New Green: What's Happening with Cannabis Around the World?
In the ever-changing landscape of global drug policy, cannabis has become a subject of debate, a ray of hope for some, and a potential economic goldmine for others. The green wave of cannabis legalization has swept through various countries, driven by a confluence of factors.
The medical benefits of cannabis are gaining increasing recognition. From chronic pain to epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, cannabis has proven to be a promising remedy for a range of debilitating conditions. This therapeutic potential has prompted a reevaluation of cannabis laws in many jurisdictions.
The economic allure of the hemp industry is undeniable. The growing sector promises a sharp increase in tax revenue and the creation of new jobs. By bringing the industry out of the shadows, governments effectively regulate it, reaping economic benefits while ensuring consumer safety.
The prohibition of cannabis has deep consequences for criminal justice. A significant number of non-violent drug arrests are linked to cannabis-related offenses, disproportionately impacting disadvantaged communities. Legalization is seen as a path to reducing such arrests and the associated societal costs.
For cancer patients, cannabis has proven to be a valuable ally. It provides relief from chronic pain, controls chemotherapy-induced nausea, stimulates appetite, enhances mood, and improves sleep quality.
In the realm of mental disorders, the role of cannabis is more nuanced. It can alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and, for some, reduce anxiety. Some studies even suggest a potential antidepressant effect.
Despite its potential benefits, cannabis is not without risks. Dependency, exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms, and cognitive impairments are some of the potential side effects. Therefore, cannabis use should always be under the careful supervision of a physician.
A Brief History of Cannabis Use
Ancient Times (2900 BCE - 500 CE): Our first stop in this journey takes us to Ancient China, where Emperor Fu Xi mentioned cannabis as popular medicine around 2900 BCE. In 2737 BCE, Emperor Shen Nong used hemp tea to treat gout and rheumatism. Meanwhile, in India, cannabis was added to beverages for religious ceremonies and stress relief. Not to mention ancient cold remedies!
Medieval Period (500 CE - 1500 CE): During the Middle Ages, cannabis was in vogue in the Middle East. Its medicinal properties were utilized, and it was even added to various food products. Imagine attending a medieval banquet and seeing cannabis-infused dishes on the menu!
Early Modern Era (1500 CE - 1800 CE): In this period, cannabis crossed oceans and made its way to the New World. Hemp was cultivated in colonies like Jamestown for making ropes, sails, and clothing. It seems hemp was quite the trend!
19th Century: Cannabis continued to be used for its medicinal properties. It was included in the United States Pharmacopeia as a remedy for various illnesses. It appears cannabis was the 19th-century equivalent of aspirin!
Early 20th Century: At the start of the 20th century, the perception of cannabis shifted. It became associated with crime and antisocial behavior, leading to its prohibition in many countries. It was a challenging time for our green friend.
Late 20th Century - Present: It began to be decriminalized and legalized for medical and recreational use in various parts of the world. Today, cannabis is celebrated for its therapeutic properties and is even becoming a thriving industry.
Cannabis and Crime
Photo: Netflix series "Narcos: Mexico", Source: Netflix
Does cannabis legalization change the level of crime? When it comes to whether cannabis legalization leads to an increase or decrease in crime rates, the answer... is complex. Some studies claim that crime has risen in places like Oregon after cannabis became legal. However, other studies suggest that crime rates have not changed significantly or have even decreased.
Fewer Arrests for Cannabis: One thing that definitely changes when cannabis is legalized is that fewer people are arrested for cannabis-related offenses. This makes sense, right? If weed is no longer illegal, you can't be arrested for possessing it. This has occurred in many US states where marijuana has been legalized.
What about Violent Crime? Some people fear that cannabis legalization will lead to an increase in violent crime. But the truth is, we're not certain yet. Some studies show that violent crime might increase due to disputes in the cannabis market or the drug's impact on people. However, other studies suggest that violent crime might decrease as illegal drug trade shrinks and becomes less of an issue to combat.
Police Focus on Other Matters: With cannabis being legal, the police spend less time dealing with cannabis-related crimes and more time addressing more serious offenses. In essence, law enforcement can solve more crimes overall.
Impact on Drug Cartels: Cannabis legalization will hit drug cartels, taking away a significant portion of their business. However, some worry that these gangs might engage in other illicit activities.
Countries that Legalized Recreational Cannabis Use
Uruguay: Legalized in December 2013, licensed sales started in July 2017.
Georgia: Legalized on July 30, 2018, but sales were never permitted.
South Africa: Legalized on September 18, 2018, but sales were not allowed.
Canada: Legalized on October 17, 2018, with sales starting the same day.
Mexico: Legalized on June 28, 2021, but sales were not permitted.
Malta: Legalized on December 14, 2021, but sales are yet to be allowed.
Thailand: Legalized on June 9, 2022, with sales starting the same day.
Luxembourg: Legalized on July 21, 2023, but sales are not yet permitted.
In addition to these countries, 23 US states, 3 territories, and the District of Columbia, along with the Australian Capital Territory in Australia, have also legalized recreational cannabis use.
Innovative Companies Working with Cannabis
The cannabis industry is booming, and startups are sprouting up in countries where this product is legalized or decriminalized! Here are a few of the most interesting ones to watch:
Curio Wellness: Based in Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland, this company specializes in medical cannabis cultivation in Maryland. To date, they have gathered $78 million in investments.
C3 Industries: Operating in Ann Arbor, Michigan, C3 Industries is involved in cannabis cultivation and sales with production facilities in Oregon, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Missouri. They've garnered just under $100 million in investments.
Dutchie: This technology startup from Bend, Oregon, partners with cannabis dispensaries in legal states to help attract and retain customers. They've raised over $600 million in investments.
Eurox Group: This German company produces cannabis extracts and other cannabis-based medications. They've gathered $20 million in investments.
Fyllo: Based in Chicago, Fyllo is a software development startup that processes data and ensures compliance, serving the cannabis industry. They've raised nearly $100 million in investments.
Hound Labs: Located in Oakland, California, Hound Labs develops tools and technologies to provide solutions for some of the leading public health and safety challenges related to cannabis. They've raised around $120 million.
Kiva Confections: Also based in Oakland, California, Kiva is a cannabis-infused food brand that has earned over $160 million by selling its products in over a thousand dispensaries.
Texas Original Compassionate Cultivation: Based in Austin, Texas, this company works closely with doctors and patients to provide medical cannabis across Texas. They've raised approximately $40 million.
The long-standing ban on cannabis sales and cultivation worldwide is ending, as states take their first steps towards mature relationships with consumers. The market responds accordingly. It creates supply. Once, clergy in Europe banned coffee, and Gorbachev's supporters cut down vineyards under the pretext of fighting alcoholism.
In the end, people and their desires prevailed.