The US House has voted to legalize cannabis - will other countries follow suit?

The issue of cannabis legalisation has been one of the foremost contentious issues in the world of drug policy since its use by the counterculture in the 1960s. Now that the US House has voted to legalise cannabis, does this mark the beginning of the end for this plant's prohibition?

Laura J. Williams
23rd December 2020
Image credit - libreshot

The US House of Representatives has recently passed a bill that will allow cannabis to be legalised across the country at a federal level. Although this is of course taking steps forward in the possible nationwide legalisation in the US, the full federal legalisation of cannabis will not be this simple, and still has many hurdles to cross. This is mostly caused by a Republican lead senate who seem to be adamant for this bill to not make it much further in the current congress, and even if the Democrats win two Georgia Senate seats in the January Runoff Elections Senator Joe Manchin of  West Virginia has declared that he will be keeping the filibuster in place, meaning that to pass the measure in Senate there would be a requirement of at least 60 votes.

Supporters of legalisation tend to argue that by legalising cannabis, and therefore eliminating the harm of cannabis prohibition, racial disparities and hundreds of thousands of arrests across the US will cease to exist

For the US specifically, these steps in legalisation are incredibly important, with American police making 545, 602 arrests for cannabis in 2019, and black Americans having a 3.64 times higher chance of being arrested for a cannabis related offence, despite the use and distribution of cannabis being fairly equal among both black and white Americans. Supporters of legalisation tend to argue that by legalising cannabis, and therefore eliminating the harm of cannabis prohibition, racial disparities and hundreds of thousands of arrests across the US will cease to exist, both taking steps towards racial equality within the justice system and saving the country millions of dollars in processing these minor crimes. It will also take away a large income source from the black market to drug cartels who are funded through illicit marijuana.

But what about the rest of the world? Will other countries, including ourselves in the UK, be following suit and taking steps towards the legalisation of cannabis? Of course, some have already lead by example before the US, such as Canada, who legalized cannabis back in 2019, causing some controversy regarding the violation of international drug control treaties, which in the case of Canada have simply been ignored with no negative effects.

In Canada it took almost 20 years for cannabis to become legal, but some European countries who have taken steps in medicinal use cannabis are already taking steps forward in legalising recreational use

Regarding what is to come and who will be taking these next steps in the legalisation of marijuana, many other countries (especially within Europe) have already begun the process of legalising cannabis for recreational use - or are at least in the stages of discussing the options. However, it is incredibly important to note that there is a large difference here, and that difference is in the timelines of legalisation. In Canada it took almost 20 years for cannabis to become legal, but some European countries who have taken steps in medicinal use cannabis are already taking steps forward in legalising recreational use. Therefore, are European countries following the US’s or even Canada’s suit? Simply, no.

In fact, Luxembourg is the driving force behind many European countries opening up conversations around the legalisation of cannabis, with goals set on making a fully regulated cannabis market by the years 2022 and 2023. This may seem shocking to some of course, and by some I mean those who have visited certain coffee shops in the beautiful city of Amsterdam, but this is of course the 'Coffee' Shop System, and cannabis is not actually legalised in the Netherlands other than for medical purposes.

Therefore, once Luxembourg has successfully become the first official European country to legalize and create a market for successful cannabis use and distribution, it will certainly not be long before other countries follow suit.

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