German Bundestag Pressures Health Department for Cannabis Reform

In a rapid turn of events, the German Bundestag’s budget committee has placed pressure on the German Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, to present a bill for recreational cannabis reform this year for passage by the end of 2022. 

If he fails, he will lose part of his ministerial budget.

The committee, now in negotiations over all parts of the government’s annual spend, decided to temporarily suspend public relations funds for the Department of Health if the recreational cannabis bill is not passed this year. Lauterbach had just announced his intention to introduce such a bill by summer rather than autumn. It is unclear which decision actually came first, but at this point, it is obvious that the Traffic Light Coalition has decided to prioritize a truly burning issue.

Regardless, this is a major move both nationally and globally when it comes to the legalization of cannabis. It is almost unprecedented as a pressure tactic in German politics (which are genteel by U.S. standards). Furthermore, despite all the bureaucratic delay on just about everything here, it is also very clear that when they want to, the German government can move quite quickly.

The American Congress (particularly the Senate side of the Hill) should take note.

It is not like holding major issues hostage over budget agreements is an unknown tactic in Washington. It’s just nobody has been desperate enough, or incentivized enough, to use it for cannabis reform before.

The Germans are Coming

The amount of excitement on the German side of the discussion is absolutely building, daily. Deals are being made, even in the preliminary handshake form and plans are going ahead for all kinds of projects.

The fact that recreational reform is now essentially on the legislative docket begins to also firm up realistic estimates of market start. It is unlikely that anyone will allow the market to begin before the last two quarters of 2023. More likely, market start will be scheduled for the first or second quarter of 2024. Decriminalization, however, may happen a bit faster than this.

There are, of course, many considerations to all of this—not the least of which is administration and paperwork creation (hopefully this time via efficient, non-crashing digitized processes) for getting a move on.

The fact that this is coming now is also very interesting, considering that digitalization of German healthcare is also one of the issues Lauterbach has also been tasked to advance. This alone is an onerous discussion for a system which still routinely utilizes fax machines. Using cannabis as a way to speed up the digitalization of the healthcare system that touches it is a smart move. Even smarter if, again as part of this package of reforms, it relieves a burden on insurance companies on the reimbursement front.

German healthcare is going through a massive budget crisis right now. Recreational cannabis reform would certainly begin to ease a bottleneck of issues. Starting with tax income. Of course, as many in the Bundestag know, the continued criminalization of people known as legitimate cannabis patients who the system cannot process and treat fast enough is also an increasingly lightning rod kind of issue. Waiting times for a new appointment for either a neurologist or orthopaedist are at minimum, three to five months, even in large cities like Frankfurt right now. Whether such doctors decide to prescribe cannabis, or the patient’s insurer will cover it, are two different questions.

Recreational cannabis reform will go a long way to relieving some of the pressure, bureaucratically, politically, and administratively. Not to mention financially.

The Significance

The fact that Germany seems to be fast-tracking cannabis reform, and further under such circumstances will hopefully be a wake-up call to the rest of the world. Starting of course, with the United States.

Beyond this the impact will be felt almost instantly across Europe. Of course, there will be more conservative states which slow down reform. Newly re-elected Emmanuel Macron swore that he would not legalize recreational use while in office. Then again, the savvy French leader is a politician who recognizes which way the wind is blowing. And on this one, it has a nice, European-wide unifying effect.

Portugal, Luxembourg, and potentially Spain may also move quickly now to start to create export crops and products for a very lucrative and hungry market. Greece is having a field day.

What will be allowed to travel where is going to be an interesting discussion, as will the ability of what grade of cannabis will be allowed to cross borders. The first recreational market may in fact happen with German grown cannabis first. That would set up the current medical cultivation bid holders with a huge (and unfair) advantage. It would also potentially give Cansativa an unbelievably unfair edge (if not addressed pronto)—namely they currently hold the monopoly distribution position, granted by BfArM, for all German cannabis of medical grade at least, grown in Germany.

That is going to have to be addressed, pronto. Otherwise, there will be marches in the streets. Given the pressure and thus speed Lauterbach is now under (and given who has the lion’s share of access to his ears on this issue) it is very likely that a lot of issues (and people) will be thrown under the bus for the benefit of the rich, white, men’s club now attempting to exert their brand of control over the conversation even now.

The other discussion that is also coming fast is home grow. 

No matter the particulars (for example, keeping all foreign GACP high THC cannabis out of Germany for a certain period of time), or what is likely to unfold, reform is clearly coming, and fast, to Germany.

How it will be appropriated, tweaked, and amended is anyone’s guess. But the levers are now clearly moving, with a very incentivizing twist, to make Germany, the largest economy in Europe, into one of the most important cannabis markets in the world.

