As 2019 comes to a close, we take a look at the countries which we believe will legalize weed next.
2019 was a good year for cannabis legalization. Canada legalized the extended catalog of cannabis form factors, the Australian Capital Territory legalized cannabis possession, Ireland enacted a 5-year-long medicinal cannabis pilot and Israel allowed the importation and exportation of medicinal cannabis.
The year saw an increasing number of countries shifting their approach toward the war on weed, and it's likely this momentum will carry across to other countries, as they witness the benefits of legalizing cannabis in the countries that have already done so.
Countries or states that have legalized cannabis have experienced billions of dollars in increased tax revenue, increased job creation, reduced opioid use and prescription, reduced crime, and of course, the simple benefit of having the freedom to consume cannabis should you wish to.
Now, as 2019 comes to an end, many are looking toward the future to see which countries will be next to legalize the plant. Here's our prediction for the next 3 countries that will legalize weed.
1. New Zealand
As many will know, New Zealand is holding a referendum for recreational cannabis legalization alongside the 2020 federal election. The referendum will pose one simple yes-or-no question to New Zealanders:
"Do you support the proposed Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill?"
The proposed bill states that the minimum age for cannabis consumption would be 20 years old and that marketing and advertising cannabis products would be banned. Citizens will only be able to acquire cannabis in physical stores, and will only be able to consume it on private residences and in licensed premises.
If the referendum result is "yes" to marijuana legalization, the bill may be introduced with the winning party, though there are questions as to whether the bill is "binding" as it was initially described.
This raises two questions; firstly, whether New Zealand citizens will vote yes on the referendum, and secondly, whether the government in power following the federal election will honor the votes of the people.
On the topic of New Zealanders' likelihood to vote in favor of the bill, we'd say we're confident that the people will vote "yes," and there are several reasons for this.
In New Zealand, Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit drug as well as the fourth-most commonly used recreational drug after caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
According to data collected by Auckland University's Alcohol and Public Health Research Unit, fifty percent of New Zealanders aged 15-65 have tried cannabis, with one out of every six people defining themselves as regular consumers of cannabis.
These statistics render New Zealand the ninth-highest cannabis consumer in the world.
And, judging by which polls you go off and when they were conducted, New Zealanders are generally in support of marijuana legalization.
Admittedly, as the United States saw with the polls leading up to the 2016 election, polls don't always get it right. Though if we do take them on face-value, the NZ polls have mostly been in support of cannabis legalization, with a poll conducted as recently as the 17th of November showing that 49% of New Zealanders said they were in favour of cannabis legalization, while 38% were opposed.
And if New Zealanders look at the data, the war on weed hasn't been too fruitful in their country.
According to The National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) cannabis use "rose more than 20% from 1990 to 1998, a period of tougher laws and increased arrests."
New Zealanders simply have to look at existing cases of marijuana legalization in the U.S. and Canada to see that the benefits outweigh the costs when considering the time saved by law enforcement, increased jobs and tax revenues.
As to whether the winning government will implement the bill following the 2020 federal election is another question.
Some have pointed to New Zealand's less-than-desirable history of not honouring the wishes of previous referendums in the past, and others have pointed to the non-binding nature of the referendum as a suggestion that very little will change.
Though many parties in New Zealand have come out in favour of cannabis law reform, and should the referendum be overwhelmingly in support of cannabis legalization, it would be both economically and politically advantageous to the party in power to listen to the people and implement some form of cannabis law reform.
And if the government considers, as NORML has stated, that NZ police arrest more people for cannabis per head of population than any other country in the world, there is a very real reason why a "yes" vote should be more than just symbolic.
As a result, we believe we will not only see New Zealand vote "yes" when the 2020 cannabis referendum comes around, but we also believe the vote will transpire into real action on the legislative front in the next year or two.
Our second country to legalize cannabis is the Grand Duchy – Luxembourg.
