The Illicit Alcohol Market Is Way Bigger Than You Think

Illicit drugs are all the rage in news reporting; but often, one of the biggest illicit markets is practically ignored. Sure, we hear about weed busts around the world, and methamphetamine busts, and opioid busts. But what about the most popular drug? Alcohol is the most consumed drug in the world, and the illicit alcohol market is way bigger than you think.

Alcohol prohibition

Alcohol is pretty free-flowing in most parts of the world, and has been throughout our recorded history. However, for a brief period in the early 1900’s, it was criminalized on nearly a global level. This period, called ‘prohibition’ lasted between 1920-1933 in America; during which time, the production, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages, was a criminal activity. This legal change was brought on by the temperance movement, a group which pushed abstinence, or extreme regulation of certain behaviors.

The movement started in the late 1800’s, as many small groups around the country. According to Britannica, by 1833, there were 6,000 of them across the different states. These organizations were highly associated with women’s movements, and some specifically state it in the name; like the famous Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which became an international movement.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the temperance movement, was in banning alcohol. In December 1917, the Eighteenth Amendment (aka Volstead Act) passed both sides of congress. It was ratified by ¾ of states in 2019, and had plenty of support in order to do both of these things. The National Prohibition Act was later passed as a means of regulating this new decision.

Prohibition led to illicit alcohol market

But history shows that the movement either wasn’t as far reaching as expected, or not 100% supported, among supporters. Plenty wanted to drink illegally, which created an entire bootlegging industry of illicit alcohol. Alcohol was often brewed up in bathtubs, and sold in speakeasies; with organized criminal groups backing the whole thing. In fact, it was bootlegging that built up some of the bigger crime families of the 1900’s.

By the 1928 presidential elections, it was a big topic. Herbert Hoover won, and prohibition remained, despite the obvious and growing cracks in the exterior. Not only was it not being adhered to, to the point of a growing illicit market, but it was a practically unenforceable rule. Franklin Roosevelt entered office in 1933, and quickly changed things around. He did this by way of the Cullen-Harrison Act, which modified the existing Eighteenth Amendment. This modification allowed the production and sale of beer and wine with up to 3.2% alcohol.

Nine months later, even that was updated; and prohibition was quickly a thing of the past. As the Eighteenth amendment was an actual amendment to the constitution, it was gotten rid of, by way of yet another amendment; number 21. This repealed the Volstead Act federally, and gave states the right to make their own local laws. Until this and the Cullen-Harrison Act, the entirety of the alcohol market was illicit. This is similar to the cannabis industry today, which seeks to divert from what was a 100% illegal industry. In both cases, the drug was legal prior to prohibitive measures.

How big is illicit alcohol world of today?

It’s hard to know how much of the market prior to prohibition, was illicit. There were different laws that governed drinking at the time, and it was a long time ago. Sure, we have records, but not everything was recorded, or is easy to find in research today. Logically there was some amount of illicit trade, but this would have increased hugely during prohibition. Now is a totally different time period; nearly a hundred years after prohibition ended, and over a hundred since it started. Chances are, a lot of the illicit alcohol market of today, started back in prohibition times.

A 2022 report published by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), presented some startling information about the nature of today’s illicit alcohol market. And its one of the biggest illicit markets out there. The report cites WHO 2018 data for the year 2016, that puts the size at that time as 25% of all alcohol sales worldwide. Not only that, the WHO estimated that by 2025, this would increase to 27.7%.

In terms of where this is seen most, it varies greatly between countries; although, how exact WHO information is for an illicit market, is always questionable, as most data comes from seizures and arrests only. Even so, that the organization estimates it so highly, certainly says a lot. According to the WHO, the Mediterranean region has a very high illicit alcohol trade, as much as 67%. Whereas it says the Americas are only about 14%.

US has illicit alcohol market
US has illicit alcohol market

The writers also draw a distinction between richer and poorer countries. Poorer countries consumed way more illegally bought alcohol; lower-middle income countries about 37%, and low income countries about 44%. Africa as a whole, the Mediterranean region (where alcohol is illegal in many places), and Southeast Asia had the largest illicit markets. Higher income countries had numbers closer to 11%; the US had a rate of 14%.

So a lot of alcohol gets sold illegally. How much does this bring in, in terms of revenue? The report suggests that approximately 42.3 million hectolitres of alcohol get consumed yearly and globally, and that 25.8% is illicit. This 25.8% is worth approximately $19.4 billion in revenue for black market operations. As a comparison, the entire legal cannabis industry in the US was estimated to have brought in about $24-$30 billion in 2022, according to MJBizDaily. Global illicit alcohol sales are equivalent to at the very least, 2/3-4/5, of this number.

What illegal alcohol is sold most?

We generally break alcoholic beverages into three main groups: beer, wine, and spirits. These different types of alcoholic drinks, are relevant to their own illicit markets. And it doesn’t match up in terms of what is drank the most in general, and what shows up most on the illicit market.

