All drugs decriminalized In Portgual 20 years later

In 2001, Portugal tried something radical. They decriminalized not just cannabis, as many other countries have done, but recreational drug use across the board. Having been in effect for 20 years, what are the results? Is it an approach we should emulated elsewhere? Or was it a huge mistake?

Portugal had a large drug use problem. Dr Goulao states that “we estimate that approximately 1 per cent (100,000.00) of our population used heroin at that point.” It was the drug capital of Europe. But it was not a liberal paradise of safe drug use, like some suggest could exist. It had a high number of drug related deaths. The country also had a high HIV infection rate. Joao Castel Branco Goulao, a Lisbon doctor in the 1980s and 1990s, was hired by the government to solve the problem.

The decision, as it turns out, was not some genius plan. He claims that the decision to make all drugs illegally a criminal offense was made out of desperation. “Every family had someone with problems and people tended to think, my son’s not a criminal, my son is a sick person in need of help.” This is a large moral reason for decriminalizing drug use. It’s a ideal that many progressives hold today. Whether you believe that you recreational drug can be safe, or should be an acceptable practice is not important here. They believe someone who has a drug problem, shouldn’t be punished, they should recieve help.

The number of heroin users in Portugal had fallen to 33,000 by 2015, since it decriminalized drugs 14 years prior. This was a large reduction of 67%. The country today has one of the lowest rates of drug related deaths in Western Europe. And not just because they are able to receive medical care. Some countries, such as Sweden believe providing a safety net will encourage drug use, but this certainly was not the case in Portugal. Young people in Portugal today are actually using heroin less than the average country in Europe.

Help For Drug Addicts

Instead of facing criminal charges and a criminal record, the police direct drug addicts to the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. There they can meet with social workers and psychologists. In many countries, drug addicts don’t seek help, often in fear of legal repercussions.

Dr. Nuno Capaz founded the commission in 2001, and has been its leader ever since. He believes it is important that people know the difference between legalizing and decriminalizing drugs.

Decriminalizing is not the same as regulating or legalizing. He says that it means they no longer consider it a criminal offense. It is however still an illegal activity and it they treat it as an administrative offence. Portugal still maintains a range of penalties for drug abuse, from a fine to community service.

Not all drug problems have been solved however. The underground drug trade is going strong and drug addiction and dependence of course still exist today.

Portuguese police continue to fight drug trafficking and smuggling. As the country comes out of lockdown, Commissioner Nelson Silva asserts that his team faces a difficult task in fighting drug trafficking.

Some people believe that recreational drug use shouldn’t be illegal at all, and that liscensed vendors should be able to sell products under government regulations. They often argue that access to legal regulated products is safer, as you are guranteed a quality product, will reduce drug related gang crime, and even reduce the rate of drug abuse and overdose. Furthermore there is evidence to suggest that certain illegal susbtances can even be used to treat various mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. We have already seen various countries use cannabis for this purpose.

Portugal however, has only decriminalized use. A society where you can buy LSD from a pharmacy is likely far off. Perhaps one day we will see Portugal or some country implement policies like this. Until then we can theorise whether it is a good idea or not.

We can certainly say that Portugal’s policies were a success. There has been small amount of replication of this approach in other European countries as well as parts of the United States. But no country has yet to truly follow in Portgual’s footsteps, despite the country’s impressive results.

Sweden’s harsh zero tolerance policy on Cannabis

According to the Swedish Council for Information on Alcohol and Other Drugs (Centralforbundet for Alkohol-och narkotikaupplysning), the proportion of the adult population in Sweden who have used the drug in the past 12 months increased from 2.5 percent to 3.6 percent between 2013 and 2017.

The study’s researchers described it as quite an increase and 2017 was the highest ever recorded number of cannabis users in Sweden.

In 2017, one man out of 20 (4.5%) and one woman out of 40 (2.5%) said they had used cannabis in the past 12 months. Mats Ramstedt (head of research at CAN) and one of its authors, stated that the 2013 proportions were 1.5% and 3.5%.

Among women, the increase in cannabis use is greatest among those aged between 50 and 49. For men, between the ages of 30 and 49.” Ramstedt stated that men between the ages of 17 and 29 are the most likely to have used cannabis in the past year, at 12.3 percent.