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Is Recreational Cannabis Reform Coming to Ecuador?

About 500 people staged a peaceful march through Quito, the capital of Ecuador last week, demanding that authorities decriminalize cannabis for recreational purposes, and further to allow public consumption.

Many attendees at the march were smoking cannabis openly. This an act of courage no matter where you are on the planet, not to mention a dangerous proposition anywhere—even as a patient—as pro-legalization demonstrators in Melbourne found out recently. 

In Ecuador, possession of up to 10 grams has been decriminalized, although authorities can charge one with a crime if found with even 1 gram of cannabis. This is highly controversial because the local police do not carry scales. The decision to charge, in other words, is entirely up to the officer at the scene.

Beyond this, according to the 2008 Constitution of Ecuador, Article 364 states that drug consumption is not a crime—rather, a health concern. Further, medical cannabis was legalized here by the National Assembly of Ecuador in September 2019. In fact, federally regulated medical cannabis production just kicked off in March of this year.

There is a reason people are taking to the streets demanding further cannabis reform this spring—and it is not just limited to this Latin American country. Marches have been held all over the world (even after 420), demanding that cannabis be fully and finally normalized and legalized. In Germany, for example, much like Ecuador, medical use is “legal,” and the country is cultivating medical cannabis. However, just like in Ecuador, patients and recreational users can be charged with a crime at the whim of the police.

This is a situation that is intolerable everywhere simply because of the massive injustice it creates—not to mention the continual criminalization of large segments of the population for a “crime” that is rapidly disappearing.

Ecuador is a country of 16.8 million people, located on the northwest coast of South America and bordering both Columbia and Peru. Once upon a time, Ecuador put itself on the map exporting “Panama hats” to manual laborers working on the Panama Canal and other agricultural work.

More recently, the country is a major exporter of petroleum—and has an increasing profile as a tourist destination. This is in no small part due to its stunning geography. Located on the Ring of Fire—a horseshoe shaped seismically active belt of earthquake epicentres, the country has three distinct regions consisting of coastal, highland, and piedmont zones. It straddles the Andes Mountains and occupies part of the Amazon basin. Offshore, it also includes the Galapagos Islands.

Unlike other Central and South American countries, Ecuador has taken the step of implementing medical cultivation. Now its citizens demand the right to consume the drug for whatever reason.

That logic is pretty global right now. 

The question is, when will authorities catch up?

The Privatization of Medical Cures

Tragically, what the situation in Ecuador illustrates in spades is that the medicalization of the cannabis plant, although overdue, is creating two levels of “legalization.”

The first, usually described as “medical reform” places regulations on who may cultivate, distribute, sell, and ultimately consume the plant. It increasingly means, at least in north-south terms, that the production country can still prosecute its citizens for both medical and recreational use, while pricing it out of the reach of everyday people.

This is a problem even in developed economies. Indeed, it seems to be one of the issues that is finally driving the German government to begin focusing on recreational reform.

The bottom line is that when a country begins cultivation—even for medical purposes—but insists on criminalizing everyone without a license who may grow or use it, the days of criminalization are numbered.

And while the certification of both the medical and recreational industry is a long overdue development, there are plenty of casualties along the way, no matter where you are on the planet.

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Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority

It is not just German lawmakers who are suddenly deciding that cannabis reform should be top of the political agenda this year; in Argentina, an agreement between the ruling party and the opposition will now put at least medical cannabis reform on the docket.

The Chamber of Deputies (which has only met once so far this year) has now agreed to not only meet but to further discuss cannabis reform when they do. The bill on the table will include regulations to create a framework for the development of a medical cannabis and industrial hemp industry.

This is a development that has now been pending since July of last year when, after being proposed by the national government, it was subsequently blocked by the opposition over a lack of agreement on the particulars. 

This, of course, is far from an unusual situation—see the state of federal reform in the U.S. right now for exactly the same reason. 

The Post-COVID Political Cannabis Football

Argentina, in fact, is joining both the U.S. and Germany in prioritizing federal cannabis reform this year, no matter the delays and stutters along the way. Just this week, the German press began reporting that government leaders, including the Minister of Health, were changing their tune on the need to move forward on some kind of recreational cannabis reform by this summer.

Cannabis normalization has actually been cooking slowly in Argentina since 2009, when the Supreme Court decriminalized cannabis for personal use in private. In 2017, at approximately the same time Germany decided to mandate public health insurance coverage of medical cannabis, the Argentine Senate approved the medical use of cannabis oil. In 2020 home cultivation was also approved.

