In 2018, Canada became the first G20 country to legalize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. By doing so Canada has positioned itself to be the blueprint for other countries to follow suit with their own plans of cannabis legalization. Canada’s approach for recreational cannabis use has been to focus on public health and safety, keeping it out of the hands of youth, and reducing the illicit market.
Countries within the G20 that are following Canada’s approach are Germany and Australia.
Recently the spotlight has been on Germany, the coalition government has been pushing recreational cannabis use, a move that could potentially alter the UN convention that restricts cannabis and could persuade neighboring European states to change their laws. Although many questions remain unanswered, such as what types of cannabis products will be legal, the German government has planned to have a draft law completed by the end of 2022. Australia’s Green Party has recently re-submitted a bill that would legalize and regulate recreational use. The proposed legislation would create two separate license categories, one for production and the other for distribution.
Multiple countries within the EU have well established medical cannabis legislations, such as the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal. Surveys have shown that 55% of people in the EU support cannabis legalization, and about 80% favour its sale in government regulated stores. Spain is the most recent EU country to begin legalizing medical cannabis and allowing doctors to prescribe flower containing THC.
Outside of the EU, Israel is one of the largest federally regulated medical cannabis markets in the world. Since the government increased import requirements to limit the export of cannabis in 2020, there has been a series of disruptions to legal cannabis shipments. Switzerland is also set to allow the sale of medical cannabis at the end of 2022
Just across the border, federal legalization in the US has been long awaited. In May, the US house of representatives narrowly approved a far reaching reform bill that would end cannabis prohibition by removing cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances. Although there have been more and more states relaxing their laws around cannabis use, the current administration seems to be at a stand still regarding federal legalization.
So what does international cannabis legalization mean for Canada? Being one of the first countries to legalize the growth and sale of recreational cannabis, Canada has the opportunity to become a major player on the global market through exports, but before this can happen amendments must be made domestically. The Canadian government is eight months overdue on their mandatory review of the Cannabis Act. The delay is holding back much needed progress to regulatory reforms for Canada’s cannabis industry. Legislative flaws must be ironed out before Canada can take advantage of being a first mover on the global stage. If proper legislation is not put in place on Canadian soil, we could potentially fall short of business opportunities across borders.
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