All of this is despite Sweden’s unsually strict zero tolerance policy towards drugs.

Sweden’s uncompromisingly harsh approach to cannabis

Sweden has had a long-standing zero tolerance policy regarding drug use. This means that there is no distinction between ‘hard’ or’soft’ drugs. The country has typically had one of the lowest cannabis consumption rates in Europe, though since the turn of the century the rate has risen and it is still the most common drug in Sweden. Amphetamines are also popular in the Nordic Nation, especially among the young.

In 2017, the country’s Medical Products Agency, Lakemedelsverket, made a landmark decision that allowed marijuana prescriptions for medical purposes. It is extremely difficult to get a prescription for this substance. They are often not written by doctors.

Sweden is continuning to enforce harsh punishments for drug use.Tthere have been numerous cases that have caught public attention.

A woman aged 79 years is held in prison for using cannabis

The elderly woman confessed that she owned the approximately 90 grams amphetamines, and 70 grams of cannabis found at her Gavle house.

The 79-year old woman said that she used cannabis and amphetamines to manage her pain. She described how painful it is all the time and how smoking cannabis helped her to relieve that pain.

The four-month sentence is in line with Sweden’s long-standing zero tolerance drugs policy, which makes no distinction between “hard” and “soft” drugs. This is a rare in a wealthy first world country. The Netherlands is a country known for its tolerance and relaxed approach to drugs. They even granted permits to be sold.

Court documents show that the woman could have been sentenced for six months, but she was sentenced to a shorter sentence due to her advanced age. The woman did not intend to cause any harm and was only trying to relieve her pain. This is a sad but not surprising case. Sweden has made an effort to uphold its zero tolerance policy. After being arrested for illegal drug use, Snoop Dogg, an iconic rapper, vowed never to return to Sweden. Snoop Dogg’s love for cannabis is well-known.

There are a plenty of stories like these. But as cannabis continues to grow and legalised elsewhere, will Sweden eventually follow suit? Or will it double down its policies as it has done before.

Supreme Court forces closure of Barcelona’s cannabis clubs

The ‘pioneering’ model has decreased street dealing and consumption in Barcelona. Both police and city officials agree on this.

Howevre the 200 or so cannabis clubs you will find in Catalonia’s largest city will be closing after the Supreme Court closed a legal loophole that allowed it to become Spain’s cannabis capital.

This is just the latest setback in a string of setbacks. In 2017, a Catalan law, supporting the private consumption of cannabis by adults, was overturned by the court. The law stated that it was part of a citizen’s “fundamental right to free personal development and freedom of conscience”. The clubs operated since then under local Barcelona law, which regulated their use. However, this bylaw has been overturned by judges who ruled that the city authorities weren’t competent to legislate in matters governed only by the state.

The Citizens of Catalonia are heavily in favour of creating their own independant State seperate from Spain. The region held independence referendums in 2014 and 2017, the results of which were 80% and 92% wanting independence respectively. However both were considered invalid by the Spanish government. Aslong as Catalonia is officially a region of Spain the Supreme Court has the legal authority to overule local law in the region.

Supreme Court Of Spain

Eric Asensio, spokesman for the Federation of Catalan Cannabis Associations, said “the majority of associations assume that sooner or later they will be forced to close down”. Around 70% of Spain’s cannabis clubs can be found in Catalonia, the majority of which are located in Barcelona. Tourists pay about 20 euros to join these associations, although it can up to 50 for annual membership. Tourist make up a significant portion of their income.

The city, which had supported these associations’ dubious semi legal status has informed them that the ruling prohibits the sale, consumption, or promotion of cannabis. It stated that it would soon inspect the clubs and start with those with the greatest negative impact, which are geared towards tourists or massive sales”.

While the clubs are essentially private, they have become the a large selling point for many tourists. The fees, which average around 20 euros, often go towards the first purchase.

These associations were originally private clubs that allowed members to buy and smoke cannabis. Many have moved towards new models that make obtaining membership and cannabis easy for tourists. This facilitated the sale of the massive quantities of cannabis grown in Catalonia.

