Let the flower Bloom: Cannabis policy

Written by Crystal M. Wilson

In recent years, the discourse on the supply, possession and use of cannabis has undergone a drastic change. With the change in the public’s attitude towards cannabis legalization, there has also been a gradual shift in policy around the world. This article delves into the recent trends in cannabis policy in different jurisdictions of the world.

International Policy

The United Nations Convention of 1961 laid down the international law prohibiting the supply and distribution of drugs. The Convention recognized as legal the medical use of narcotic drugs for the relief of pain and suffering.

In recent years, this law has been challenged on several grounds by scientific institutions. However, as of 2018, the UN is still keeping with its strict policy of prohibition of drug proliferation and non-medical use. It is unlikely that this approach will change in the near future.


European countries authorize certain cannabis-based medicines, however, smoking cannabis for medical purposes is prohibited. As of now, four EU countries have legal frameworks to govern the distribution and use of medical cannabis. It is also legal to cultivate cannabis to extract hemp fiber provided the THC levels in the plant are low. Besides this, possession and consumption of cannabis is punishable in the EU, however, the possibility of imprisonment varies from country to country depending upon the national law.

In Europe, cannabis practice is most peculiar in the Netherlands. Since the 1970’s, it evolved a regulated system of a limited supply of cannabis. Coffee shops are licensed by the municipality for the sale of cannabis although production, sale and possession are technically illegal under Dutch laws. This model is inherently anomalous although prevalent for nearly four decades. Another model called ‘cannabis social clubs’ has cropped up with the philosophy that the decision to not prosecute individuals for cannabis use can be applied to registered individuals to create a closed system of production and supply. However, this model is rejected by most EU countries.


In 2014, Uruguay legalized the cultivation of cannabis. In 2017, sales across the country were made legal. It must be noted that while the use of cannabis for recreational purposes was never illegal in the country, its cultivation and sale were forbidden. While this move has been heavily criticized by the UN, it has affected policy decisions around the world.

Uruguay keeps a strict set of laws for the possession and cultivation of cannabis thereby regulating both medical and recreational use of the drug.


Canada’s policy underwent a drastic change this year as it adopted a Bill on June 19, 2018, to fully legalize cannabis. It is the second country after Uruguay to do so and has come under the radar of the UN, as well, as this bold move is evidently in contravention of international laws. It is remains to be seen, however, how this violation is going to pan out.

Canada’s move makes possession, home-growing and sale of cannabis legal, in hopes to thwart the black market.

United States

The federal laws of the United States prohibit cannabis. Starting with California in 1996, 29 U.S. states have legalized medical cannabis. Doctors in these states can prescribe cannabis for conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, and opioid addiction. Patients with recommendations can obtain medical cards from the state which allows them to purchase cannabis for medical purposes, and may permit cultivation for private consumption. The rules on obtaining these cards differ from state to state. For example, to obtain a medical card in Florida, prospective patients must have a signed statement from a doctor registered with the State Registry of Medical Marijuana Use and must also be a legal resident of Florida. More information regarding these cards is available online.

Besides this, nine states along with Washington D.C. have legalized sale and possession of cannabis for recreational purposes since 2012. It should be noted that in Vermont and D.C., personal use is permitted while commercial sale is prohibited.

From the 21 states where cannabis is completely illegal, 13 states have decriminalized its possession.

Commercialization is the most used model among states where recreational cannabis is legal. This involves private businesses selling the drug for profit. However, other models like permitting home grow, social clubs and government supply are also used in a few states.


Cannabis policy around the world is undergoing slow and gradual change. While some countries have made recreational use of cannabis legal, they are at odds with the established international regime. Meanwhile, countries like the Netherlands and the U.S. are in a sort of grey area. The federal laws of the U.S. protect it from international criticism and with Trump’s strict regime, even liberal state laws may face a backlash.

Crystal Wilson has been closely studying the cannabis industry trends for quite some time. Intrigued by the booming growth of this sector, she takes interest in penning down her views providing quality insight on current marijuana trends, particularly medical cannabis.

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Crystal M. Wilson

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