Beer is the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage worldwide according to the report. Globally it accounts for 52.9% of the legal market. However, it only supports about 10% of the illegal market. On the other hand, an estimated 81% of the illicit trade, is related to distilled spirits of a higher value. Wine and other alcoholic beverages like cider, comprise about 9% of the illegal market. This means they collectively take up about as much as beer in terms of illegal sales.

The thing is, technically, not all the alcohol reported in the report as illicit, is entirely illicit. Or, at least, its not all necessarily illegally produced. The report lists the definition for illicit alcohol to include the following: anything contraband or smuggled (this could include legally sold products), counterfeit alcohol, products that don’t meet regulation, products with misleading packaging or false statements, alcohol made by legal companies but done secretly, and not-for-drinking alcohol like mouthwash or antifreeze.

Some of these aren’t regular alcohol at all. Some could have ‘fallen off the truck,’ and some could be the product of companies that lose their licensing, but otherwise produce the same product. This is not a measure of the alcohol made illegally, it’s a measure of the alcohol sold illegally. The report indicates that the idea of illicit can include products of companies that failed to pay taxes; which is a different world from smuggling, or counterfeiting, or brewing it up in your bathtub.

Legal vs illicit alcohol sales
Legal vs illicit alcohol sales

Why don’t we see a bunch of headlines about illicit alcohol?

25% is a full quarter of the market. If we just look at the US, that’s at least 14% of its market. It’s certainly not nothing, especially as its forecast to increase. So, why don’t we hear about it? We hear all the time about how vape products hurt children (never mind that they don’t, and that vapes save people from smoking damage). We hear all the time about illegal fentanyl (never mind the legal market). But alcohol? Where are the stories blaring about fake alcohol dangers? I mean, alcohol kills people all the time; in fact, its the biggest killer of all drugs (as smoking is a method of consumption, NOT an actual drug.)

My guess is because prohibition already happened. Alcohol represents an industry that cannot be rooted out easily, because of the basic production ability. It already proved itself that way to an enormous and uncompromising degree. There is zero policy push to get rid of it now. Likely no politician is going to get behind a new prohibition measure for alcohol, because they’ll lose their seat. End of story. So its preferable not to mention the details since there’s no action pushed. What we hear about, are stories where there is some action being pushed.

We hear about weed, and tobacco products, and opioids, because governments seem to want to decide how we feel about those things, and how we purchase them. It no longer tries to do that with alcohol. So while alcohol poses perhaps the biggest issue of all the drugs (way overshadowing opioids in its destructiveness), the public doesn’t hear much about it, because its not a fight for their opinions anymore.


The illicit alcohol market is rather big and only expected to grow. As countries like Canada report on their lowered sales volume, the question becomes; where are people buying their alcohol now, if not from legal providers? I think the OECD report explains it all. They’re likely buying it illegally. If prohibition didn’t stop drinking, why would raised prices? Perhaps there should be caution with raising prices, when its known this bolsters black market sales. And perhaps that should be generalized to the cannabis market. Otherwise, it greatly seems like governments really don’t learn from history, at all.

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Czech Government Rejects Prohibition: Ban On HHC and Kratom

Summary: The Czech government has decided not to ban kratom and cannabinol HHC, focusing instead on safeguarding the well-being of users. This decision reflects a shift towards more progressive drug policies and a move away from prohibitionist measures.

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No ban on HHC and Kratom: Czech government opts for progressive drug policies

In a recent development, the Czech government has decided not to impose a ban on kratom and cannabinol HHC, two substances that have sparked controversy in recent times. The decision was motivated by the government’s belief that a prohibitionist approach would be impractical. Instead, their focus will be on safeguarding the well-being of both children and adult users.

A strong move against hemp-derived THC

Kratom, obtained from a tropical plant, and HHC, derived from hemp, have been sought after for their medicinal properties but have also been subject to abuse. These substances are available in various forms such as oils, tinctures, tablets, or powders. While the government’s resolution not to prohibit kratom and cannabinol HHC was not reached unanimously, it has stimulated ongoing debates concerning the most effective means of regulating these substances.

Some experts suggest the establishment of clear guidelines for their sale and control, while others advocate for an outright ban. The government’s decision echoes a growing inclination toward more progressive drug policies, particularly in Europe. Numerous experts and policymakers argue that prohibitionist measures have proven ineffective and have led to unintended consequences, including an upsurge in crime and violence.

A good sign for the future of medical psychedelics

The Czech government’s stance signifies a move toward a more rational and evidence-based drug policy. By prioritizing harm reduction and public health over prohibition and punitive measures, the government is taking a significant stride towards mitigating the adverse effects associated with drug use.

[Source: Prague Morning]

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Indiana: One of the Worst States to Get Caught with Psychedelics 

Now that I live in Indiana, I feel obligated to offer my critiques whenever the opportunity arises, and while there are many things I enjoy about the Hoosier state, everyone can agree that drugs laws here are archaic and downright barbaric at times. The fact that I can purchase a gun and carry it concealed without a permit (don’t get me wrong, I am pro-second amendment), but conversely, I can’t buy a personal amount of weed without feeling like a criminal, is strange to me. It’s a stark contrast to my home state of California where I could easily buy weed but not guns. And I understand that one has nothing to do with the other, but they are both liberties I feel I should be able to enjoy… legally.  