The general attitude of the region is relatively tolerant towards cannabis. The police, city authorities, and associations all agree that the clubs help reduce street trafficking and consumption. They aren’t opposed to the clubs in principle, according to the police.

The federation stated in a statement that the judiciary was attacking the associations again without considering the reality of Barcelona, which has co-existed for over 30 years with these entities.

Barcelona has been a pioneer of a much more tolerated model towards drug use. It has been replicated internationally. They support new drugs policies that focus on the individual and their health.

Will the United Kingdom see a green future as cannabis grows ever larger?

Around 15 years ago, the United Kingdom saw a rapid decline of smoking as a social norm activity. The United Kingdom introduced new laws banning smoking in public places between 2006 and 2007, with Scotland taking the lead. The House of Commons Health Committee recommended tougher restrictions than the Blair government had originally intended. It was made illegal to smoke in bars and restaurants, cafes, and other hospitality venues.

This ban definitely had the intended effect of reducing smoking. Since the ban was implemented, at least two million people quit smoking. The ban is widely accepted as a positive for the health of society and the environment. It is clear that smoking has had a profound impact on the social interactions of certain groups. The classic pairings of a pint and a cigarette, brandy and a cigar, or sitting in a pub with a pipe have all but disappeared. Smokers are forced to choose between forgoing their nicotine or standing outside to smoke. Many have over time chosen the former.

Cannabis culture shows no signs of slowing down

Cannabis is a rising trend that will continue transform society in countries across the globe. Cannabis Sativa has been used for its psychoactive effects for over 5,000 years, although some research suggests over 10 thousand years. It became almost synonymous in the 1960s and its associated counterculture. But we have been seeing widespread legalisation, both for medicinal use but more recently for recreational use as well. Canada, Mexico, and South Africa have all lifted prohibitions on recreational use. Several American states, including California, Colorado, and Washington, have done the same. Many more countries have legal medical marajuana or have decriminalized the drug. Even the countries that haven’t are often taking more relaxed approaches towards cannabis in recent years.

Will we soon see a world where cannabis is more popular than cigarettes?

So as cigarette sales continue to fall and other products rise in popularity, will the future become ever greener? There were approximately 11 million vapers in the world ten years ago. Today that number is closer to 50 million. The vaping market is a natural fit for cannabis: CBD liquids can be easily smoked in a vaporizer and are used to relieve anxiety and pain. Anyone who has invested in outdoor smoking facilities (the smoking ban saw an increase in sales of patio heaters) can welcome cannabis smokers.

As a result, associations of cannabis connoisseurs will be inevitable. Imagine a group of people smoking laughing at at someones story or discussing which phone brand is better. But its not tobacco they are smoking, but instead cannabis grown in some obscure corner of the planet in Afghanistan or Nigeria.

You already can find specialist cannabis shops that sell the best products from all over the globe, a variety of pipes and hookahs as well as high-quality rolling papers, dedicated smoking jackets and hats. It is easy to picture a cannabis lounge in London by the turn of the next decade.

Legal cannabis catches the eye of large tobacco company

The biggest tobacco company in The UK has said cannabis is part of its future, as it attempts to distance itself from traditional cigarettes.

British American Tobacco, or BAT, has started to reduce the health impacts of their products in order to “accelerate” its transformation.

BAT has signed a contract to study a new range of adult cannabis products. The initial focus was on cannabidiol, (CBD), a none psychoactive chemical harvested from cannabis plants. It purchased a share in Organigram, a Canadian manufacturer of medical cannabis.

Kingsley Wheaton, an executive at BAT, has stated that the future of our portfolio is “beyond nicotine products” as they look towards them as a “wave of future growth”.

Chief marketing officer at BAT, Mr Wheaton, stated that the company sees cannabis-related products as part its future growth. In Manchester, England the firm is testing a new CBD vape product. He believes that CBD vaping will be a part of the future. He talked about challenge of encouraging people switch from more harmful tobacco and nicotine to healthier alternatives.

More than a third now comes from vaping brands like Velo, Vuse and Glo. The company released its half-year results for June and reported a 8.1% increase in revenues to 12.18 billion Pounds.

