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We Speak Cannabis: Crafting Marijuana Legislation Worldwide
Around the world, leaders are scrambling to get marijuana legislation in place to both protect their nations from misuse and abuse while also giving their economies opportunities to expand. From decriminalization to legalization, there is a high demand for regulations that open doors to engage in the global cannabis economy while setting nations up for fiscal and social success.
Writing marijuana legislation requires meticulous forethought. To copy and paste laws from another state, province, or country is not enough. Every country and neighborhood has legal and cultural nuances that must be considered.
There are many “what ifs” to be asked and answered to avoid unintended consequences and legal gray areas in marijuana policy. Governments often need help writing laws that cover everything from an orderly plan rollout to taxation, health and safety, transportation, zoning, and licensing.
As you’re leading the charge for your nation’s marijuana legislation, keep these special considerations in mind.
Cannabis Spells Opportunity in Many Languages
In June 2018, Canada became the first industrialized country to legalize recreational marijuana – nearly two decades after the country legalized medicinal cannabis. Even with an intentionally conservative start, Canada realized respectable revenues in the first months of its adult-use roll-out.
The first wave of legalization in the great white North included only bud, tinctures, and capsules. Canada’s “Cannabis 2.0” is set to turn things greener starting mid-December 2019 when cannabis-derived products like edibles, vapes, and beverages go on sale.
In the U.S., a few states are making it big with tax revenue generated by marijuana sales. Colorado and Nevada are the only two states that charge both sales and excise taxes. Legislative decisions include how much and what kind of tax to impose on sales to consumers versus sales from cultivators to retailers and distributors.
Now, many other nations are eager to follow North America’s profitable – and legal – start in the cannabis economy.
In 2013, Uruguay was the first country in the world to fully legalize cannabis. Yet, Uruguay’s government made the decision not to tax the sale of legal marijuana in the hope of keeping the cost to consumers low enough to undercut the black market. However, commercial growers pay income tax.
As its principal objectives, the coast-lined South American country has sought to decriminalize users, ensure a high-quality product, and improve public safety. Wresting control of the marijuana market from traffickers and cartels is a chief motivator in a country seeking to avoid violence and exploitation.
While it puts safety first, Uruguay is also ramping up a booming medical marijuana enterprise within an international market. While some U.S. states are also cultivating medical markets, countries like Israel are leading the way in medical cannabis research in hopes of contributing significantly to a higher quality of life for those suffering from chronic illness.
Reducing the Cost of Crime & Punishment
In the U.S., incarceration for marijuana possession has outpaced that of violent crimes. Some of the harshest sentencing for pot disproportionately affects African-Americans, even though black and white Americans consume marijuana equally.
As a result, social and financial burdens strain families separated through incarceration. Plus, prison populations strain resources, including taxpayer dollars.
Studies show that the United States currently spends a massive amount of resources on enforcement. If it flipped the script to legalize cannabis federally, projected revenue is estimated to top $130 billion.
Learning from these harsh lessons the U.S. has brought on itself, some countries and U.S. states have eased their marijuana arrest policies, have created social equity programs for cannabis business owners with marijuana charges on their records, and are seeking to adopt less cumbersome and draconian marijuana legislation.
A Public Health Possibility
The odds of dying from an opioid overdose in the U.S. have climbed to a staggering 1 in 96 people. Opioids have created a heartbreaking and expensive-to-manage epidemic. There is evidence that cannabis may offer deliverance for individuals trying to break free of such dangerous prescription drugs.
A study from Canada found that “of those participants who substituted cannabis for opioids, 59 percent totally ceased their prescribed opioid use.”
Governments worldwide with populations suffering from opioid misuse and abuse would be wise to consider the potential to lessen the prevalence of highly addictive drugs by making cannabis legally available and accessible to these patients.
People Before Profit
Some governments take a hands-off approach while others are actively involved in creating marijuana legislation that has the power to prop a country up, rather than let it flounder without direction.
For instance, in April 2019, Israel decriminalized adult use. Mexico’s Supreme Court recently declared that a ban on recreational use is unconstitutional and set a Senate deadline to complete marijuana legislation by April 30, 2020.
Legislative agendas are often pushed by lobbyists who bring investors to the table. Private partners may help countries get their marijuana programs off the ground, but their interests should prohibit them from filling in the blanks when it comes to regulations.
In other words, here at Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting, we believe any and all legislation – marijuana legislation or otherwise – should be constructed for the people and with the nation’s (not corporations’ or third parties’) best interests at heart.
As a shining example, Mexico’s legislation calls for those with low incomes, small farmers, and indigenous peoples to receive first priority for licensing. Mexico’s marijuana legislation was designed to help its own country thrive rather than allowing foreign investors to keep things competitive within its borders.
All Regs Considered
Cannabis legislation must be liberal enough to breathe economic life into a new industry while also providing a legal framework that is sustainable long-term. A medical program that’s restricted to just a couple of conditions will struggle to make money. However, more types of approved products generate more sales but require additional oversight.
What number of licenses should be awarded and by what standards will applicants be vetted? How do we keep application and license costs from creating barriers for desirable candidates? What incentives can be offered to create opportunities for people in their own neighborhoods? Besides tax revenue, how can we create more jobs through legalization while maintaining legal boundaries?
These are just a few of the numerous questions our international clients ask us when they begin shaping their own marijuana legislation.
So Much More than a Bill
Crafting successful marijuana legislation and regulations go beyond passing a bill or getting public buy-in. Public health and safety demand rigorous standards for growing, testing for potency and contaminants, product tracking, and recall protocols.
Moreover, facilities inspections, security, including transportation of products and cash, and personal data storage require a spot under the wide span of protections.
While some nations and states have created a way to qualify licensees through an equitable, standardized scoring process, others require more robust systems.
Growing, production, and retail locations must take into account safety and accessibility, as well. Dispensary locations should be in areas that can be easily reached by the most common modes of transportation for both safety and security purposes, but if your nation chooses to require minimum distances from schools and other institutions, this can be challenging.
As you can see, national leaders have a great deal to consider when building a successful domestic cannabis economy. It’s no small feat, especially for first-timers.
Lessons from Around the World
Early workshops for local leaders teaching them how to vet applicants, vendors, and properties are critical. Every country and community will have its cheerleaders and detractors. Yet, having people with their boots on the ground provides a chance to answer questions and dispel misinformation at the source.
The global cannabis climate is changing. Emerging cannabis markets like those in Africa can look to U.S. states and European countries with established protocols for templates and pointers in writing optimal marijuana legislation.
However, no two countries are alike and each requires thorough analysis and customization to create successful cannabis laws and economies.
Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting is fluent in international marijuana legislation. From staying up-to-date with what’s happening around the world in cannabis to creating a supportive network of international partnerships, we’re here to help governments write safe and successful cannabis laws. Reach out to us to schedule a free consultation.