Currently, hallucinogenic drugs are having their moment in the spotlight, and rightfully so. They are non-addictive drugs with great safety profiles that can treat several different mental health disorders. Given that rates of adult mental illness AND drug addiction are extremely high in Indiana, you would think that state officials would be bending over backwards trying to offer better options to the people who they were elected to represent.  

Sadly, that’s not the case, as the state has made ZERO progress on both the cannabis and psychedelics fronts. Add to that, not only have they made legal access impossible, but the penalties for being caught with substances from these drug categories are much harsher than in other illegal states. And seriously, it’s just an extra kick when we’re already down to know that neighboring states like Michigan and Illinois are placing importance on psychedelic reform while Indiana judges toss out prison sentences like confetti at a birthday party.  

Indiana psychedelics laws 

Most psychedelic drugs are illegal in Indiana. Possessing up to a gram of any of them can cost you up to 60 days in jail and $500 in fines. When someone is caught in possession of more than 28 grams of any of the above substance, the charges are automatically bumped up to “intent to distribute”, which is a Level 2 Felony carrying a sentence of 10-30 years in prison.  

In addition, analogs and salvia are also banned there. In the Hoosier state, hallucinogenic substances including psilocybin, psilocin, mescaline, peyote, and ibogaine are classified as Schedule 1 substances – the most serious drug category, defined as a drug with “a high potential for abuse, and … no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.” At this point, we know that is an outright lie as numerous studies have come out over the years claiming the exact opposite, that they do in fact have many medical benefits.  

Is anything legal in Indiana? 

For the most part no, if we’re talking about any substance that’s remotely mainstream, it will most likely be banned in a state like Indiana. There are however, a handful of psychedelics or psychedelic-related products that are legal by default… or simply, because no one has taken action to ban them yet.  

For example, magic mushroom spores, are entirely legal in Indiana. But this only applies when they are used for research purposes — as soon as the spores are germinated, they become illegal once again. This is because the spores don’t contain psilocybin, whereas the fruiting bodies do.  

Regarding shrooms, Amanita muscaria mushrooms are also legal in Indiana. This is because the active compound in these types of mushrooms is muscimol, not psilocybin. So far, Louisiana is the only state that has a ban in place against muscimol. In Louisiana, it’s illegal to grow, possess, sell, or buy Amanita muscaria mushrooms (except for ornamental purposes), as per Louisiana State Act 159. That’s not to say that Indiana won’t one day follow in Louisiana’s footsteps. If another state were next in line to ban muscimol, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to guess Indiana as the state in question.  

Also in the kind-of-legal but kind-of-not category is San Pedro cactus, which contains mescaline. Peyote is illegal for use throughout the US (expect for active members of the Native American Church), but other plants containing mescaline are perfectly legal unless a prosecutor can prove “intent to consume or sell”.  

Ketamine treatments are legally available in Indiana, much like the rest of the country. But clinics are limited and because it’s prescribed off-label and not covered by insurance, the extremely high costs are prohibitive for most average Americans.  

When it comes to cannabis, traditional flower and delta 9 products are illegal, but alternative cannabinoids (delta 8, delta 10, HHC, etc.) are widely sold at gas stations, smoke shops, liquor stores, and head shops throughout the state – even in rural areas like where I live. There’s been much debate as to whether alternative cannabinoids are federally legal or not, with many stating that they technically are not. But it seems to be one of those laws that no one enforces or cares about.  

The case of Jessica Thornton 

For Jessica Thornton, who has lived with treatment-resistant depression since her senior year at high school, psychedelics represent a lifeline. Thornton, a mom of five and neonatal intensive care nurse, turned to psilocybin after twenty years of taking a smorgasbord of antidepressants with little to no effect. Desperate to find any solution, she tried microdosing psilocybin mushrooms after researching the practice online.  

However, her experimentation with psilocybin has come at an inconceivable cost when someone she knew reported her to local authorities for growing mushrooms at home, and she was faced with 10 years in prison.  

“I decided to try microdosing psilocybin for depression because nothing else was working for me,” explains Thornton. “I felt as if I was in a constant battle with myself.” “I’ve been on many antidepressants: Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Effexor, Abilify, Cymbalta, Trazodone, Remeron, and Pristiq,” says Thornton. “The medications all seemed to make me feel like I was living inside a box. I was seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and at one point, I was admitted to an inpatient psychiatric facility.” 

“It took a few months of microdosing 3-4 times a week and titrating to find the right dosage,” says Thornton. “I stacked the psilocybin with Lion’s Mane and niacin. Then one day, after about three months of following this protocol, I found myself examining my surroundings –the cold air of an Indiana winter– and thought to myself, this is a beautiful world after all.” At that moment, Thornton felt she became liberated from the load she’d been carrying. Released of that burden, she could perceive the beauty and opportunity that had always been there. 

“It took a few months of microdosing 3-4 times a week and titrating to find the right dosage,” says Thornton. “I stacked the psilocybin with Lion’s Mane and niacin. Then one day, after about three months of following this protocol, I found myself examining my surroundings –the cold air of an Indiana winter– and thought to myself, this is a beautiful world after all.” At that moment, Thornton felt she became liberated from the load she’d been carrying. Released of that burden, she could perceive the beauty and opportunity that had always been there. 