The fastest growth in new customers for the tobacco giant was also seen, with non-combustible product users, like vapes, jumping from 2.6 million to 16.1million.

A decisive change to the balance

Over the past decade, big tobacco companies have attempted to ride two horses when communicating with investors. They have called attention to their efforts to eliminate harmful cigarettes while simultaneously pointing out the large dividend payments that are supported by the sale of these cigarettes.

This balance has now shifted decisively to the former, at least in companies’ communications. First Philip Morris International, now BAT, have done everything to emphasize their shift into safer products, vaping, heated tobacco rather than combusted tobacco and, in BAT’s case, cannabis.

Cigarette company looks to cannabis

BAT’s share prices have roughly fallen by half in the last four years, from 55 to 27 billion.

There is certianly progress. BAT sold 316 billion cigarettes over the six-month period. The number of cigarettes sold has increased due to a higher demand from emerging markets. BAT’s six-month results show that sales of products in this “new category” grew by half to reach 942 million. This is relatively small percentage of the total revenue of 12 billion.

Although traditional tobacco is still the largest business of the company, the company claims it is determined to make a change and pledges that ESG (environmental, socio-economic, and governance) will be at the heart of its strategy.

Tobacco sales recover

BAT stated that sales of its cigarettes have recovered in certain developing countries following the lifting of coronavirus lockdowns, during which some countries had banned them.

During the first half of the year.n countries like Brazil, Turkey, and Pakistan, sales of brands such as Lucky Strike, Kent, Dunhill, Kent and Rothmans rose

The company reported that overall revenue from its combustibles business division, which includes cigarettes and heated tobacco products, fell by 3% to 10.5 billion.

“For now… “For now…,” BAT still depends on cigarettes. He said that traditional tobacco products still pay the dividend and will continue to do so for some time.

There are still many steps to be taken if the tobacco company is to reach its goal of 5 billion in revenue from nicotine alternatives by 2025, says Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst William Ryder.

The Origins of Cannabis. First domesticated 12,000 years ago

The commonly asserted theory to the origin of cannabis states that it comes from the Central Asian Hindu Kush mountain range. There are of course competing theories as to its origins, but all of them suggest a date between 500 and 3000BCE. However new research is now supporting the theory that it was first domesticated in northwestern China up to or even more than 12,000 years ago. 

According to a study published in Science Advances, researchers who investigated the origins of cannabis domestication have found that cultivation can be traced back in northwestern China to 10,000BCE. To conduct their study, the researchers analyzed more than 100 different cannabis plants around the globe.

This research counters the common belief that cannabis originated in the valleys of the Hindu Kush mountain range, in Central Asia. There are four distinct genetic types of cannabis, including a primordial, hemp, as well as drug-breeding groups. Researchers concluded that cannabis was first domesticated around 12,000 years ago in northwest China . They believe the plants were cultivated most likely for mutliple uses.

“It confirms it is one of the oldest cultivated plants,” Luca Fumagalli said, a biologist who led the study. He is working at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. “It was multipurpose, we believe. He said that it was used for fiber, oil, and food, as well as medical and recreational purposes.”

“We show that cannabis sativa was first domesticated in early Neolithic times in East Asia and that all current hemp and drug cultivars diverged from an ancestral gene pool currently represented by feral plants and landraces in China,” the study reads.

Researchers determined that modern cannabis’ wild ancestor is lkely extinct. However, strains from northwest China are the closest living relatives. According to archaeological evidence, the genomic dating of 12,000 years is consistent with pottery with hemp cord markings that dates back about the same period.

Samples were required from all over the world

Due to difficulties in getting a large number of samples from all over the globe, previous research on the origins and cultivation of cannabis has been limited. Researchers from both the wild and farmers gathered samples for the new study. 

However, geographic limitations were not the only problem in collecting plants for genetic research. Investigators had to also consider the legal consequences of possessing cannabis. Fumagalli stated, “You can’t just go and collect samples because you go to jail”. 

Fumagalli, along with investigators from China, India, Pakistan, Qatar, and Switzerland, analysed the genomes of 82 plants and genomic data for 28 additional plants previously collected to conduct the research.

