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What is America Waiting For? There is Nothing to Fear From Legalization!

Lydia K. RN
american flags being waved

Here’s a rundown of the most relevant legalization strategies from around the globe. These are the movers and shakers of cannabis change.  Just, when will the U.S. follow suit?

A wave of cannabis legalization is sweeping across the globe. Health activists, patients, and cannabis enthusiasts are increasing pressure on governments to reverse harsh penalties on cannabis, for both medicinal and recreational use. After all, harmful drugs, such as alcohol and cigarettes, are fully legal in most countries around the world, why leave off cannabis? Especially since the latter has proven medicinal benefits?

Lately, it appears that the high walls are caving in and a good number of nations are giving this matter a fine consideration, the United States included.

Let’s take a look at countries that have made significant strides in the legalization of cannabis in the recent past.


This tiny South American nation was the global pace setter for the legalization of recreational cannabis. They laid down this milestone in 2013 in a bid to combat drug-related crime as well as health issues. Unfortunately, banks remain skeptical of handling cannabis accounts as the plant remains illegal in most other parts around the globe. This makes it difficult for producers and business owners to secure loans. The hesitation from the banking world is happening all over the world.


Recreational use of cannabis will be made legal in Canada on October 17th, 2018. This is after the senate passed the approval to legalize cannabis in March, 2018. Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001. After October, each province will be responsible for its own regulation policies. Projected sales for the first year sit at $2.29 billion.

South Africa

South Africa’s constitutional court has passed a legislation that allows adults to grow and consume cannabis in their homes. This makes it the third African country to legalize.

Czech Republic

Medical cannabis was legalized in the Czech Republic in 2013; however it is still hard for patients to access high quality medicine within the country even when they have a doctor’s prescription for the same.


After a long, dangerous, and unsuccessful war on drugs, Ecuador is changing its tactics. It has decriminalized cannabis use so that it can focus on combating real drugs.  Possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis for personal use is now allowed. Non violent drug offenders have been pardoned and it appears that the nation may be laying the groundwork for full legalization in the near future.

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Image credit: patrice6000


Many consider Portugal to be a drug paradise as the country decriminalized the possession of all drugs and cannabis in 2001.  This is with one disclaimer; you should not be in possession of an amount that exceeds a 10 day personal supply. This study indicates that since this measure was taken, addiction and overdose rates have drastically dropped.


On the books, cannabis is only legal in Switzerland if it contains less than 1% THC. In practice, there are many cannabis lounges and personal consumption of cannabis with higher THC concentrations. Strangely, it is only illegal to consume cannabis above the set THC limit, totally fine to have it in your possession.


Technically, cannabis is not legalized in the Netherlands, but you can easily access it from local coffee shops.  Possession of up to 5-grams of cannabis is permitted but the police may still confiscate it, especially at border checks. Currently, the government is in talks to legalize the professional cultivation of cannabis.

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Image credit: Harald Lueder


Cannabis was decriminalized in Jamaica in 2015, so long as use relates to religion. The Rastafarians are predominant in the country and are known for hallowing the ganja plant for sacred use. Smoking cannabis is part of their religious ceremonies. The law was recently changed to accommodate the use of medical cannabis.

North Korea

North Korea has been branded “a pot smokers heaven”, but is this the reality on the ground? The truth is actually hard to decipher as North Korea is very hush about what goes within the country, and don’t expect to find anything on the internet. However, one source reveals that “Cannabis is cultivated industrially, but in the form of low-THC hemp, and while some people may cultivate personal amounts of psychoactive cannabis, its use is not condoned, though it is also unlikely to be punished severely”.

United Kingdom (UK)

The recent case of Billy Caldwell has reignited the debate on the legalization of medical cannabis in the UK. As it is, the possession or use of cannabis is illegal. The penalty for trafficking the plant can run up to 14 years and attracts hefty fines. But with recent developments, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that in the coming months, medical cannabis would become legal in severe cases. Despite this, the Tory government in Westminster continues to have a firm stance against legalizing recreational use.


In 1969, President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs that was meant to eliminate the use of all drugs in the country. Almost fifty years later, the federal government is still pouring millions of dollars into the same useless effort. A much as the federal government has remained obstinate about relaxing the laws on cannabis use, not all is lost. A good 31 states have now legalized the use of medical cannabis in the United States while nine of them allow for the use of recreational cannabis by adults above 21 years. Full legalization has happened in: California, Maine, Massachussets, Nevada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska.

Reading from his lips, president Trump supports the legalization of medical cannabis 100%, but for recreational, he would rather “leave that for each state to decide”. With this, the US may be decades away. Keeping the plant federally illegal puts consumers in a vulnerable and potentially criminal position.

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Image credit: STILLFX

Perhaps America will be able to gauge the benefits of full legalization by watching what happens with their Northern neighbor? Then, then maybe they will change their mind…

Lydia Kariuki

RN, Expert medical writer who is passionate about cannabis!

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