Thankfully, Jessica’s case was resolved in October of last year with 18 months of probation and 180 days of house arrest (not sure what happened with her custody situation). But honestly, ANY sentence is too much for a person who was simply treating their mental health disorder with the medication that works best for them. She’s lucky she didn’t get 10 years in prison, but she went through an incredibly stressful and degrading ordeal, and now, is probably terrified to continue growing mushrooms… the only product that offered her relief from years of depression.  

Why on Earth should a person living in modern-day, woke America have to fear that a gestapo-style police force will bust down their door and drag them off to prison for doing something that not only is safe and victimless, but also legal (or at the very least, less harshly criminalized) when you cross an imaginary line to the north or west?  

What’s going on in neighboring states, and the rest of the US? 

When it comes to drug reform, we’re a bit behind the times here in Indiana. And as such, it sometimes comes as a bit of shock to hear how far other states have come, especially some of our fellow midwestern neighbors. Take Michigan for example, where a handful of cities including larger ones like Detroit and Ann Arbor, have decriminalized possession of entheogenic plants. Or Illinois, where they recently introduced the Compassionate Use and Research of Entheogens Act, or CURE Act, as the very first bill during the opening session of Illinois 103rd General Assembly.  

In other parts of the country, Oregon has decriminalized the use of psychedelic drugs, and legalized magic mushrooms for medicinal use. Similar laws have also been introduced in Oakland and Santa Cruz, California; Washington DC; Somerville, Northampton, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. The state of Colorado became the first to fully legalize psilocybin mushrooms for recreational use.  

Final thoughts on psychedelics in Indiana

If it seems like other states are more accommodating and more fun to live in than Indiana, that’s probably because they actually are… especially if psychedelic therapy and bodily autonomy are important to your mental health and overall wellbeing. Again, there are many wonderful things about Indiana… after living here off and on for the last 7 years, it’s definitely grown on me and it seems that I’m here to stay for the long haul. But in the areas where we need improvement, we need it desperately.

Welcome readers! Thanks for hanging out with us at; an independent publication that brings you new and ongoing stories in the cannabis and hallucinogen spaces. Come ’round regularly so you don’t miss out on anything; and subscribe to our Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, to ensure you’re never late to get the news.

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Film Review: ‘Grass Is Greener’ Documentary Nails It

I have a thing about most documentaries; it’s not unlike the thing I have about Brussels sprouts: I never want to watch/eat them, then I’m always glad I did. Happens. Every. Time. And the idea that I had to sit through a documentary that’s already nearly three years old, well, let’s just say my enthusiasm meter wasn’t exactly jumping with mind-blowing excitement.

Grass Is Greener ostensibly follows hip-hop icon Fab Five Freddy on his often-disturbing trek to uncover the truth about the history of cannabis prohibition in the US. Commencing in the 1920s New Orleans jazz clubs where Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington were forced to perpetually fend off being arrested due to overtly racist policies, the documentary concludes by interviewing rap legends Snoop Dogg and B-Real of Cypress Hill as they expertly discuss the current state of cannabis.

The film, streaming on Netflix, also provides perspectives from relevant lawyers, cannabis advocates and activists. By far the most harrowing are examples of families torn apart by America’s pervasive and unjustified obsession with convicting people of color for minor marijuana infractions. It’s a lot to take in.

The riveting examination provides us with a villain early on, the cartoonishly bigoted first director of the Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. The political appointee enforced fabricated policies while ignoring definitive scientific studies specifically targeting two groups still grappling (and demanding) social justice in this nation: African Americans and Mexican immigrants. In fact, the very name “cannabis” was purposedly changed to “marijuana” to further connect the supposedly dangerous narcotic more directly with the feared Mexicans crossing the border. It’s all as infuriating as it is outrageous, but given the current societal climate in the US, not at all surprising. C’mon now, is Harry Anslinger all that different from, say, Jeff Sessions, the enforcer of the draconian child separation policy at the US border during the previous administration? Here’s a hint: He’s not.

Grass Is Greener features commentary from music legends Snoop Dogg, B-Real and Damian Marley.

But wait! There are good guys, too. Most surprising, perhaps, was former New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who commissioned a report on cannabis that refuted all of Anslinger’s preposterous claims. “Instead of science, the government knowingly and willingly chose propaganda, chose racism over and over again,” said one astute subject of the documentary about the irrefutable evidence found in LaGuardia’s report. But the direct line from Anslinger, to Richard Nixon’s War On Drugs, to Ronald (and Nancy) Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign and to Bill Clinton’s odious Crime Bill all relegated cannabis to be perceived as nothing short of premeditated evil. And it was all a lie.

I was amped up for action by the time Grass Is Greener gets to Jack Herer’s revelatory The Emperor Wears No Clothes, the truth bomb of a book that blew the lid off the perpetuated untruths about weed the US government had been spewing for a century. And by the end of the doc, I’m left with not only a crystal-clear understanding of the history of cannabis, but an even better understanding about American jurisprudence and how acutely unjust it has always been. Always.