The study concludes that genomic dating indicates that early domesticated ancestors for hemp and other drug types diverged around 12,000 years ago from Basal cannabis, which suggests that the species was already domesticated in Neolithic times.

Researchers also cam to the conclusion that cannabis was first cultivated by farmers for drug and fiber production around 4,000 years ago. Researchers discovered several changes that were caused by selective breeding. These included a few mutations that prevent hemp from branching. These mutations make the hemp plants taller and produce more fiber from the stem.

Mutations that increase branching were used to domesticate cannabis cultivars for drug manufacturing. This resulted in shorter, bushier plants and higher resin production. Many mutations were also found in plants belonging to the drug group that increased the production of THC (the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis).

So what does this mean?

This research has shaken what the community believed about the origins of cannabis as it contradicts what many currently believe about the origins of cannabis. The general consensus had been that cannabis originated in Central Asia. This previous theory was largely based on the fact that the plant can often be found growing wild in the region, as well as a cannabis culture dating back thousands of years. Fumagalli stated that the plant is adaptable to all kinds of growing conditions, and that’s the reason it is often called weed.

The authors wrote that contrary to the widely accepted view that cannabis is associated with a Central Asian centre of crop domestication and are inconsistent with our findings, they support a single East Asian origin for cannabis sativa. This is consistent with early archaeological evidence.

According to the authors, the study offers an unprecedented source of genomic data for continuing breeding as well as functional agricultural research and medical research. The study also “provides new insights into the domestication and global spread of a plant”. This is in addition to greater understanding of “divergent structural and biochemical products at a time in which there is a resurgence of interest in its use, reflecting changing social attitudes and corresponding challenges to its legal status in many countries.”

Cannabis tourist hotspots around Europe

Cannabis is becoming increasingly popular and authorities more tolerant. Europe is following this global trend as cannabis use is become a part of the culture in various European Nations.

We’ve seen an increase in legalization of cannabis for medical purposes across the globe and even a few examples of legalising recreational use too. CBD oil and hemp have enjoyed a surge in popularity, across all markets, from skincare to wellness.

Despite no country in Europe having legalised recreational use yet, unless you count Georgia, some countries have decriminalised it. The continent, just like the rest of the world, is tending towards tolerance.

Why are countries becoming more tolerant?

The truth is that marijuana is one of the most gentle drugs when it comes to mind-altering substances. Statistically it is a significant amount less dangerous than alcohol, which of course is legal and incredibly popular. So why should Cannabis be illegal?

So which places should you visit as a cannabis connoisseur? Let’s take a look.

Amsterdam (The Netherlands)

Amsterdam The Netherlands

Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a whole, are known throughout Europe and indeed the rest of the world for the relaxed approach towards cannabis. Contrary to popular belief however it is strictly legal, only decriminalised. Use and personal possession are tolerated, and ‘coffee shops’ throughout the country are permitted to sell the substance with a liscense. However these shops must abide by rather strict regulations.

The publicly available cannabis and large red light district have made it a tourist hotspot for young adults. Outside of the hedonistic attractions, the Netherlands is known for beautiful nature and cities and high standard of living.

The city is known for its cannabis-related tourism, but it also has some of the most beautiful artwork in the world. Amsterdam is home to a multitude of waterways, beautiful architecture, and deep-rooted history. Even if you are not interested in sex and cannabis Amsterdam is a culural gem in Europe.

Barcelona (Spain)

Barcelona Spain

Barcelona is quickly becoming Europe’s second largest cannabis city. It isn’t legal, but it’s technically not illegal in most cities where cannabis is tolerated. The substance can be consumed in your home or at a social club. Transport, possession, and consumption in the public are still illegal.

The approved places for cannabis consumption are located all over the city. They require a membership, and they are not allowed to advertise their services. Fortunately, they are located in Spain’s second largest city and membership is easy to obtain.

Barcelona is a top a tourist location in Europe regardless of its tolerant approach to cannabis. Tourists might also travel to Barcelona to see Gaudi’s amazing architectural feats and to taste local paella and creme catalana.

