Which countries will legalise cannabis next?

World cannabis legalization.

Currently, the push for legalisation is picking up steam across every continent. Source

Why the Push for Legalisation is Going Global?

A few decades ago, who would have thought that a G7 nation would someday allow its citizens to legally consume cannabis for fun? Canada is proving to the world that cannabis should not be the focus of time and resources better spent on addressing more severe threats. Many other countries are also coming to terms with the fact that cannabis and the law can co-exist - like they did for thousands of years across various parts of the world.

The whole world embraced cannabis use for millenia without suffering any major issues, until a criminalisation movement swept across the globe based on twisted facts and misconceptions. Today, prohibition laws are being gradually wound down across several parts of the world.

So, which government is likely to embrace legalisation next?



The Likelihood of Legalisation across Various Parts of the World


North America

With Canada setting the precedent for legalisation on a national level, the force of legalisation has been galvanised throughout North America like never before. And as more states across the US decriminalise the use of the drug, the prospect of legalisation at the federal level grows stronger by the day. However, experts expect the debate to drag on for the next few years, even if the next administration is headed by a pro-legalisation democrat. It’s therefore safe to predict that Federal legalisation will arrive before the end of the next administration in 2024.


As a world leader, legalisation in the US can fast-track legalisation across the globe. Source

With Canada setting the precedent for legalisation on a national level, the force of legalisation has been galvanized throughout North America like never before. And as more states across the US decriminalise the use of the drug, the prospect of legalisation at the federal level grows stronger by the day. However, experts expect the debate to drag on for the next few years, even if the next administration is headed by a pro-legalisation democrat. It’s therefore safe to predict that Federal legalisation will arrive before the end of the next administration in 2024.


Central and South America

Although Latin American countries have a long history of political instability, they’ve also been inclined towards progressive policies. Last year in Mexico -- one of the countries in the region worst-hit by drug-related crimes and violence, a pivotal Supreme Court ruling stated that “the effects caused by marijuana do not justify an absolute prohibition on its consumption.” Expert believe that this edict will be consolidated in law this year. Currently, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela have legalised medical cannabis or decriminalised personal use to certain extents. And if legalisation takes effect in the US and other major economies, these Latin American countries will most likely join the trend towards complete legalisation soon afterwards.


The Caribbean

Last year the CARICOM Commission, a body consisting of 15 member countries in the region, adopted a resolution which states: “The commission believes that the end goal for CARICOM should be the dismantling of prohibition in its totality, to be replaced by a strictly regulated framework akin to that for alcohol and tobacco, which are harmful substances that are not criminalised.”

But this still does not create an entry point for total legalisation in the region. Tom Blickman, senior project officer at the Transnational Institute which is a Dutch-based international social policy NGO, explains why: “Most Caribbean countries will not take that step if the US does not move, dependent as they are on US aid and trade,” he says. As such we can expect to wait around for a few more years to witness legalisation in this region. But Blickman also argues that, “A kind of toleration policy as we have seen for decades in the Netherlands is the most likely compromise in the short term.”


Europe

Europe has largely embraced medical marijuana, as hemp (which is a source of CBD) has been legalised in the EU.  But the prospect of full legalisation across the continent is still a good while away. However, most countries on the continent have decriminalised the possession of small amounts. Luxembourg’s current coalition government have affirmed their intentions to legalise cannabis. However, it will take efforts from a much more powerful player in the region to trigger widespread legalisation across the region.


Africa

Many African countries seem poised to join the bandwagon of legalization, particularly for its economic benefits. Lesotho has already licensed large cannabis producers to export cannabis. Legalisation talks have kicked into high gear in Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Zimbabwe. Last year in South Africa, a Supreme Court ruling approved the cultivation, possession and consumption of small amounts for personal use.


Asia

Although cannabis is illegal on a national level in India, the drug is effectively legal across most parts of India, as the enforcement of prohibition is largely nonexistent in those areas. However, there are far too many pressing issues that occupy policymakers – meaning there is hardly any prospect of a serious cannabis debate on the national level in India in the short term. In December last year, Thailand legalised medical marijuana. These are the two countries where legalisation will most likely take place within the next decade.


Oceania

New Zealand legalised medical marijuana last year, and the government plans to hold a referendum on legalisation along with the general elections in 2020. Current polls show that over 60% of voters are in favor of legalisation. Australia has also legalised medical cannabis, and according to a survey by the National Drug Strategy Household held in 2016, 74% of Australians favor legalisation. If the referendum in New Zealand favors legalisation, the result will most likely energise efforts in Australia to push for legalisation there.

While it is possible to form a general idea of the areas that will legalise cannabis first and which will probably fall behind, a change in government or unexpected debate can unexpectedly speed up or slow down the process. However, the worldwide trend shows that lawmakers are reexamining cannabis and whether it truly is harmful enough to justify the expense and resources that go towards policing its consumption. As other countries follow in the wake of major regions like Canada and many American states, we are likely to see cannabis becoming legal, and far more supported in almost all areas around the world.