2017 has been the most progressive year for cannabis law reform in history and things are just getting started.
The year started with a lot of uncertainty around then incoming Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who is well known for his dislike of cannabis legalization.
Despite the uncertainty, many positive events kept unfolding worldwide.
The United Nations appointed Antonio Guterres to Secretary General. This is great news for drug policy reform around the world as Mr Guterres is the former Prime Minister of Portugal, who won the war on drugs in Portugal, by ending it.
Today, Portugal loses 6 people out of a million to drug overdose, while in the US, 185 people out of a million die due to drug overdose.
While Australia kicked off the year with a big disappointment in their almost entirely dysfunctional new medical cannabis law and things haven’t got much better over the year.
Aussies are feeling the pain of the failed war on drugs and many former top law enforcement officials (including the former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police) calling to end the failed war on drugs.
Progress is not looking that great in Australia for now, however, over the Tasman Sea, it surely looks a whole lot more exciting. After a surprise election win in New Zealand, the new incoming government has promised to hold a referendum on legalizing adult use cannabis by 2020 and the new government also has a lot more progressive view on medical cannabis.
There is progress in South Africa as well, most of it is thanks to a courageous couple that is taking the South African state to court. Here is an interview we did with this heroic couple making history in South Africa.
Global marijuana marches got a little bigger this year with the 19th Argentine Global Marijuana March in Buenos Aires attracting crowds of up to 150,000 people, according to the organizers. That is a massive display of how desperate people are for change. Cannabis law reform rallies across the world from Nimbin, Australia to Frankfurt, Germany are getting more regular and bigger.
Europe has had a major progress in cannabis reform this year with Switzerland taking the lead, and even making cannabis cigarettes available in major supermarkets from the middle of this year.
Cannabis reform has begun to make progress in France in 2017 as well. Medical cannabis has also become legal in some shape or form in Cyprus, Poland, Greece and Iceland, while Denmark will begin a medical cannabis trial from January 2018.
South America is also stepping up and moving fast with cannabis law reform.
On the 19th of July, Uruguay made history by becoming the first nation to start a federal adult use cannabis market.
This is unprecedented and even though there has been no shortage of difficulties, the program is running and the government is even considering to open KIOSKs in areas that currently don’t have access to legal cannabis.
Apart from Uruguay, Chile has also eased its cannabis policy, and Peru also legalized medical cannabis this year.
Jeff Sessions leading the Justice Department has not stopped the state of Nevada starting adult use cannabis sales from the middle of the year. Oregon defelonized drug possessions, while New Hampshire decriminalized cannabis possession for personal use.
New Jersey is likely to become the first state to legalize cannabis via legislative measures, so things are looking good in the US as well.
Jeff Sessions does not help to progress the marijuana cause, as a matter of fact, he does everything in his power to set it back. He even blocks medical cannabis research which does not go unnoticed, earning him a lawsuit.
Sen. Cory Booker introduced the Marijuana Justice Act that is the first look into restorative justice in the form of potential compensation to the communities that have been most devastated by the failed war on drugs.
Cannabis has also emerged as the most probable solution to ease the opioid crisis in America, that President Trump declared a National Public Health Emergency later in the year.
This year has also revealed encouraging data out of the legal states, proving that legalizing cannabis does not lead to increase in road fatalities. In addition, both states that legalized cannabis in 2014, Colorado and Washington had released data showing a statistically significant drop in teenage cannabis use since adult use cannabis has been legalized.
We also witnessed big alcohol making the move into the quickly developing cannabis ‘industry’ during 2017.
Overall, I believe it has been the most progressive year for cannabis policy reform and this is just the beginning.
Next year California will begin adult use sales and Canada will be the first western nation to start a nationwide adult use cannabis market from mid-2018. This is a very interesting time to be alive and witness cannabis prohibition crumble in front of our eyes.
The work is not over yet and despite all the progress, we should not take legal cannabis for granted just yet.