Argentina now joins Uruguay and Chile in South America to begin to recognize the medical uses of cannabis.

Unlike Chile, however which opened a huge medical farm earlier this year with national medical distribution plans and Uruguay which legalized all forms of use, Argentina seems to be stepping into the ring extraordinarily cautiously. Not only will the drug only be distributed in only one province – at least at first - but it will also import the drugs it uses from the United States.

Argentina is proving, however cautious its move forward here is, that no country can ignore the medical impact and legitimacy of cannabis. Systematic reform here, like other places, has been in the offing for at least a year. In 2015, over 100,000 people marched for marijuana reform through the streets of Buenos Aires. It “only” took another year.

COULD 2017 BE THE REAL YEAR OF MEDICAL?

Every year since Colorado and Washington State moved forward on legalizing their recreational markets has supposedly been the “Year of Marijuana Reform.” And in many ways, such speculation has not necessarily been wrong. It is just that there is so far to go. Next year, in fact, may be if not “The Year of Legalization” then another important tipping point in the acceptance of marijuana if not its legalization. Globally.

Canada will probably legalize the drug completely. The U.S. is unlikely to reschedule the drug next year, although it cannot hold out much longer. In Europe, just this year, Croatia, Germany and now Italy are clearly moving forward on medical reform. What happens in Italy may also pressure other countries on the continent to move forward on at least medical use here – which is pending in at least three other countries – the U.K. (pre Brexit), Spain and France. Mexico will also move in the direction Argentina has taken. Australia and Israel continue to grow their own medical programs.

What is happening right now globally is actually an unprecedented medical revolution – which is pulling recreational legalization along with it. It is no longer possible to claim that medical marijuana has no efficacy – as even Argentina has admitted.

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No matter how fast reform appears to be happening now, there is still much ground to cover – globally. It is sometimes staggering to think that this year in the United States there was a pot arrest every 49 seconds. Other countries still maintain the death penalty for possession of a drug that is now being recognized (at minimum) as a medical marvel – if not one of the most important medications known to mankind.

Uruguay is still the only country in the world (although Canada is likely to be the second) to have completely legalized cannabis – and set up a national regulatory infrastructure.

Sad as it is, marijuana is likely to stay in an uncertain status globally, and certainly in the Western Hemisphere at least through 2018 if not 2020.

HOW FAST WILL EUROPE MOVE?

With all this good news from around the world, the question in Europe remains “what are we waiting for?” That is a very good question.

A big part of the resistance to marijuana legalization is a generational attitude towards the drug if not broader issues about control. In the United States, for example, pharmaceutical companies have been actively lining up (if not lining the pockets) of politicians who have tried to slow down reform to insure that only people with money and existing companies can take part in the business end of changing laws. Republican big wigs have been active this year, in particular, in trying to defeat any initiative (on both a state and a federal level) that tries to move the needle forward faster.

While such activity is less obvious in Europe, the real reason pot prohibition has lasted so long is a complex intertwining of global politics, pharma company money, and a general intransigence to actually fund studies of a drug most countries demonized.

That period is ending. What that means for cannabis prohibition specifically is an open question. Without a doubt, the entire industry globally, will face growing pains. Each country will have to decide how to integrate cannabis into its own culture. What has ended, however, is the automatic association of cannabis with crime and/or criminal intent.

Do people really want to arrest patients? In Europe right now, the answer is clearly no.

A NEW PATH FORWARD

It is hard to say what the global tipping point on legalization will be. Legit Canadian and now American companies are clearly exporting a substance internationally which cannot (per international law) be (easily) legally transported in bulk between either American or European states. It could be that a UN Resolution finally ending the international drug laws of the middle of the last century will be the final trigger. It may come in some other form.

Regardless, however, of what the final tipping point will be (or in retrospect) has been, marijuana reform is here to stay. The hard questions now in front of both the public and industry, will be in its regulation. Argentina has just provided another option.

 

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