Countries are clearly watching each other right now on progressing the entire reform issue—no matter where they are in the process of cannabis acceptance. For this reason, the proximate announcements in national legislatures now coming from all over the world appear to be a global trend. Legalization, if not normalization, is also highly likely to show up in other countries now coming out of the pandemic where political leaders desperately need to find both development projects with credible prospects of creating jobs, tax revenue, and potentially also have positive environmental impact. 

Cannabis legalization is a popular reform everywhere. Supporting the same gives credibility to a political process that itself is challenged if not deadlocked in partisan fights in multiple countries. Consideration of this issue, as well as passage of legalization legislation, not only gives such leaders credibility but represents something that they might actually be able to accomplish.

The End of the Latin American Drug War

The recent indications by multiple countries in both Central and South America that they are going to cultivate the growth of this industry (or are considering it) is a sea change that cannot be underestimated. The South American hemisphere was the top target of the U.S. from the 1970s until well into this century for a hot war that was never labelled as such but took many casualties.

Indeed, Uruguay, the first country in the world to declare that it would allow recreational reform, was blackmailed by the U.S. banking system for years after 2013 to slow down its internal development of the industry.

These days, that conversation is clearly not taking place, although federal reform (of any sort, let alone of the recreational kind) again seems to be destined to stall in the U.S. Congress.

Argentina certainly seems to be positioning itself on this issue as developments occur in both the U.S. and Germany (for starters). That makes a great deal of sense. Both countries are ideal export markets for a product that Argentina is well developed to deliver as a high value export crop in both hemispheres.

The post Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority appeared first on High Times.

Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority

It is not just German lawmakers who are suddenly deciding that cannabis reform should be top of the political agenda this year; in Argentina, an agreement between the ruling party and the opposition will now put at least medical cannabis reform on the docket.

The Chamber of Deputies (which has only met once so far this year) has now agreed to not only meet but to further discuss cannabis reform when they do. The bill on the table will include regulations to create a framework for the development of a medical cannabis and industrial hemp industry.

This is a development that has now been pending since July of last year when, after being proposed by the national government, it was subsequently blocked by the opposition over a lack of agreement on the particulars. 

This, of course, is far from an unusual situation—see the state of federal reform in the U.S. right now for exactly the same reason. 

The Post-COVID Political Cannabis Football

Argentina, in fact, is joining both the U.S. and Germany in prioritizing federal cannabis reform this year, no matter the delays and stutters along the way. Just this week, the German press began reporting that government leaders, including the Minister of Health, were changing their tune on the need to move forward on some kind of recreational cannabis reform by this summer.

Cannabis normalization has actually been cooking slowly in Argentina since 2009, when the Supreme Court decriminalized cannabis for personal use in private. In 2017, at approximately the same time Germany decided to mandate public health insurance coverage of medical cannabis, the Argentine Senate approved the medical use of cannabis oil. In 2020 home cultivation was also approved.

Countries are clearly watching each other right now on progressing the entire reform issue—no matter where they are in the process of cannabis acceptance. For this reason, the proximate announcements in national legislatures now coming from all over the world appear to be a global trend. Legalization, if not normalization, is also highly likely to show up in other countries now coming out of the pandemic where political leaders desperately need to find both development projects with credible prospects of creating jobs, tax revenue, and potentially also have positive environmental impact. 

Cannabis legalization is a popular reform everywhere. Supporting the same gives credibility to a political process that itself is challenged if not deadlocked in partisan fights in multiple countries. Consideration of this issue, as well as passage of legalization legislation, not only gives such leaders credibility but represents something that they might actually be able to accomplish.

The End of the Latin American Drug War

The recent indications by multiple countries in both Central and South America that they are going to cultivate the growth of this industry (or are considering it) is a sea change that cannot be underestimated. The South American hemisphere was the top target of the U.S. from the 1970s until well into this century for a hot war that was never labelled as such but took many casualties.

Indeed, Uruguay, the first country in the world to declare that it would allow recreational reform, was blackmailed by the U.S. banking system for years after 2013 to slow down its internal development of the industry.

These days, that conversation is clearly not taking place, although federal reform (of any sort, let alone of the recreational kind) again seems to be destined to stall in the U.S. Congress.

Argentina certainly seems to be positioning itself on this issue as developments occur in both the U.S. and Germany (for starters). That makes a great deal of sense. Both countries are ideal export markets for a product that Argentina is well developed to deliver as a high value export crop in both hemispheres.

The post Argentina Makes Medical Cannabis Reform a National Priority appeared first on High Times.

Malawi Joins Zimbabwe in Switching from Cultivating Tobacco to Cannabis

Malawi has just followed Zimbabwe in reaffirming an intended agricultural switch from tobacco to cannabis. Both countries are doing so for economic survival as the long-term viability of tobacco is giving way to another crop entirely.