Copenhagen (Denmark)

Copenhagen Denmark

Finally, we have the capital of Denmark.Cannabis recently became legal for medicinal purposes in 2018 however the operation is still a small scale one. Cannabis has never even been decriminalised for recreational use, nevermind legalised. So why is the Nordic country’s capital on this list? The answer is Freetown Christiania.

Freetown Christiania is an unofficial anarchist microstate located in Copenhagen. It was established in 1971. Since then, 900 people have lived in their own country without the need to follow Danish government regulations. It was renamed the “Green Light District”, where people flock to buy all kinds of cannabis that were outlawed elsewhere in Denmark. Cannabis is far from the only drug that people have histroically been selling in the area.

The microstate has naturally had friction with the danish government, but generally it has tended to ignore the activities going on there. Although in the past decade, the relationship has been normalised and Danish law is now enforced there.

Freetown Christiania

The community was hit hard by drug-infected violence, which led to a crisis. Christiania was able to stop all drug-infused violence. It is now well-known for its colorful street designs, variety of restaurants and cafes, and Christmas markets. Despite Danish law now applying to the area you can still easily find and obtain cannabis there

Report On Cannabis From Fact Finding Mission Adopted In France

MEPs adopted Monday, June 28, the final report from the joint fact-finding mission regarding the regulation and impact on different cannabis uses. This report proposes a “supervised and regulated legalization” of recreational cannabis.

Hemp, therapeutic cannabis, and recreational cannabis: The information mission “relating the regulation and the impacts of the different uses cannabis”, which Robin Reda (LR), obtained, and for which Jean-Baptiste Moreau, (LaREM), is the rapporteur général, has concluded its work. After 18 months of hearings the six National Assembly deputies adopted the publication of the “final Report” on Monday, June 28, 2019. This generated the thematic reports that were published from September 2020 to reflect the progress made. 

Robin Reda stated, “I believe we have imposed this unprecedented discussion on the National Assembly without prejudice and by being methodical.” The deputy for Essonne in LR also praised the success of citizen consultations that were held on the National Assembly’s site. These had received contributions from more 250,000 people.

Information Mission Requests “Supervised And Regulated” Legalization Recreational Cannabis

Jean-Baptiste Moreau lamented that “the overall finding regarding the issue of cannabis and all its uses is, that our country is trailing behind.” To end this “observation about the failure of the repressive program for 50 years”, Caroline Janvier (deputy La Republique en Marche) proposes “a framed, regulated legalization.” This permits the member to “define very specific specifications on the production and sale of cannabis,” in advance.

French Government

However, if cannabis were legalized, wouldn’t dealers be selling other drugs? Caroline Janvier responds that dealers are selling more dangerous synthetic cannabis and cut resins from other substances today. She also emphasizes the fact that legalization allows for less dangerous products to be sold on the official market. Many speakers have modeled the French repressive system on the topic of recreational cannabis. Despite the efforts of many interior ministers over the years, France continues to be the European country that has the highest consumption of cannabis. “We are currently in a state of failure.” Jean-Baptiste Moreau says, “Either we keep our eyes closed, cover our ears, and wave our arms, OR we try to finally adopt efficient regulations.”

Francois-Michel Lambert (Freedoms and Territories) says that “public opinion is ready to legalize which is accompanied state control and a private monopoly”. Eric Coquerel (LFI) also supported the proposal. He recalls that no country around the world has reversed its decision following legalization.

Right-wing and left-wing members of the National Assembly presented a bill at the end May. Jean-Baptiste Moreau already predicts that the bill will be part of the next electoral arguments, even though the issue is still far from settled and camps are divided.

Exploration Of Therapeutic Cannabis

The rapporteur continues, “We regret that the French establishment of a therapeutic cannabis sector is still not authorized, even though we have all necessary skills for production, processing, and distribution.” Thematic rapporteur also on the subject. The experimental phase of therapeutic cannabis in France is still very much underway. She was granted the green light by the health authorities and has been working in the medical establishments since March 2021. Jean-Baptiste Moreau says, “Its sustainability must be broadly and collectively supported.”

