With marijuana legalization in full effect in Colorado and Washington State and Uruguay quietly becoming the first country to legalize marijuana at the end of 2013, a pattern of shifting marijuana policy has emerged in countries around the world.
A Supreme Court ruling in 2009 decriminalized personal possession of marijuana thanks to a passage in Argentina’s constitution that protects private actions that don’t harm other people. (Where's this in America's constitution?) Since then, politicians and lobbyists alike have called for a reexamination of the country’s marijuana laws to the effect of anything from total decriminalization to complete legalization.
Personal drug use is not punishable in Brazil, however transportation and trafficking are. There has been some debate and confusion over what quantity of drugs is acceptable for personal use and what would constitute trafficking. However, former President Fernando Cardoso recently took a stand on the side of decriminalization of all drugs and experimentation with federal drug regulation.
Although drug use and possession is still criminalized in Guatemala, the country remains continuously used and tainted by rampant drug trafficking in neighboring Mexico. President Perez Molina recently voiced his opinion to the U.N. that the war on drugs was a failed strategy. He also praised the legalization experiments in Colorado and Washington, as well as Obama’s decision to let them go forward.
Although Jamaica is even more closely associated with marijuana than Willie Nelson, possession and use are still illegal and usually punished by the defendant paying a small fine, though jail time is possible and the offense often goes on permanent record, which can hurt the defendant's future job prospects. However, with the recent moves in the U.S. and Uruguay, activists are more hopeful than ever to legalize the island’s signature herb.
Although small amounts of marijuana and other drugs have been decriminalized in Mexico since 2009, this country is still the hardest hit by drug war violence with tens of thousands killed and countless lives ruined. Thanks to imposed fear and corruption by the cartels, there has been no major push to legalize or regulate marijuana since it would cut into their illegal businesses. However, Mexico City has recently introduced a measure allowing stores to sell up to 5 grams of marijuana. Whether or not this will stand, pass, or even make a difference remains to be seen.
Although Morocco is one of the world’s largest hashish producers, chances of legalization in this ultra-conservative country remain slim. Hashish farmers currently live at the mercy of drug cartels and police attempts to eradicate the technically illegal plant, however two major political parties are rallying to legalize cultivation for medicinal and industrial purposes, which would aid the farmer and country alike.
The Netherlands is famous for its long-lasting liberal marijuana laws, enticing college kids in Pink Floyd shirts for decades into their smoky “coffeeshops.” Surprisingly, marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, though some cities like Amsterdam simply refuse to acknowledge this, much like San Francisco’s long history of ignoring federal anti-gay marriage laws. Recently major cities across the Netherlands have been calling for total legalization of marijuana cultivation. If any country has hope for more liberal marijuana legislation, it’s this one.
In spite of recent drug reform legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington state and the acknowledgment of this at the federal level, the U.S. is historically the biggest player in its tragically failed war on drugs. For years the U.S. has forced other nations to comply with its drug war laws or risk losing foreign aid, while simultaneously being hands-down the biggest consumer of all the drugs our federal policy so abhors. At least our evolving legislation and support from the Obama administration has set us on a better, less violent, less hypocritical path in hope of a brighter, more enlightened future.
Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana and approve federal regulation in December 2013. President Jose Mujica said the government hopes this will banish drug traffickers and cartels from the marijuana industry and create a safe, regulated environment in which Uruguayan adults can purchase, grow, and consume marijuana. Respect to Uruguay for being the first country to take this revolutionary step.
Thanks to The Huffington Post Marijuana for inspiration and research.