Robles recently sent a reform bill to the Legislative Assembly for consideration. The measure aims to legalize, control, and regulate the consumption and cultivation of cannabis for recreational use. President Robles claims that legalizing marijuana will undermine the illegal drug market while boosting the economy.
However, there is likely to be some pushback from lawmakers. Some oppose the recreational legalization of marijuana, citing damage to families and claiming the drug is a “doorway” to other dangerous practices.
Columbian President Pushes for Marijuana Legalization and Global Drug Reform
Another Latin American country is also considering marijuana legalization. Recently inaugurated Colombian president Gustavo Petro is ramping up his efforts for global drug policy reform as lawmakers in his own country approve a bill to legalize marijuana. The legalization proposal advanced through a committee with overwhelming support and now heads to the full legislature. The measure seeks to regulate legal cannabis and create a tax structure for cannabis sales. There is a second legalization measure also making its way through the legislature. However, President Gustavo has not endorsed any particular reform bill.
Instead, the newly elected president has been vocal about reforming global drug policy, calling on world leaders to rethink their approach to the war on drugs. Gustavo, a former member of Columbia’s M-19 guerrilla group, claims he has seen firsthand the violence between drug cartels, the narcoparamilitary groups, and guerrilla fighters due to the government’s misguided drug enforcement approach.
First Permits for Cannabis Production Issues in Morocco
Farmers now have the green light to grow cannabis in Morocco. A Moroccan state agency issued the first ten permits to regional farmers. Although Moroccan law does not allow the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, the law is supposed to help support the income of local farmers and protect them from illegal drug traffickers.
Farmers in the northern mountain regions of Al Houceima, Taounat, and Chefchaouen will gradually be allowed to grow cannabis if they organize into cooperatives. Currently, marijuana is largely cultivated illegally in the country before drug traffickers export the product to Europe.
Confusion in Thailand Over Marijuana Laws
There is some confusion in Thailand over the country’s hazy new marijuana legislation. In June, Thailand removed cannabis from the list of banned narcotics in the country, allowing people to grow, use, and sell the drug for medicinal purposes. However, parliament has not yet passed laws regulating the recreational use of marijuana, creating a grey area many retailers are looking to capitalize on for profit.
Demand for the drug has skyrocketed, especially as it reverses Thailand’s aggressive zero-tolerance policy of previous decades. It is a stunning change from a country known to have some of the harshest drug laws in the world. Although technically recreational use is still not legal, decriminalizing the drug means vendors are coming out of the woodwork and looking to sell cannabis products to the public. The government insists that cannabis is only for medicinal and therapeutic use, meaning products sold must contain less than .2 percent of the compound THC. However, dried flowers are unregulated.
October is marked by changing attitudes toward marijuana across the globe. There is continuing momentum to shift the conversation about cannabis use, and nations are taking notice. Nowhere is this trend more profound than in countries like Thailand and Columbia, where governments have long held staunch and unrelenting drug policies that many claim hurt people and encourage illegal activity and trade.
Perhaps the actions of these countries and others will help continue to help shape the world’s view on cannabis and change the narrative, leading to more positive and effective conversations.
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