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Blog 丨 2021.08.09

The Next Countries to Legalize Cannabis

As the legalization of marijuana has been greatly witnessed within most of the United States, the influence of its growing acceptance is slowly but surely expanding on a global scale. In seeing that the acceptance and acknowledgement of cannabis’ recreational use is continually growing in the U.S., along with its medicinal benefits, it is not surprising that other countries are also beginning to or have already seen and understood the instrumental benefits of ultimately making cannabis use and its consumption legal. 

As not only America but also the rest of the world continuously shifts into a more transformative modern age, it is evident that the previously negative perspective held against marijuana is now beginning to shift as well. Due to the benefits of cannabis use, whether health-wise or business-wise, these profitable aspects of cannabis have allowed it to become recognized in a more positive light by the United States and other countries. 

As the global acceptance of marijuana only continues to grow, it can certainly be assumed that several countries will begin to legalize cannabis. While a few countries have already legalized marijuana, it is imperative to examine the countries that are next in legalizing and the stage they are in the legalization process.

History of Marijuana Legalization

Before exploring and examining the countries that are next in line to legalize the use and consumption of cannabis, it is imperative to review and understand the legalization history of cannabis. 

Marijuana was legal throughout most of history leading up to the early 20th century. It was between the years 1916 and 1931 that 29 states in the U.S. made the use of marijuana illegal, which was later followed up by the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which “essentially made cannabis illegal across the U.S.” (Speights, 2021). During these early years of the 20th century, the U.S. first began to ban marijuana on a national scale predominantly. Then it was gradually occurring globally as well. In fact, several other countries “outlawed marijuana during the first half of the century, with more nations following suit in subsequent decades” (Speights, 2021). 

In view of the worldwide opposition that cannabis once had, it makes the present-day legalization and acceptance of cannabis in different countries even more significant. For marijuana to go from being illegal and banned globally to it now being more accepted, it is evident that times are changing.

The Influences Behind the Global Legalization of Cannabis

There are two rather significant legal factors influencing the global shift in perspective regarding the use and consumption of cannabis.

Firstly, the increasing global acceptance and legalization of marijuana is significantly due in part to its scheduling as a drug being changed by the United Nations. The U.N. has removed cannabis from being previously scheduled as a schedule 4 category drug in recent years. 

Secondly, the impact of “European courts deeming that CBD isn't a narcotic” has also greatly influenced several countries to change their present-day stance on the use and consumption of marijuana (2021). This ruling is a rather significant one in that being able to declassify marijuana as a narcotic greatly takes away from the stigmatized notion that it is a debilitating form of intoxication that only makes people behave in bad ways. 

Even more so, these two significant changes in legalization are quite pivotal in that they have and will aid in other countries that are looking to legalize or accept the use of cannabis in their own ways. Specifically, for the legal decisions made by the United Nations and these European courts, these two rulings are quite beneficial in that they both “bode well for countries looking at regulatory bodies when deciding their stance on cannabis” (2021). 

Essentially, in seeing that even a global government organization has changed its stance and classification of cannabis, it is no wonder that there have already been quite a few countries to legalize marijuana. Furthermore, several countries are currently looking to legalize it and countries that are already going through the steps and processes for cannabis legalization. 

Countries that are Up Next in Cannabis Legalization

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As global perspectives on marijuana continue to change positively, several countries are either planning to or are already in the middle of trying to legalize the use and consumption of cannabis. Within the various countries that are currently seeking marijuana legalization, a few countries in particular greatly stand out, as their focus on legalization was a bit more unexpected. 

Mexico is one country in particular that has surprisingly been trying to push for cannabis legalization for quite a few years now. In fact, the “Supreme Court in Mexico issued a ruling in 2018 which deemed cannabis prohibition unconstitutional” (Green, 2020). While this has been a significant milestone for Mexico’s legalization, the country is still currently trying to pass legalization to enact the decision of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, in Mexico’s case, only time will show when cannabis legalization will actually be implemented. 

Israel is another unexpected country that is currently working towards the legalization of cannabis. Avi Nissenkorn, the Justice Minister of Israel, asserted during late 2020 that “Israel would legalize cannabis for adult-use ‘within nine months’” (Green, 2020). As we are now in the middle of 2021, the exact timeline for Israel’s cannabis legalization is still unclear, but if things go as projected, this country will be joining the likes of countries such as Canada and Uruguay, who have recently legalized cannabis.

Lastly, South Africa is another unexpected country looking to legalize marijuana. Like Mexico, South Africa’s highest court level also put forth a ruling that denounced prohibition. While the court ruling “quasi-legalized cannabis for adult use, in that it provides an affirmative defense in some instances,” it still needs to pass a measure of legalization that completely implements the court's decision. 

While it is surprising to see these three distinct countries all trying to get marijuana legalized in their ways, it is imperative to stress that they are just a few of many. There will only be more and more countries looking to legalize the use and consumption of cannabis as its global acceptance continues to flourish.