Grass Is Greener should be required viewing for cannabis lovers, yes, but also for lovers of our country and democracy and justice. I’m so glad I saw this remarkably important documentary. Not surprisingly, I’m now craving a heaping serving of Brussels sprouts. I got the do-something munchies for sure.

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Will the FDA Regulate CBD?

Will the FDA regulate CBD? It’s a question on many minds as the FDA commissioner is to appear before the U.S. House Oversight Committee. Chairman of the Committee, James Comer, wants details on CBD. He said: “It’s not just their lack of action with respect to CBD and other types of hemp. It’s their inaction regarding a lot of areas of their jurisdiction … We’ve got an agency here that has a big budget, they have a lot of employees, […]

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Application Period Opens for New York Recreational Dispensaries

New York officially began accepting applications for recreational cannabis dispensaries on Thursday, a milestone in the Empire State’s new era of legalization.

The state’s Office of Cannabis Management said that the window for the first round of applications will run until September 26.

As previously announced earlier this year, the first dispensary licenses will be awarded to individuals with cannabis-related convictions on their record, or family members of individuals who have been convicted of pot-related offenses, a program known as the “Seeding Opportunity Initiative.”

“Today’s announcement brings us to the precipice of legal, licensed cannabis sales in New York State,” Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, said in a statement on Monday. “With the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, New York has affirmed our commitment to making sure the first sales are conducted by those harmed by prohibition. We’re writing a new playbook for what an equitable launch of a cannabis industry looks like, and hope future states follow our lead.”

Chris Alexander, the executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management, said that the launch of the application period marked a “monumental step in establishing the most equitable, diverse, and accessible cannabis industry in the nation.”

“We’ve worked to make this application as simple as possible for all interested applicants, and I cannot emphasize it enough that you do not need any legal expertise to fill this application out,” Alexander said.

The state announced the initiative back in March, with Alexander saying at the time that at least the first 100 dispensary licenses would be awarded to individuals with convictions.

Since legalizing recreational pot for adults last year, New York has made a concerted effort to do right by individuals and communities who were most adversely affected by cannabis prohibition.

In January, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the creation of a $200 million fund to support social equity applicants looking to enter the state’s new legal cannabis industry.

“New York’s legalized cannabis industry is in development, with the State expecting to issue licenses for adult recreational use. But the rise of what is estimated to be a $4.2 billion industry must create opportunities for all New Yorkers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities,” the governor’s office said in the announcement at the time.

“In support of that goal, Governor Hochul will create a $200 million public-private fund to support social equity applicants as they plan for and build out their businesses,” the announcement continued. “Licensing fees and tax revenue will seed the fund and leverage significant private investment.”

Last month, Hochul announced a $5 million grant to the state’s community colleges in support of “programs that will create or enhance non-degree and degree-eligible courses and programs, stackable credentials, and/or microcredentials that quickly address local employer skill needs within the cannabis sector, a projected multi-billion dollar industry with tens of thousands [of] jobs.”

“New York’s new cannabis industry is creating exciting opportunities, and we will ensure that New Yorkers who want careers in this growing sector have the quality training they need to be successful,” Hochul said in the announcement. “Diversity and inclusion are what makes New York’s workforce a competitive, powerful asset, and we will continue to take concrete steps to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in the cannabis industry.”

The community colleges selected for the grant “must also partner with local employers in the cannabis industry and receive their input on curriculum development,” the state said last month, adding that “the New York State Department of Labor and the Office of Cannabis Management will support efforts to expand learning opportunities by helping to connect businesses and job seekers to these essential training programs.”

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Fair Trials Calls for Global Justice for Victims of the War on Drugs

Fair Trials, a globally focused nongovernmental non-profit organization which campaigns for the right to a fair trial and against discrimination within justice systems is, along with the Last Prisoner Project, calling on the cannabis industry for action. They want to begin addressing the harm caused by cannabis prohibition—on a global basis—by working to free those jailed for cannabis possession and use.

Cannabis legalization may now be a reality in more and more countries across the globe. However, far too many people remain behind bars or continue to suffer directly from the war on the plant.

“The injustice of cannabis prohibition has resulted in millions of people worldwide serving time in prison or being saddled with a cannabis conviction, which brings with it a lifetime of harmful consequences, ranging from education and employment opportunities to immigration status and parental rights,” said Fair Trials Global CEO Norman L. Reimer. 

“These harmful effects of prohibition not only impact the individuals charged, but also their families and communities. And those effects have been borne disproportionately by minorities, communities of colour, and the socio-economically disadvantaged. Legalising cannabis alone does not equal justice. Together, we must address the ongoing harms of past prohibition and leave no cannabis prisoner behind,” he said.

The campaign will be modeled on the American Cannabis Justice Initiative—a joint effort between the industry and volunteer lawyers.

The Terrible Impact of Unreformed Justice Systems

According to the ACLU, half of all American drug arrests in 2010 were for cannabis. Of the 8.2 million cannabis arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simple possession. While these numbers have dropped dramatically since then (according to NORML), several hundred thousand Americans are arrested in states where the drug is still outlawed to this day.