While it may be just a four-hour drive from Amsterdam where the weed is flowing (despite not being entirely legal), Luxembourg is planning to keep things a little closer to home by legalizing cannabis for recreational use within the next two years. This would make Luxembourg the first country in the EU to make cannabis completely legal.
Just last year, legislators in Luxembourg voted unanimously in favor of legalizing the medical use of cannabis, and in July this year, the government announced a two-year plan to legalize recreational cannabis.
The plan was explained to Politico by Luxembourg's Health Minister Etienne Schneider, a vocal proponent of cannabis legalization, who stated that the "drug policy we had over the last 50 years did not work."
Forbidding everything made it just more interesting to young people. Etienne Schneider, Health Minister of Luxembourg
The proposed legislation, introduced by Schneider and Justice Minister Félix Braz, would see that the entire cannabis market would become legal, including possession, production, and consumption. Home cultivation would remain illegal and purchasing cannabis would also remain illegal for non-residents.
Banning cannabis to non-residents, according to Schneider, is an attempt to prevent cannabis tourism, as Schneider has previously stated that "Luxembourg will not be the new Amsterdam."
According to Politico, the "three parties that form the governing coalition in Luxembourg all included legalizing recreational cannabis in their governing agenda, largely driven by young members."
If Luxembourg does indeed legalize cannabis, which it looks like it will in the next few years, it could potentially open the floodgates for conversation in Europe about cannabis legalization.
The final country we've got pegged to legalize cannabis is none other than Mexico, who introduced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in October this year.
The bill allows adults to cultivate up to four plants and purchase marijuana from licensed retailers while prioritizing low-income and indigenous people when it comes to licensing.
According to the leader of the Morena Party in the Mexican Senate, Senator Ricardo Monreal, there would be a swift victory for the bill, with the senator stating that "the end of the prohibitionist policy is good for the country."
The good news is the Morena Party holds majorities in both chambers of Congress. Even the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, promised to sign the bill into law if it passes the legislative process.
The bill comes off the back of Mexico's Supreme Court ruling last year that a ban on recreational use and possession of cannabis was "unconstitutional."
As a result, on October 17th, 2019—the same day that Canada legalized edibles—a handful of Mexican senators unveiled draft legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana.
Legislators were given until October 24th to vote on the bill, however, the date has now been pushed back to the 30th of April 2020.
While many legislators have spoken in favor of the bill, the topic of cannabis is an emotional one in Mexico, as estimates suggest that Mexico's war on drugs has killed about 235,000 people since 2016. Many fear that legalizing cannabis will only increase addiction across the nation and empower the cartel.
However, Vincente Fox, Mexico's former president, has adopted the opposite view, arguing that cannabis legalization is the country's best shot at shrinking the power of the black market.
Fox points to countries and states which have already legalized cannabis, as an example of not only eliminating illicit activity around the drug but also in prompting illicit drug vendors to enter the legal sphere.
"If you go to Washington state or Seattle, you see today that many of the old places that we used to look that were underground providing product to consumers, now they have formed part of the new industry that is legal. Now, instead of committing crimes by distributing drugs, now they do it as a businessman."
And Fox is right. If one looks at the U.S. or even Canada, who still faces issues with its black market, its indisputable that legalization has at the very least, stolen a large chunk out of the black market.
This is crucial for Mexico, as very few countries have faced as much turmoil with their black market as Mexico has, with some referring to the enormous influence of drug cartels referred to as having a "second government."
It's safe to say that the status quo simply isn't working in Mexico, and that radical change is necessary if the country wants to take power back from the cartels and reduce drug-related crime.
Conclusively, given the legislative support from major players for the upcoming bill, as well as the desperate necessity for change and a series of positive examples in terms of cannabis legalization elsewhere, we believe cannabis legalization will indeed take place on April 30th, 2020. (Assuming there aren't further delays.)
So there you have it, our three picks for the next countries to legalize cannabis in 2020.
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