2013 proved to be a strong year for cannabis-legalization activists. Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize the possession, cultivation, transport, sale, and consumption of marijuana throughout the country after Uruguayan President Jose Mujica’s bill approval. The passing of the cannabis legalization law was met with no major fanfare but with minimal opposition from the international community. Raymond Yans, the chief of the United Nation’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), said that the new Uruguayan cannabis-legalization law blatantly goes against a 1961 UN Treaty which outlaws the production and sale of marijuana worldwide. Yans has condemned that Uruguayan government as well as the Uruguayan President for not consulting the INCB prior to approving and ratifying the new law. President Mujica retorted that he didn’t actively avoid any meeting with the INCB – he says the UN board made no attempt to discuss the matter with him.
Yans also came down on the American states Washington and Colorado following the full legalization of cannabis within their state borders: In May 2013 and November 2012, both Colorado and Washington, respectively, fully legalized the closely-monitored statewide production and sale of marijuana. The legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington has raised quite a few eyebrows both nationally and internationally, and prompted many U.S. states to introduce their own cannabis-legalization bills.
Nonetheless, President Mujica has received much praise for the recent national legislation. Mujica’s supporters report that he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize, which they’ve been pushing for since 2012. Despite any trouble that may be following President Mujica following the new legislation, many countries are now closely assessing the situation in Uruguay while debating their own legalization proposals. These countries extend all over the globe and have already made some attempts at legalization. Below is a list of the ten countries that may be in line to legalize marijuana next.
According to the US federal government, Marijuana is still a Schedule 1 substance, but it would appear that individual states are currently turning the tide on cannabis’ legal status. The states of Colorado and Washington have fully legalized the cultivation, transport, sale and possession of marijuana, not unlike the full legalization that took place in Uruguay last year, while many provinces allow medicinal marijuana (above, pictured, is war veteran Sean Azzariti making the first legal purchase of marijuana recorded in American history in Colorado last month). US President Obama recently stated that he believes marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, condemning the effects that the war on drugs has had on underprivileged youth. Multiple members of congress have signed a petition requesting marijuana to be reduced from a Schedule 1 drug. Whether they succeed or not, marijuana may soon be legal in the United States.
Currently, Mexican law allows for possession of up to 5 grams of Marijuana. The drug cartels have left Mexico in tatters following the drug wars that fuel the United States drug markets. Many prominent figures, such as ex-Mexican President Vicente Fox, have called for the legalization and regulation of marijuana to help alleviate the dangers of the black market and the drug wars currently ravaging the nation. Two bills have been proposed to decriminalize and possibly legalize the cultivation, transport and sale of marijuana within two Mexican states.
Cultivation, sale and transport of marijuana are all illegal in Colombia, though possession of the drug has been decriminalized following a Supreme Court hearing. In a recent statement, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for the global legalization of marijuana in an effort to counter the cultivation and trade of more dangerous, illicit drugs such as cocaine that result in widespread violence. The South American country has been locked into a decades-long war on drugs following the explosion of the cocaine market in the mid-1900s. The Colombian government is closely monitoring the situation in Uruguay and is awaiting concrete evidence to move forward with their legalization efforts. Colombia, the US’ strongest ally in Latin America, will be holding national elections this may, and the winner may decide the fate of the country’s cannabis legalization attempts.
In Canada marijuana has mostly been decriminalized, but much support is beginning to form around the legalization movement. A UN report states that Canadian teenagers smoke more marijuana than any other teenage population in the world. Liberal Party leader, and possible candidate in the upcoming national elections, Justin Trudeau has long supported the idea of fully legalizing marijuana in Canada. He has stated that Canada should follow the example that Colorado, Washington and Uruguay have set by moving forward with legalization efforts.
Becoming the first country in the world to do so, Portugal fully decriminalized the possession of any and all drugs – from marijuana to heroin and cocaine – all the way back in 2001. Over a decade after their national decriminalization of all drugs, Portugal has reported a remarkable 50% drop in cases of drug abuse. Despite not fully legalizing drugs, Portugal took a different stance on the drug issue – labelling drug users as people who were sick and in need of help, rather than criminals of the state.
In Jamaica, the cultivation and possession of marijuana have both been decriminalized but cannabis is still not fully legalized. Though still susceptible to a small fine for possession of the plant, marijuana is widespread throughout the island nation and its presence is imbued in Jamaica’s culture. The relaxed culture and plentiful marijuana supply make Jamaica a leading tourist hotspot for travellers looking to partake in a little refer madness. Currently, the topic of legalizing medical marijuana is on the table at the Jamaican parliament, but Member of Parliament Raymond Pryce is pushing for full legalization. In either case, following Uruguay’s ground-breaking policy initiative, Jamaican officials are now taking this matter into serious consideration and we should soon hear from the Jamaican parliament.
4. Czech Republic
Occasionally compared to the Netherlands for its attractiveness as a pot-seeking tourist destination, the Czech Republic decriminalized medicinal marijuana quite some time ago and possession up to 15 grams is legal. Recent police crackdowns on ‘one-stop’ shops, where individuals can purchase everything to grow, cultivate and smoke marijuana, in an effort to slow the proliferation of cannabis sales – though no major inroads have been made on targeting individual consumers. The recent police measures have sparked debate about fully legalizing the drug to concentrate on more serious and hard narcotics. Uruguay’s legalization of marijuana has only added fuel to the fires. Could Prague really be the New Amsterdam?
The common misconception is that drugs and cannabis in particular, are fully legalized in the Netherlands. Any and all drugs are illegal in Netherlands, but the law allows for coffee shops to sell limited quantities of soft drugs – including cannabis. Unfortunately, recent laws have banned tourists from smoking cannabis in these coffee shops which has started great debate amongst the city’s citizens. Coffee shop owners recently won a court ruling mandating that they be compensated for the lost revenue resulting from the ban. Some Dutch mayors are calling for full legalization. If this trend continues, Amsterdam could maintain its former reputation of a global cannabis hotspot.
Uruguay’s neighbour and long-time ally may soon follow in their footsteps as talks of cannabis legalization begin to buzz in the Argentine government. Currently, possession of cannabis is decriminalized, and a Supreme Court hearing declared that small amounts of cannabis for personal use are acceptable. Juan Carlos Molina, a high ranking government official, is pushing for both a national discussion and a possible push for full legalization of marijuana, not unlike Uruguay. With elections coming up soon in Argentina, this may be an issue that arises on the campaign trail.
Possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in Ecuador, with anything under 10 grams being dubbed ‘personal use’. Currently, the Ecuadorian government is weighing the options of fully legalizing cannabis, or at least fully legalizing private use as Chile has. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has said he would not be against the idea. After opening the Yasuni National Park for oil drilling and with a national election approaching, the returning President may need something to swing voters his way and the legalization of cannabis could be just the selling point he needs.