The problem of course is not confined to the U.S.

Even in Europe, which has a far more lenient policy towards all drug use and cannabis in particular, people still go to jail for the “crime” of both possession and home cultivation (even for medical use). In Germany, for example, cannabis is the number one “illicit” drug of choice and, of course, also accounts for the vast number of arrests. In Spain, the organizer of the club movement, Albert Tió, was prosecuted with jail time for his role in the same. However, here, like other places in the world, even the threat of prison does not deter users—and according to those who study the issue, it is not likely to in the future. Finland remains the E.U. state with the most people imprisoned for use.

Outside of the E.U., there are places where cannabis “crimes” are punished more harshly, including with life sentences or even the death penalty. Of these, most are in the “east” and Asia. Thailand in fact just made global news with the release of 4,200 prisoners in jail for cannabis (in conjunction with the implementation of federal liberalization policies). In other countries, reform has not happened yet—starting with China. Singapore and Malaysia have both been in the news over the last several years for sentencing people to death for possession. Last year, in the United Arab Emirates, a 25-year sentence was handed to a British soccer coach in possession of CBD oil.

The War on Drugs may finally be ending. But its terrible legacy still creates a dark overhang that shadows far too many people’s lives.

To find out more about the project, contact Norman L. Reimer at or Ivan J. Dominguez at

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Croatia Opens 400m2, Their First Cannabis Museum

The first museum of cannabis has just opened in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb. 

The goal? To educate the public about cannabis. 

The new museum offers an experiential guide through the history of cannabis along with cultural exhibits that include everything from cannabis-themed music to movies.

Themed museums are nothing new to Zagreb, which offers “museums” on topics from hangovers, broken relationships, and the 1980s. However, this experience promises to be a little different, just because cannabis reform is a zeitgeisty, if not universal, issue.

Visitors will be guided through two floors of cannahistory, including the plant’s use for the past 10,000 years as well as educational topics like the use of medical cannabis and the wide utility of hemp. However, the museum also focuses on the topic of recreational use—along with warnings about the potential health hazards of use.

Where is Legalization in Croatia?

In Croatia, like other European countries, hemp is legal; medical use is allowed in very limited cases and small amounts of possession of high THC are decriminalized but can lead to fines ranging from about $700 to $3,000. Growing and selling, however, are harshly punished with a minimum three-year jail sentence. 

For most people who care about these issues, this status quo is far from enough. The limited legalization reform for medical use happened in October 2015 after an MS patient was caught growing his own to try to keep his symptoms in check. Cannabis for medical use is a good step, however, in Croatia as well as elsewhere, this still leaves patients in danger of being criminalized, particularly if their doctors refuse to prescribe the drug.

In February 2020 the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) tried to introduce a bill into Parliament to fully legalize the plant, but this failed for a variety of reasons, including ongoing conservative opposition and, of course, COVID. 

The Great Cannabis Stall

Many countries in Europe who have legalized medical use are realizing that the current status quo on cannabis is far from enough. The people who pay the biggest price for the slow pace of reform are patients, who tend to have larger quantities of the drug at hand when caught—or are so desperate to control their condition that they resort to the more dangerous practice of growing for self-use when they cannot access the medical system (for one reason or another).

This is certainly true in places like Germany, Europe’s largest medical market, where 40% of cannabis applications to health insurers — which means patients are referred by doctors — are turned down (and for increasingly specious reasons, such as quoting old or outdated medical studies). In such cases, patients often have no recourse but to try to sue their health insurers and source the cannabis from other places including home cultivation. This is also very dangerous. Chronically ill palliative patients do not suddenly stop being sick.

Unlike Croatia, German politicians have now promised to pass recreational reform legislation sometime in the next year or so, but this has been pushed to a back burner. Germany already has a cannabis museum in Berlin.

Why is Cannabis Reform Different in Europe?

There are several reasons that cannabis reform is on a much slower trajectory within the EU. Unlike Canada, the states within the United States and Mexico, both sovereign and EU courts have been reluctant to rule on constitutional rights to possess and grow cannabis. The issue has been diluted by the attempt to shift the conversation into a mostly medical track — although CBD reform has gradually begun to take hold. 

However, there is another reason which is now front and center: Governments who legalize recreational use want a fully legit, taxable, and accountable industry. While there is nothing wrong with this, and it is a sensible way to ensure consumer health, the approach so far has been to deny patients the right to grow their own in circumstances where health insurers refuse to cover the costs. Patients with severe illnesses are usually also the most economically vulnerable, and of course, will also not be able to participate economically in the coming recreational reform — just because they cannot afford to buy licenses.

Beyond this, tragically, even as a stop-gap measure, the idea of nonprofit patient caregiver collectives has also been a non-issue in the EU (unlike the American hemisphere).

Education, like museums, public campaigns, and social media along with efforts like Croatia’s new cannabis museum remain very important. But it is also increasingly obvious that they are not enough. A major shift in the education of lawmakers and politicians, as well as doctors and other authorities, needs to become mainstream.