There are several interesting aspects to this trend beyond the transition to greener and more sustainable economies post-COVID. It has long been accepted that the cannabis legalization revolution would start to spread like wildfire once there were a couple of regions or countries that took the plunge. This phenomenon can be clearly seen within the domestic United States as more and more states move towards legalizing both medical and recreational use of the drug. While it is a mantra also repeated by those who wish to stymie reform, there is little anyone can do to stop what appears to be an escalating global trend.

Recently, however, as of the last month, this phenomenon is going global and involving whole regions. In Central America, for example, both Honduras and Nicaragua just declared their interest in at least examining cannabis cultivation within a matter of weeks. 

So have Zimbabwe and Malawi.

In Africa, this is far more interesting just because of viability—as well as the momentum South Africa is clearly creating throughout the region, if not the entire continent. By declaring that cannabis is an important tool of economic development, they are clearly upping the stakes. In South Africa, officials have begun planning work on a so-called “cannabis hub” that will focus on everything from medical cultivation to phytoremediation. That is clearly influencing other countries regionally.

Both Malawi and Zimbabwe first announced that they were beginning to move from tobacco to cannabis cultivation during the pandemic. Now, such intent seems to be kicking into higher gear in both countries, as South Africa initiates a global call for participants in their ambitious project.

Like Zimbabwe, Malawi earns the vast majority of its foreign income from tobacco—in the case of the latter, contributing to over 60% of its economy. According to President Lazarus Chakwera, cannabis could be just the “exit strategy” from tobacco that the country needs. 

The country does not border either South Africa or Zimbabwe but sits just north of them and shares a common border with Mozambique (where cannabis is still illegal).

What this Means Regionally and Globally

The fact that cannabis reform is being increasingly touted as a form of development as well as foreign investment in multiple countries in Africa at this point (see also Morocco) is an interesting twist for several reasons beyond the issue of reform itself.

The first is that geopolitically, this strategic focus will attract more Western than Chinese capital. China has been a huge investor in the African continent for much of this century, investing in roads and other major infrastructure desperately needed here. Yet cannabis reform is clearly off the political table in China proper. While the country remains the world’s largest producer of hemp, it remains a crime to even possess hemp seeds on an individual basis. Southern Africa’s new interest in cannabis, for this reason, is unlikely to attract Chinese interest—but it certainly is garnering a lot of attention in the West.

Beyond geopolitical issues, the reality remains that the consumption of cannabis is growing globally—and for industrial, medical, and recreational purposes. Yet, as seen clearly in Europe, the expense of the regulated market is still contributing to high prices that both insurers and consumers don’t want to pay. A strong African cannabis market will play a huge role in bringing down this cost—just as it did for tobacco.

This does not, of course, mean that this new focus is a panacea—in Africa, South or Central America—or even western countries like Greece who have had the same idea.

However, what this new interest in cannabis as a form of both economic development if not environmental remediation seems to signify is that the world is moving towards legalization because of an inevitability that now cannot be held back or stopped. 

It is also a clear sign that the era of Prohibition is crumbling—and not just country by country, but now by regions.

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Nepal, Former Hashish Haven, Could End Prohibition After 50 Years

Home to legendary Royal Nepalese temple hashish balls and other exotic delicacies, Nepal could soon return to its former glory, with new legislation to legalize cannabis and new intentions. Nepal’s pool of cannabis advocates now include people living with HIV and other conditions who not only want cannabis, but need it.

Nepal’s top officials signaled that legislation is underway to repeal Nepal’s ban on cannabis.

“It is not justifiable that a poor country like ours has to treat cannabis as a drug,” Nepal’s Health Minister Birodh Khatiwada told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on April 29. “Our people are being punished … and our corruption increases because of smuggling as we follow decisions of developed countries that are now doing as they please.”

That’s not the only reason for cannabis reform in Nepal. Just like any other country, a growing body of advocates are turning to cannabis for its healing properties above anything else.

“It is a medicine,” said cannabis activist Rajiv Kafle, who is living with HIV, and uses cannabis for medical reasons. HIV can lead to wasting syndrome, which is the loss of appetite. One of cannabis’s most prominent side effects is the munchies, being a powerful appetite-inducer.

“So many patients are using it, but they are forced to do it illegally,” Kafle said. “They can get caught anytime.” The Associated Press reported on October 11, 2021 that campaigners introduced a bill in Parliament, seeking to again legalize the farming, use, and export of cannabis as more countries allow its medicinal and recreational use.

Kafle was among the top advocates beating the drum of cannabis reform in Nepal. It’s a reminder of how HIV was a driving force for the first statewide medical cannabis laws in the U.S. as well.