The Creuse deputy said that Olivier Veran had discussed the experiment and believed it was possible to expand the range of available pathologies while also increasing the number patients. “I believe this experiment will be expanded relatively quickly before eventually generalization.”

Information Mission Wants To France To Reflect European Ruling

EU Flag

The third section of the fact-finding mission concerns the hemp industry. Ludovic Mendes is the thematic rapporteur. He considers the announcements made on 25 May by the Prime Minister’s Office “disappointing.” The government had decided to ban the sale CBD flowers a month ago. The deputy stated that CBD cannot be extracted naturally without THC traces.

“The fact-finding mission asks the Government to use the European Union law to make progress toward harmonizing CBD regulations.” Ludovic Mendes explains. He recalls that he and others felt it was time for “well-being hemp” to be established in France by authorizing cultivation and exploitation below 0.6% to 1% THC.

Morocco: Can cannabis be legalized as an export product?

Morocco is currently discussing a law to allow the export and cultivation of medicinal cannabis. This would be a huge advantage for many small farmers. The draft, however, is controversial.

Rif Mountains Morocco

Morocco could soon be a much more prosperous export country. The parliament is currently considering a bill to legalize cannabis cultivation for medicinal purposes. If the legislation clears the last hurdles, the North African country may become the second country to legalize cannabis within the region. In 2020, Lebanon began legalizing cannabis.

According to several international organizations, such as the UN and European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (UNMDCA), Morocco is the world’s largest producer of cannabis and largest supplier of illegal cannabis products like hashish. Most of these products are brought into the EU through various smuggling routes. As a result Morocco perhaps stands to benefit from legalising cannabis more than any other country in the world.

The conflict between Cannabis and Islam

There are serious political hurdles that prevent the official establishment of a Moroccan cannabis industry. The former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane was in office between 2011 and 2017, he suspended his membership in moderate Islamist Party for Justice and Development (PJD) a few weeks ago. He justified his decision by stating that the PJD had abandoned its resistance to legalization of cannabis cultivation for medicinal and industrial purposes.

Although the party is the leader of the coalition government, it has suffered some popularity losses during the pandemic.

Several farmer groups from the northern cannabis regions declared that they would like to amend the bill. Their criticism had little impact. Legalization of cannabis cultivation could result in companies moving to areas that are more suitable for traditional agriculture. Farmers in the north are keen to restrict future cannabis cultivation to the areas where the plant is already grown. The law could also reduce their income and prices, they fear. The farmers also called for amnesty for the more than 40,000 people who have been arrested for their illegal cannabis trade.

Agriculture I Growing cannabis for Morocco

Economic Factor: Cannabis cultivation in Morocco. A scene from the northern Rif Mountains

Cannabis as an issue in elections

This bill is controversial. It is clearly a divisive issue in the lead-up to September’s local, regional, and parliamentary elections. It is uncertain whether it will pass into law or not. It has been suggested the bill was a tactic to gain support from voters in economically disadvantaged areas of cannabis cultivation.

“However, this time, it might be different”, says Tom Blickman who is a researcher on international drug policy at Amsterdam’s Transnational Institute. “It is evidently a serious effort. It comes from the government. The royal palace is behind the government.” The opposition has not yet made any similar proposals.

Cannabis Seeds

UN decision as legal base

The current campaign to legalize cannabis began at a meeting of UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (Austria) in December 2020. To allow medicinal use, the World Health Organization recommended that cannabis should be removed from the dangerous drug list. With a narrow majority, the UN Commission accepted the WHO’s recommendation.

This was Abdelouafi Laftit (Moroccan Interior Minister) who used it as legal basis to introduce the April draft law regarding cannabis legalization in Parliament. The bill has been approved by the government. The bill is now approved by the government.

Morocco Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit

Abdelouafi Laftit, the Moroccan Interior Minister, introduced the bill

New investment opportunities are possible

The northern Rif region, which is economically poor, accounts for most of the country’s cannabis. Although cultivation is allowed, farmers are often forced to live in poverty or fear and in an environment that encourages crime.

