Several Nations Could Legalize Adult Use Cannabis In 2021—Which Could Be Next?

The new year brings more opportunities to legalize, decriminalize, and reform the laws regarding cannabis.
Several Nations Could Legalize Adult Use Cannabis In 2021—Which Could Be Next?

Last year came close to seeing two nations pass adult use cannabis laws. Ultimately, both efforts fell short. New Zealand saw its cannabis referendum rejected by voters in November, losing by a 51.1% to 48.8% margin. In Mexico, Congress was given its third extension to pass its law—pushing a decision into 2021. 

While disappointing, one of the two nations remains on the cusp of legalization, as is a country pivotal in the advancement of cannabis research and technology. Other nations could take action in 2021, although their prospects appear more likely to occur in the coming years. 

Much like the United States and its fragmented legal statuses, the global stage is beginning to incrementally pass adult use cannabis reform. The number of legalized nations looks likely to double this year, and could possibly see more following suit this year or soon after. 

Mexico’s Reform Remains In Lawmakers Hands

Mexico is going a different route with its legalization, albeit one that continues to stall. Instead of proposing legislation themselves, federal lawmakers are obligated to pass a law after the Supreme Court delivered five rulings that determined prohibition unconstitutional. The fifth decision was handed down in 2018. However, lawmakers received extensions twice over needing additional time to hash out the bill, and another due to the pandemic. 

While the setbacks are deflating to a nation dealing with ongoing drug violence from cartels and corrupt policing in many cases, the nation continues to advance cannabis reform. Lawmakers passed decriminalization measures in November. A medical bill continues to make progress through the Congress as well. On January 12, the nation’s health ministry published rules to regulate medical cannabis. Several analysts predict that Mexico’s most recent decision will set up Latin America’s largest medical market. 

Congress now has until April 30, 2021 to pass legislation for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to sign. 

Israel Sets Nine-Month Deadline To Legalize 

One of the nations most responsible for the advancement of modern cannabis now appears that it could expand on medical cannabis, which was approved in the ’90s. Progress did come about in 2020 for the country, with legislators passing two decriminalization bills in June. The following month, Israel made waves in the medical world, surpassing Germany as the largest importer of medical cannabis. 

Not done with its progress in the cannabis world, November saw Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn present recommendations of a multi-person review, which included leading cannabis reform proponents from both the Blue and White and Likud parties. During the presentation, Nissenkorn stated that cannabis would become legal in Israel nine months from approval of the submitted explanatory memo of the bill. 

The bill is reported to take an example from Canada’s regulated market when shaping its laws. Major takeaways of the proposed bill include legalized sales to adults 21 and up, as well as bans on unlicensed cultivation and production of extracts. The latter still carries long prison sentences for some offenses, with some charges receiving twenty-plus year sentences. Unlike Canada, Israel’s marketplace would have laws that allow for some type of branding on its packaging. The draft memo was made available for the public on November 21, with a public comment window open for comment until December 11. 

South African Lawmakers Let The Clock Lapse

As a wave of African nations legalize medical use, South Africa could be the first to further revise its laws if lawmakers follow through on an obligation set forth by the courts. 

Prospects for larger-scale recreational legalization comes after the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of private home use of dagga, the local term for cannabis, in September 2018. The unanimous court decision struck a decisive chord for South African citizens and the nation’s regulatory framework. Like Mexico, South African lawmakers were given a deadline to set regulations. Legislators received a longer period, two years, than Mexican officials were originally granted prior to receiving several extensions. 

With the September 17, 2020 deadline passed, dagga remains decriminalized while private use is legal. Despite missing the deadline, optimism remains in steps ahead. In August 2020, Martha Burnett, a Johannesburg-based lawyer, registered nurse and consultant, stated in Lexology that progress is underway. 

Burnett noted that while the deadline would be missed, legislators did put forth a bill that includes no limits on seeds while capping possession at 600 grams per person, or 1.2 (~2.64 pounds) per home. Citizens can have up to 100 grams of dried cannabis on their person while in a public place. The bill also calls for the automatic expungement of cannabis possession records. No new deadline appears to have been set at this time. 

Luxembourg Continues To Stay Two Or So Years Away

Don’t hold your breath for this year, but Europe could soon see its first nation to legalize cannabis for adult use.

The tiny nation of Luxembourg is poised to make a substantial impression on European cannabis prospects if it follows through on a claim that’s circulated for a couple of years now. In February 2019, the nation of roughly 613,000 people made plans to become the first on the continent to fully legalize cannabis use, building upon its permanent passages of decriminalization and medical use in 2018. 

Under the rumored regulations, citizens 18 and over could legally purchase while home grows and non-citizen purchases were likely to be prohibited.  Plans called for the market to be up and running within two years. By August that year, officials declared that the program was at least two years away from coming online as officials hashed out a regulatory framework inspired by Canada’s model. 

Last year saw Luxembourg contemplating regulations further. According to a first look draft, the bill would allow sales to adults 18 and over who have lived in the country six months or longer—with each person allowed to buy 30 grams each month. Like Canada, heavy restrictions on advertising and marketing limit brand development. However, additional restrictions following in Uruguay’s legislative footsteps show that the nation is more focused on curbing illicit activity than promoting business like other nations. 

Under its model, Luxembourg would license just fourteen dispensaries and two domestic producers who’d share the sole licensed producer in the country, per source Radio 100,7. Home cultivation would be allowed under the proposed rules as well. The government would also set prices with claims of setting rates somewhere between “not too expensive” and “not cheap.”

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