The time of demonizing the plant and those who use it is overdue to come to an end. Prohibition itself is a museum piece. The time to make it that way everywhere is now.

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Ukrainian Cannabis Community Standing Strong Against Russian Invasion

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine now in its second month, the Ukrainian people have time and again shown their determination to keep their nation a free and independent country. Ukraine’s military and civilian soldiers who have joined the fight continue to repel the invasion from entering the capital of Kyiv, while last week the Russian aggressors announced a change of strategy in the face of mounting losses.

But despite their bravery and resilience in the face of a much larger force, the unprovoked war has taken its toll on the people of Ukraine. The southeastern city of Mariupol and other areas have been left in ruins, and the U.N. estimates the number of displaced Ukrainians who have fled the country at 4 million. Many of those who remain are facing a growing humanitarian crisis.

Ukrainians from all walks of life are resisting the Russian invasion, and members of the country’s cannabis community are no exception. Although cannabis is illegal for both recreational and medical use, consumption and cultivation of up to 10 plants have been decriminalized. As a result, Ukraine has a vibrant underground cannabis community, including a growing rank of activists advocating for the end of prohibition. Victories so far have been modest, with the country approving the cannabinoid pharmaceuticals nabilone, nabiximol and dronabinol last year.

Cannabis Stands with Ukraine

One group, Freedom March, has been advocating for progressive drug policy, leading demonstrations for the legalization of cannabis in Ukraine and defending the rights of medicinal cannabis patients since 2005. Freedom March member Nazarii Sovsun says the majority of the group’s activists are involved in the resistance to the Russian invasion in some fashion. Some have taken up arms and headed to the front lines to face the aggressors head-on. Others are supporting government logistics to provide humanitarian aid in the cities being shelled by Russian forces. Sadly, one of the group’s activists has been badly wounded and is receiving medical treatment for his injuries. Even those in the western part of the country, away from the most intense fighting, are unable to feel safe during the ongoing conflict.

“Russian rockets can reach any part of our country and air raid sirens have become a routine for all of us,” Sovsun explained in an email from the war-torn nation. “It is an unprecedented situation, and it is hardly possible to foresee what comes next for us.”

To help their fellow countrymen, Freedom March has launched a fundraising campaign, Cannabis Stands with Ukraine, that is seeking donations from the worldwide cannabis community and freedom lovers everywhere. Donations to Freedom March will support the cause in conjunction with the Kyiv School of Economics Charitable Foundation, which has already purchased nearly $300,000 worth of emergency medical supplies for delivery to the region, according to wire transfer documentation and invoices provided by Sovsun.

Courtesy of Freedom March

Freedom March has designated two causes to support with the funds raised by the campaign. As in any conflict, the Russian invasion has taken its hardest toll on Ukraine’s most vulnerable populations. The group’s first priority is the children who have become victims of Russia’s aggression.

“According to the officials, at least 145 children were killed, and 222 injured since the war began,” Sovsun explains. “Thousands of children lost their parents. We will use raised funds to provide those children with shelter, food, physical and mental recovery.”

Secondly, the fundraiser will support the people that have been Freedom March’s central focus — Ukraine’s medical cannabis patients. Supplies of many traditional medications are running low and getting cannabis to the patients who need it is even more difficult than before. To help address the shortages, members of Freedom March are supporting the nation’s medicinal cannabis community on multiple fronts.

“Together with our friends from the local community, we are working to find a way of providing CBD-based medication to those who need it urgently: epileptic patients and wounded soldiers above all,” says Sovsun. “Hopefully, this war makes it obvious to our politicians that people should have access to medical cannabis, so we are active on the legal front, as well.”

Ukrainians Confident They Will Prevail

Despite the challenges faced by the Ukrainian people as they stand up to the Russian invasion, their resolve is palpable, even from thousands of miles away. Sovsun is confident that Ukraine will emerge from the conflict victorious.

“We fight for our friends, our families, loved ones and children — what do Russians fight for? Ukraine is a very freedom-loving country. Just take a look at the demonstrations of our people in the occupied cities,” Sovsun maintains proudly. “They are not afraid of armed soldiers firing rounds at them. They are not afraid to stay in front of a tank column, not letting them go further. Unlike Russian people, afraid of getting days in prison or a fine for protesting, we think of ourselves as free people. Our society has come a long way and we will not surrender.”

Sovsun says that donations are needed to continue the fight, and is calling on those who can help to do so in the name of what is right and just. The group has already raised thousands of dollars, but wants to make it millions.

“Sometimes, if you refuse to take a side you support the evil, so we encourage you to take a strong stance in supporting our cause,” he says, adding, “With your help, peace is one step closer.”

One of Ukraine’s few cannabis brands, AskGrowers, is also supporting the effort to fight the Russian invasion. Because of the illegality of cannabis in Ukraine, the online cannabis marketplace and educational resource focuses on the U.S. market, growing to about 250,000 monthly visitors and a database of more than 5,400 cannabis strains in only two years. The AskGrowers team is based in Ukraine, although some members have been displaced by the war.