Hashish Haven in Kathmandu

In the ‘60s and through today, many accounts detail how the most avid hippies made their way to Kathmandu, Nepal to buy the world’s most potent hash. Hash could be easily found from government-licensed stores on “Freak Street.” Most people who tried temple balls say they’ve “never forgotten” the experience. But due to increasing pressure from the U.S. and other countries, Nepal closed its hashish dealers in 1973.

Former High Times news editor Bill Weinberg reported on the city extensively, explaining that even after the 1973 ban, hashish trade continued to flourish for a time. In 2018 however, a crackdown on Nepalese temple hashish put a damper on hashish trade.

According to local press, backpackers from the West are still traveling to Nepal to buy hashish in back alleys—while the country isn’t getting a piece of it in the form of taxes, etc. To make things worse, smuggling and corruption are reportedly a big problem in the area.

In December 2020 Nepal backed a successful campaign when the United Nations reclassified cannabis out of its list of the world’s most harmful drugs.

Furthermore, there is hardly any way to separate cannabis from religion in the region. Cannabis use at Hindu temples is commonplace. For instance, Shiva, destroyer of evil, is often depicted holding a chillum to smoke. That’s why you’ll see temples such as Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath Temple offer ceremonies with holy men and worshippers who fill their own chillums with Shiva’s “gift”.

But it’s the same temple complex that was raided in 2018, when 280 people were arrested and 115 criminally charged. There’s a clear disconnect between religion and law.

Royal Nepalese temple hashish balls are said to yield indescribable taste and potency that cannot be matched by people in the West. Ed Rosenthal called it the Holy Grail of concentrates.

Thousands of pilgrims converge on Nepalese temples for the Hindu festival of Shivaratri each year, and cannabis is a holy sacrament.

With the new movement in legislation to end the ban on cannabis in Nepal, it’s a unique place in the world where religion meets cannabis.

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President’s Son Suggests Cannabis Legalization in Nicaragua

If this were the 1980s, an attack and then parry in response between two countries in Central America—specifically Nicaragua and Honduras—would be nothing of note. The aforementioned plus neighbouring country, El Salvador, was the site of a bloody battle known as Iran Contra back in the day.

The “elevator high pitch” for those that missed it was that it was, from a North American perspective anyway, kind of like Vietnam, The Eighties version, with a few hemispheric twists. It also gave rise to loads of action movies set slightly south of Mexico’s border and featuring actors who appeared in such immortal titles, half clothed, with ripped bodies of all genders, endless ammunition, and a great deal of violence in and to a lot of delicate and hard to replace vegetation. Not to mention human lives.

As with most such skirmishes, as well as Cold Wars that turn hot, it was bloody, and there were issues on all sides, although “atrocity” of the human rights kind happened less on the Nicaraguan one. Internationally, the conflict came to represent which political side you were on. The Contras were supported, including illegally and covertly, under the Reagan Administration, in part by highly “creative” and illegal deals for drugs. Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua’s current president, led the resistance in his country and survived to have grown children and to lead the country by winning a democratic election.

Here is the modern update. In this unique and unprecedented piece of cannabis legalization history, one of Ortega’s sons has now announced that the normalization of cannabis should be “discussed” at the federal level.

There are many ironies to this story beyond the father-son theme. Both sides in the war in El Salvador and Nicaragua were accused of illegal drug running to raise cash to fund what was in effect a regional civil war. The Russians may have not so covertly funded Ortega, but nobody in Soviet nosebleed political levels got called on a congressional carpet for corrupt and criminal behaviour of the drugs, or swapping drugs for arms. On the “other” side, see Oliver North. Case closed.

For cannabis legalization to now erupt not only in Honduras, as it did this week, but Nicaragua as well, speaks volumes about where the international direction of the old Drug War, if not the new one, is headed.

Race To the Bottom

As has been widely predicted since Uruguay’s recreational step nine years ago, it was only a matter of time before cannabis reform began to drastically change economies (for good and for bad). While yes, the climate in this region of the world is “perfect” for cannabis, it is also equally if not more important for rapidly disappearing, highly biodiverse places called rainforests.

Outdoor cultivation, as has been discussed as an option in Honduras, would, in almost all probability, lead to a new rash of deforestation. 

The same is true in Nicaragua—although there is one stark contrast to what is going on across the border in the other “left-leaning” government now in power in Honduras. Here, the country’s first female president, with a last name of Castro, is currently hearing conflicting advice on the issue from her husband (also a former president) and her vice president, a former CEO of Honduras Pepsi also known endearingly (or not) as El señor de la Television, aka the more traditional media version of Elon Musk, at least in his immediate, localized geography.

