CANNABIS AROUND THE WORLD
In recent years, governments across the globe have been loosening restrictions on the production, possession and consumption of marijuana. Currently, recreational use is legal at the national level in only four countries: Canada, Uruguay, Georgia, and South Africa. However, medical use has been approved in over 40 countries, and many others have decriminalized the possession and cultivation of cannabis.
Canada made headlines in 2018 with the passing of its “Cannabis Act,” which legalized recreational use nationwide. Since then it has become a commercial and financial hub for the global cannabis market, which may be worth over $150 billion. Several of the largest marijuana producers in the world are headquartered in Canada, including Canopy Growth and Aurora Cannabis.
Weed has also become a major commodity in the United States, where numerous states have legalized it for both medical and recreational purposes. Although marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, sales that are legal at the state level are expected to reach $30 billion by 2025.
Here is a look at a selection of other countries that have relatively liberal attitudes toward cannabis.
Just this week, Lebanon became the first Arab country to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for medical and industrial purposes. Lawmakers approved the measure in large part as a response to a financial crisis that began in August of 2019 and that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Inflation and unemployment have spiked in the country. But, with a population of around 7 million people, Lebanon is the world’s third largest producer of hashish. A 2018 report by McKinsey Consulting concluded that the marijuana industry in Lebanon could generate $1 billion annually.
The first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis, Uruguay has been slow to reap the economic benefits. Although the legislation passed in 2013, today there are only 17 or so legal retailers of marijuana, which can only be sold in certain pharmacies. There are strict regulations on the amount consumers may purchase and on the potency of the recreational products. Expansion of the market is also inhibited by the influence of American finance laws. US banks are subject to strict regulations regarding transactions involving controlled substances. As a consequence, their banking partners in Uruguay must be selective about working with marijuana producers and retailers.
With a population of 2.2 million, the Kingdom of Lesotho is one of the poorer countries in the world. Per capita GDP there is only $3,600 as compared to over $100,000 in Singapore and around $65,000 in the US. 80% of the population depends on subsistence farming. However, agrarian communities in Lesotho are hopeful that access to global cannabis markets will change their fortunes. In 2017 the Kingdom legalized the farming of medical marijuana.
The crop – known as matekoane in the local language – has been widely cultivated in Lesotho for hundreds of years. Many families have long sold it illegally to make ends meet. Now major foreign corporations, including Canada’s Supreme Cannabis, are funneling tens of millions of dollars into cannabis production in the southern Africa nation. In addition to providing jobs for thousands of local workers, the money from these operations will fund much needed infrastructure projects throughout the nation.
There is considerable debate as to the position of the authoritarian North Korea government on marijuana use. Various news outlets have reported anecdotal information about abundant, inexpensive weed sold at markets throughout the country. Some visitors claim to have obtained marijuana there and to have smoked it openly without concern for official repercussions. Indeed, the government proudly endorses hemp production for industrial use.
However, governmental secrecy and the flow of misinformation regarding the communist nation make it difficult to decipher the truth about the marijuana trade in North Korea. The Swedish ambassador to North Korea insists that weed is illegal in the “hermit kingdom.” And, according to the Associated Press, the penal code there lists it as a controlled substance.
Although Rastafarian culture embraces the spiritual benefits of Ganja, the drug is still technically illegal in Jamaica. In 2015, however, the country decriminalized its cultivation and sale and began issuing retail licenses. Since then, medical marijuana dispensaries have popped up all across the island. Though regulated by the government and subject to pressure from financial institutions, these boutique establishments turn few customers away. A doctor-approved permit to purchase medical marijuana costs about $10.