Lana Braslavskaia, who heads the brand’s marketing and public relations operations, was able to make it to Belgium to stay with friends, while the company’s SEO specialist has made it safely to Poland. But the male members of the AskGrowers team have remained in Ukraine to help resist the invading forces. No matter their situation, however, AskGrowers is continuing to support its workers during this time of crisis.

“First of all, it was important for our management to preserve the life and health of our employees and their families” Braslavskaia explains in an email. “To this end, it was announced that all salaries will be paid in full, regardless of the number of hours worked, even if the employee does not work at all. Moreover, this rule works for those who volunteer or join the Territorial Defense Forces or the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Courtesy of Freedom March

Those forces are fighting heroically and have held the Russian military from taking control, despite estimates before the invasion that the country would fall in three days. And last week, the tide of the war seemed to change.

“Russian troops are slowly, bloodily, withdrawing their northern groups,” Braslavskaia reports. “They realized that they could not take Kyiv, and decided to declare that this was part of their plan.”

Like Sovsun, Braslavskaia is confident that her country will prevail over Russian forces. But she says the country will never be the same.

“As a citizen of Ukraine, I have not the slightest doubt that victory belongs to Ukraine,” she says. “Moreover, I am sure that after this war Ukraine will be a different state, both internally and internationally.”

On March 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on people around the world to stand up for his country. In an address delivered in multiple languages from outside a Kyiv government building, he called for global protests against Russian aggression.

“Make yourself visible and heard,” said Zelensky, who has become the international face of Ukrainian resistance and resolve. “Say that people matter, freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.”

Braslavskaia echoes the sentiment, calling on the citizens of the world to let the strength and spirit of the Ukrainian people inspire them into action.

“I just want to add one thing, don’t be afraid. Be brave in your speeches against aggression, be brave in helping the Ukrainians, because all this does not require your lives,” she beseeches. “After all, we are not afraid, our men and women fight every day for the lives of their families, our future as a nation and such human values as freedom and dignity. Be as brave as we are.”

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Tennessee Legalization Bill Goes Up In Smoke

A bill that would have brought sweeping cannabis reform to Tennessee appears to have fallen short in this year’s legislative session.

Local television station WKRN reports that the bill, known as the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act,” is “effectively dead” after its sponsor, Democratic state House Rep. Bob Freeman pulled the measure from the floor.

Freeman’s legislation would have resulted in significant changes in how the Volunteer State handles both recreational and medicinal cannabis, both of which are illegal in Tennessee.

It makes Tennessee stand out in an era of nationwide legalization, when one state after another has ended prohibition.

Freeman noted that many of Tennessee’s neighbors have either legalized cannabis in some form or are looking to do so.

“There is a very real possibility that, by the time we come back next year, we will be the only state that touches Tennessee that has not done some sort of legalization,” Freeman said, as quoted by WKRN.

The bill would have authorized the “the possession and transport of marijuana or marijuana concentrate, in permitted amounts, for adults who are at least 21 years of age,” the “transfer of marijuana or marijuana concentrate between adults, in permitted amounts, without remuneration,” and the “cultivation of up to 12 marijuana plants for adults.”

It also would have opened up medical cannabis treatment to minors by authorizing “a parent, guardian, or conservator to administer a marijuana product, excluding any combustible product, to a minor, over whom the parent, guardian, or conservator has legal authority.”

Under the legislation, the state Department of Health would have provided a form on its website “that, upon execution by a parent, guardian, or conservator, after consultation with a healthcare practitioner, creates a rebuttable presumption that the minor has a medical condition for which the use of marijuana is treatment for any such condition.”

But Freeman’s bill always had an uphill climb in Tennessee’s Republican-dominated legislature. The state’s GOP governor, Bill Lee, has said that he is against legalizing pot.

As Freeman sees it, Tennessee is now at risk of being left in the dust, with other southern states moving to legalize medical cannabis. Mississippi legalized the treatment in February, and Alabama did the same last year.

Under Freeman’s bill, the sale of cannabis would have been subject to state and local sales and use tax, “as well as an additional 15% marijuana tax.”

It also would have established that “local governments can impose a local sales tax on such sales, not to exceed 5% of the price of the products sold, of which proceeds shall be distributed identical to the existing local sales and use tax.”

“It highlights the fact that we are continuing to turn our back to the potential revenue for taxing this legally — people are already using it or else they wouldn’t be getting picked up and we’re criminalizing this putting people in jail for what is legal in other states,” Freeman said, as quoted by the station.

Freeman believes that most Tennessee voters are with him on the issue, a theory that could be tested in November’s general election.

In January, a pair of state lawmakers introduced a bill that would direct county election officials to conduct a public opinion poll on cannabis policy on this year’s ballot.

The legislation would place three non-binding questions on the general election ballot: Should the state of Tennessee legalize medical cannabis?; Should the state decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis?; and Should the state legalize and regulate the commercial sales of recreational cannabis?

“We’ve been wrestling around with this for years and years now,” one of the bill’s sponsors, state House Rep. Bruce Griffey, said at the time. “A bunch of jurisdictions have taken a step to legalize it. There’s certainly some valid arguments, is marijuana any worse than alcohol in certain situations?”

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