The bill calls for a national agency to regulate cannabis cultivation and cooperatives of farmers. According to “New Frontier Data”, legalizing cannabis would “provide Morocco with the ideal conditions to attract substantial investment in infrastructure necessary to serve this lucrative market.” This is according to a report from the cannabis market research company, “New Frontier Data”. According to “New Frontier Data”, Moroccan farmers would also be able to trade in other cannabis-related products.

Blickman says, “It would help if Europe was more open to helping build this industry – by importing medical marijuana from Morocco to Germany. This is currently the largest market in medical cannabis.” “A positive view from countries with medical marijuana programs could be helpful.”

Driss Benhima, former director at the Northern Moroccan state development agency and head of numerous studies on cannabis cultivation in the area, believes that if Europe made it easier for countries to import, it would benefit its country.

This would, on the one hand help preserve the natural environment. This environment has been greatly damaged by illegal cannabis production. The government advisor said that it would reduce the “toxic lack trust” between cannabis growers in Morocco and the national public institutions of Morocco. Previous development projects in this region have been hindered by a lack of trust. Benhima said to DW that legalization would change everything. He believes that legalization will bring decent income, social integration, and protection of the environment.

Medicinal Cannabis in the Czech Republic. Opinions are mixed.

The Czech Republic is seeing more patients use medical cannabis. There were 665 patients using medical cannabis in May, to which Doctors prescribed them more than 5,000 grams over the entire year. Experts say that data regarding the success rate of treatment, particularly in cancer, is missing. The cost of cannabis treatment is estimated to be 450 million Czech koruna, or 20 million dollars. The majority of cannabis treatment will be covered by public health insurance from next year.

Currently cannabis is mainly used to relieve pain. But modern research suggests that cannabis could be used to treat cancer.

Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, said that Czechia should be inspired to use medical cannabis in Israel, whose representatives spoke today at the symposium. Babiš stated that Israel has over 50,000 patients and 200 doctors who prescribe cannabis.

Czech Prime Minsier Andrej Babiš

Next year, the slavic nation will have 3,000 patients, for whom 90 percent of the cost will be covered by the state. They will receive 30 grams a month but this amount can be increased with the approval of the reviewing physician. Lumir Hanus is a cannabis researcher who lived in Jerusalem and worked at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after leaving the Czech Republic. He believes that the decision should be made at the doctor’s discretion.

“I believe it should be based on the severity of the disease. Expert who has been studying the disease for over 50 years said that some patients may need more.”

KOPAC, the Patient Association for Cannabis Treatment, also criticizes the low monthly dose. According to Adam Vojtech, Minister of Health, this proposal is based upon the average monthly dose prescribed Czech doctors. Patients are also upset that doctors will be able to track how much cannabis was prescribed and in what form.

The minister added that “collecting data is important because cannabis is an alternate treatment that is still in its infancy.”

Hanus claims that the data won’t be sufficient to draw conclusions. He stated that the data would be useless statistics. However he did suggest that it would be possible to conduct a double-blind study, where patients are either given a placebo, the usual treatment for their condition, or the cannabis substance.

Irena Storova is the director of the State Office for Drug Control which additionally includes the State Cannabis Agency. She says that the absence of clinical data verification is a major problem worldwide. According to Storova, there was no SUKL study submitted for evaluation in the Czech Republic. Because cannabis is illegal and stigmatized, research is still in its infancy. 

Hanus said that many doctors are reluctant to use it.

Lumir Hanus

The Czech Republic had already begun the survey in the 1950s. Hanus continued the work in Israel. Research has shown that cannabinoid-receptors are one of the most prevalent in the human body. Hanus says that not all types of medical cannabis are suitable for all patients and all diseases. Israeli research showed that one type of medical cannabis was effective for autism in children, while another variety did not work for women.

Experts say that only treatments that relieve symptoms are allowed. This includes uncontrollable pain and neurological symptoms like tremors or convulsions. Hanus claims that cannabis can be used to treat cancer. This has been proved in animal and cell studies. While this would certianly suggest it could work for people as well, according to Michael Dor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official, the effects of cannabis on humans have not been proved.

The reluctance to proceed with cannabis treatment and research is largely a result of the stigma surrounding. But as we head towards more cannabis tolerant societies this is likely to change in the coming decade.