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The trajectory that cannabis has taken in the last 20 years is nothing short of revolutionary. From a culture that once existed on the fringe of society, cannabis has transformed into a veritable industry that is projected to generate billions of dollars. Along the way, it has also shifted the perspective and perception of non-believers like a revelation, and has become the subject of significant scientific and commercial interest.

Unsurprisingly, the charge for social change on the drug policy front was sparked in the United States in 2012. While one might expect California – a bastion of unbridled cannabis consumption from the 1960s onward – to have led the charge for legalization, the first states to pass motions for the allowance of adult-use cannabis were Colorado and Washington State.1 

With the passing of Amendment 64 in Colorado, the state set a significant precedent for what could be achieved by advocates when challenges were levelled at archaic cannabis laws. At the time, the state served notice to the globe that a change was afoot, as it moved to allow anyone over the age of 21 to legally possess one ounce of cannabis (28 grams), and to purchase up to seven grams in a single transaction.2 

Other lawmakers soon followed suit, with the number of states allowing the adult-use of cannabis now growing yearly. At the federal level in the U.S., however, cannabis still has no support. In fact, cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, suggesting it has no accepted medical benefit and a high risk for abuse. As a Schedule 1 drug, cannabis is classified as more dangerous than OxyContin, ketamine and fentanyl!3

The first country to legalize cannabis at the federal level was Uruguay. The small South American nation was the first to allow the cultivation, sale and distribution of recreational cannabis. Celebrated by activists the world over, Uruguay’s progress has been somewhat overshadowed as of late by the reforms to federal cannabis laws in Canada.4

On October 17, 2018, Canada became the first G8 country to allow the recreational adult-use of cannabis. In addition to a robust sale-and-distribution system controlled by commercial growers, Canada now allows adults to purchase and possess cannabis, and some provinces even allow adults to homegrow up to four plants per household.

Considered a watershed move, the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Canada will likely lead to drug policy reforms in other countries, provided a strong positive example is set in the small northern country of 37 million. Already, there are murmurs that other nations like Germany and Australia may soon follow Canada’s lead, further galvanizing the point that cannabis has come full circle – from a culture with little fanfare, to an industry worth billions, and celebrated by nearly as many people.

  1. "Two U.S. States Become First to Legalize Marijuana." http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/07/two-u-s-states-become-first-to-legalize-marijuana/
  2. "Marijuana Laws in Colorado." https://www.coloradopotguide.com/marijuana-laws-in-colorado/
  3. "Drug Scheduling." https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
  4. "Uruguay, the first country where you can smoke marijuana wherever you like." https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/27/marijuana-legalisation-uruguay-seen-half-measure-users

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