In Nicaragua, Juan Carlos Ortega Murillo, plus the son of Vice president Rosario Murillo, have publicly claimed that their version of legalization would have to include provisions for the welfare of citizens. This would mean that the government believes that a fully regulated industry is possible in the first place. 

Agricultural Self-Sufficiency

The other interesting point raised was whether production of cannabis would overtake more important crops for the sake of the security of the country—namely self-sufficient food cultivation. Food sovereignty is an important mantra of the government here—as it may well become in other places as the war in Ukraine raises global prices on grain and certain kinds of cooking oil.

These are exceedingly difficult questions in a part of the world where such deeply-seated economic problems cannot be answered lightly. And while the discussion has taken other forms in North America, not entirely absent from the debate in the U.S. or Canada either. That starts with the level of energy required to keep indoor pot farms going, as well as water in certain states, starting with California.

Of course, there is almost no way that anyone could completely control a small farmer who grows a micro garden of cannabis for personal, family use (anywhere for that matter). Medical (or recreational) cannabis use is not something that should be forbidden to the poor as it is in many western economies right now.

However, this is a slightly different discussion. Large scale illegal cultivations in the rainforests do more damage in both the short and long term than almost anywhere else in the world. There are rapidly shrinking patches of rainforest on the earth, and cannabis, for all its amazing qualities, should not be responsible for wiping out biodiversity. Even of itself.

That such questions are being raised in the middle of a global mega crisis, and by nations in this part of the world with a tragic track record so far, is notable—and rather historically apropos.

Perhaps there are ruderalis species in both countries that might dissuade the disenfranchised and the criminal to use virgin land and other precious resources to support either a legal or illegal trade. But that argument, sadly, has repeatedly lost before.

Towards A Globally, Environmentally Sustainable Footprint?

Unlike any other place on the planet right now, the battle over reform in Central and Latin America has now begun to place tough questions in a stronger and more central limelight that the global industry so far has largely avoided.

Cannabis legalization, of course, is an overdue, global emergency. But no matter how urgent, it is critical, particularly at this juncture, that whole countries do not ruin their environments or economies for the production of a plant that is becoming rapidly commoditized all over the world.

Plenty of trade and much hotter kinds of wars (Ukraine anyone?) have been fought over equally precious resources. Cannabis, no matter its other healing properties, should not be one of them.

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Italian City of Bologna Supports Recreational Cannabis Reform

Four city counsellors in the Italian city of Bologna have come forward in support of recreational cannabis reform for their municipality.

In this central, northern city known for its historical infrastructure dating back to medieval times, the goal is to continue the debate about cannabis reform on a local level to keep political pressure alive—and to figure out basic logistics. In Bologna, the current suggestion is that initial recreational access happens through the city’s pharmacies (much like the Swiss model rolling out this summer just across the border).

The Current Legalization Status of Italy

The country is moving forward on reform in ways that are similar but not a carbon copy of any other European country at the moment.

“Medical cannabis” with high THC is produced at the Military Pharmaceutical Chemical plant (located in Florence) and also imported via strict pharmaceutically defined channels. 

Private vendors (Aurora) actually operate the domestic cannabis facilities, but it is a high-security environment.

Home grow is also not strictly legit, although case precedent has essentially decriminalized it for patients who can prove they are sick. That still does not protect them from police raids, but at least there is a growing awareness that this issue cannot be entirely removed from the room.

Beyond this, hemp and low THC, aka “cannabis light,” is also legal in the country (formally) putting Italy on par with the UK rather than, say, Germany in this regard right now although there is a growing CBD market in Germany. Vendors just have to prepare themselves for the ever-present threat of a criminal charge. There are currently 200 pending prosecutions against only CBD establishments. That phenomenon is not being seen in Italy where low THC products are available at specialized stores and via online sales.

There has been a petition drive to legalize recreational use that was snuffed out at the Constitutional court lately, but it is not likely that reform will go away now, anywhere, at a federal level in Europe.

In the meantime, cities like Bologna and before it, Milan (as of February) are trying to approach the issue on a more localized level. And as in this case, in a semi-coordinated effort unseen so far yet in any European country. Specifically, the Milanese attempt was referenced favorably in Bologna as ministers raised the topic.

It’s spreading.

Why the Italian Market is Important to European Reform

Just as in the American states, European countries are now trying to figure out how to venture into the shallow end of the cannabis recreational kiddie pool. Nobody wants to jump in at the deep end. This is also one of the reasons that the Swiss experiment is so important here, too. However limited, it shows that a country in Europe can have a national cannabis trial, and the proverbial sky will not fall in.

There are also multiple signs here that the hemp cultivation sector is moving ahead—including for phytoremediation purposes.

