Despite the fact that Americans usually take credit for just about everything, on the marijuana reform front this year, they are certainly right to try.
The issues and overall debate have moved forward dramatically since the beginning of January with the initiation of the recreational market in Colorado. By the middle of the year, with a second and distinct “recreational market” beginning in July in Washington State, legislative action in many states to forward reform (and on all fronts) and a November election looming that could legalize some form of cannabis use in three states, the federal District of Columbia and the U.S. Territory of Guam, the issue has become a hot topic of conversation that is not simmering down any time soon.
Given the way U.S. politics work, the situation in Florida is the most interesting from a national if not sovereign (or federal) reform front. The issue is further complicated by a very fractious governor’s race between Republican governor Rick Scott (who opposes reform) and Democratic challenger Charlie Christ. If Scott wins and the legalization initiative (known as Amendment 2) passes, he will be in a position to name new judges who will be interpreting a dramatic change to the state’s constitution. Given his historic hostility to reform, it is likely that voter desire will be watered down by the courts on this front if that is the reality Floridians face post November.
A Scott win will also build a strong base in the state for looming national elections in 2 years where the issue of reform in the U.S. on a federal level may be (rightly or wrongly) the number one political hot button issue of the year (and for both parties). Florida is, as always, a swing state on this and many other issues, including in 2016, medical marijuana for sure.
Outside the U.S., reform has moved on an international front sometimes in conjunction with events in the U.S. and undoubtedly driven in part by them too.
In early spring, the Israeli government was forced to change an evolving (albeit slowly) national medical policy after 15 families with drug resistant epileptic kids, threatened to immigrate to Colorado to find treatment. Israel is the world leader at present on cutting edge research on cannabinoids for medical purposes on conditions ranging from PTSD and TBI to movement disorders like Parkinson’s and MS. That said, official access through government approval remains slower than many nationals desire.
Germany, the home of historical studies linking cannabis use with schizophrenia (in particular) has also moved forward in a dramatic way all year. After the German government published the results of a widely questioned poll in January (coinciding with rec market start in Colorado) that showed Germans supposedly still opposing reform by a 2-1 margin, the national press responded cautiously but sternly to come out in favour of full legalization. Public sentiment is widely in support of particularly medical marijuana, however muted that awareness seems to be outside of the country and as reflected by the government. That said, ongoing efforts in Berlin to establish a semi-rec/medical “coffee shop” (to cut down on the costs of policing marijuana sellers in particular in Berlin) have percolated for the last year in both the German national if not the international press in particular.
This year by midsummer, also coinciding with the start of the Washington State recreational market, the Administrative Court in Cologne (in Germany’s most populous state of Westphalia) ruled on a national precident setting case allowing patients who are sick and poor enough to grow the drug at home. The country is still behind Italy in setting up organized procedures to do this on even a regional scale, but that is clearly in the offing on the continent. Major pharmaceutical companies have also been conducting late stage trials on cannabinoids in Europe and across the U.S. all year including British based GW Pharma.
In the U.K. particularly lately, the issue seems continually stalled in political rows if not mired in claims from the occasional controversial study. The most recent muttering on this front just surfaced this month when a researcher at Kings College in South London (and WHO representative) published a new study claiming that marijuana is more dangerously addictive than heroin. There is already an active campaign online at least with calls for his job on Twitter and Linked In.
And while the year is far from over, with developments in the U.S. in particular likely to move the goalposts forward again next year not only domestically but internationally, it finally appears that the beginning of the end of the modern age of pot prohibition may be coming to a close.
by Marguerite Arnold