Beyond these developments, the country already represents a valuable CBD marketplace for cannabis imports. There are many Swiss vendors looking at the commercial opportunities in both France and Italy right now for this very reason.

Beyond this, no matter how much the police, government ministers and certainly the legitimate industry does not like this conversation, home grow cannot continue to be penalized with federal criminal charges—especially for people with severe illnesses.

This has been established in Italy via court precedent, unlike Germany, and beyond this, legislation allowing the same has either passed, will do so, or is generically the case in Malta, Portugal, and Holland.

On the medical side of the discussion, the only place where THC is allowed presently, Italy, like Germany, has tried to integrate the plant and its psychoactive cannabinoid into normalized medical channels. Thus, the military base requirement for the EU GMP flower grown domestically. 

The recent squashing of a petition to hold a national referendum here also puts Italy in interesting territory via its neighbors. In Germany, there is a professor who has called for a national referendum on the rec reform issue (knowing also that the German Basic Law itself would have to be changed first to allow such a petition at all). This is nothing more than a cynical move to slow the entire conversation down as long as possible. In Italy, the Constitutional Court has struck down the first petition allowing for such a mandate to occur, but it is not likely that this setback will deter the growing sector here, much less allow federal politicians to continue to kick the can down the road much longer in any tangible way.

This interesting city-by-city relay system amongst northern Italian cities is yet another sign that progress will not be halted here.

As they say in these parts, Rome after all, was not built in a day.

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The Battle for Cannabis Legalization Is On in Honduras

According to Salvador Nasralla, known locally as El señor de la television, legalizing cannabis would create at least 17,000 jobs in Honduras and go a long way in addressing the chronically high level of unemployment in the country.

Honduras is bordered by Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. The country’s history has been frequently defined by the bloody and terrible conquests on its soil that have included the eradication of the local Maya by the first invaders (the Spanish). Honduras also became one of the locations of the United and Standard Fruit companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, giving rise to the writer O. Henry’s infamous description of the country as a “banana republic.” American troops have invaded the country multiple times including during the 1980’s during the war between El Salvador and Nicaragua.

For this reason, it is even more ironic that cannabis reform, proposed as a solution to help the mostly agricultural population of the country, might be opposed by anyone in the administration of the current president (the first woman to hold the office), the left-leaning Xiomara Castro, or her husband, Manuel Zelaya. Castro was sworn in on January 27, 2022, filling a job that Zelaya held between 2006 and 2009.

However, that is the battle that is currently raging over cannabis reform.

Nasralla, proponent of the cannabis reform proposal now in front of the government, is the first vice president of the country, appointed by Castro. He is also the former CEO of Pepsi Honduras. He has been a fierce critic of sitting governments here since the 1980s, citing corruption as one of the main reasons Honduras is in such dire economic circumstances today.

His cannabis proposal, however, has attracted the ire of Castro’s husband, Zelaya, who recently said, “We do not support the idea of starting to plant drugs as has been proposed. The president of Honduras (his wife) has made the firm decision to combat drug trafficking and will combat its consumption,” he told local media. “If there is drug trafficking, there are drug traffickers and if there are drugs, then there are consumers, so that must be eradicated from the country.” 

Since Zelaya is also a presidential advisor, it would seem that the current cannabis reform proposal by the country’s new Veep may cause a bit of marital strife.

A “Cannabis Republic”?

What makes this contretemps so interesting is not only the politics but the motivation of all involved. 

This is a fight essentially over not only living standards but a country’s legacy. There are currently 350,000 Hondurans out of work, and 2.4 million are underemployed. That is a significant percent of the population in a country with almost 10 million people. Merely employing them in the cannabis industry is not necessarily the answer to the country’s problems.

Here is the first reason why. Many developing countries are moving rapidly into the cannabis industry with similar hopes. See the many African nations who have announced they are on the same trajectory, if not Latin American countries. Honduras would be competing with such efforts and is already behind.

Beyond this, however, there are other considerations. Exporting bananas and other tropical fruit in the past did nothing except support the profits of large, non-Honduran companies as well as cemented their noted anti-democratic control of the country for many decades.

A Continuation of The Status Quo?

Beyond these considerations, the most valuable cannabis currently available in the global market is not grown outside, as has been proposed by Nasralla, but rather inside. Building a competitive export cannabis crop here means that Honduras would have to find places to erect such structures and build the infrastructure necessary to support indoor cultivation. That means capital investment that the country clearly does not have. It would have to come from foreign companies—just like in the past. The ”united” fruit companies of yore were owned by North American investors who cared only about profits, not the welfare of the indigenous population.

For this reason alone, “cannabis reform” here may in fact spell bad news. 

Beyond these problems, there is the environmental impact of outdoor cultivation itself, very similar to the situation in Brazil. Both countries have fragile, rainforest environs that are disappearing fast thanks to the invasions of both landless farmers and illegal drug traffickers.

Because of the destruction of its rainforest, beyond international culprits also responsible for global warming more generally, Honduras is also one of the countries most at risk from climate change. The frequency of natural disasters in the country, including floods, mudslides, tropical storms, and hurricanes, is already increasing dramatically. This scenario is hardly ideal for any kind of commercial cultivation, no matter the environs or the crop.

Driving “illegal” traffickers out of the country will also take more than legalizing the cannabis trade—and there is no guarantee that the legal cannabis industry here will be any more climate-friendly.

Such a scenario is also complicated by one more large problem. Local sources have long claimed that previous governments have participated actively in illicit drug trafficking and cattle ranching along with illegal logging of both mahogany and cedar.

The question is, will the current government, many of whose leaders have campaigned against government corruption in the past, find a sustainable way through the morass of contradictions now afloat in the legalization debate?

Cannabis legalization is an urgent global reform way past its due date. However, cannabis reform just by itself, it is clear, is not a panacea for deeply entrenched issues that frequently surround it in many countries now considering the same.

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Is Cannabis Legalization Moving Forward in Taiwan?

No matter how slowly cannabis reform is moving in the West, there is one place where cannabis reform is moving at an even more tortoise-like pace: China and its territories, including the island of Taiwan. Merely smoking cannabis can land a user a jail term. Selling it can garner a life sentence. This even includes hemp.

The slow track of reform here is not because there are no advocates pressing for reform. Indeed, cannabis legalization efforts are gaining momentum, including marches and reform rallies. This includes a demonstration outside of the Ministry of Justice in Taipei this month by the advocacy group Green Sensation—although organizers were pressured by police—several times—to disperse. A new effort to try to crystalize political support by the group has now managed to obtain 14,000 signatures

This reform effort is also not happening in a vacuum. The Taiwanese legislature just passed a law reducing the penalty for cannabis cultivation for personal use from a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment to one, with a maximum of seven years. 

It is hard not to see why. The most abused drugs here are amphetamines.

Cannabis Reform in China

While cannabis reform has been slow to gain traction in Asia, there are signs that this is now slowly changing. Thailand, for example, has just decriminalized cannabis use and is forging ahead with a medical cultivation program. Even recreational use here is not off the table.

However, despite this “Asian Miracle,” China and its territories remain the last great uncharted territory for reform. On the Chinese mainland, even hemp seeds and CBD skincare products are banned—despite the fact that China remains the world’s largest hemp-cultivating country—producing about half of the world’s entire supply. 

China classified cannabis as a dangerous narcotic drug as of 1985.

This has not always been the case. Historically, cannabis has been used for medicine and some ritual purposes of Taoism. The word ma, used to describe medical cannabis circa 2700 BCE is the oldest recorded name for the hemp plant. The earliest recorded human cultivation of cannabis was actually found on Taiwan.

During the 19th century, the Xinjiang province of China was a major producer and exporter of hash. Tons were exported annually to British India legally until 1934.

Yet, as of 2020, when the UN voted to remove cannabis from its global schedule IV listing, China joined the United States in opposing the removal of the plant from Schedule I designation. 

“Science” Vs. Fact

The continuing resistance to cannabis reform by the world’s largest countries even after the scientific advances over the last 40 years—including identification of the endocannabinoid system of the body—may well, in retrospect, go down in history as one of the world’s last great unscientifically-based witch hunts. The Cannabinoid “Dark Ages” as it were.

So far, Canada remains the only G7 country to have federally legalized the drug. Germany or the United States may become the second or third countries respectively to do so, but as is clear in both countries, despite large numbers of citizens supporting such change, and even promises to proceed with reform, the issue remains stalled due to political inaction on a federal level.

China may punish users harshly, in other words, but it is continuing to do so in line with other great power countries. Cannabis remains illegal in Russia too.

Constitutional Rights are Being Violated Everywhere

There is only one way to fight injustice—and that is to organize. However, even the greatest movements for freedom and equality took decades. The formal “civil rights” movement is frequently cited as lasting from 1919 to the end of the 1960s—over 40 years. Some would argue that it is not over yet.

That is about the same amount of time, so far, that activists and reformers have been pushing against international sanctions against cannabis—even for medical use.

While it is very clear that reform can no longer be ignored anywhere, it is also clear that the entrenched forces of the status quo are deliberately delaying a global decision to move forward on both a scientific, as well as civil liberties, basis to enact complete and final cannabis reform.

Until then, being a cannabis activist, advocate, or in many cases, part of the legitimate industry, remains a highly hazardous enterprise.

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