The legal landscape of cannabis, commonly referred to as marijuana, is undergoing significant changes worldwide. As of October 2018, Canada joined the ranks of countries that have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, a decision that sparked a global debate. Advocates of this move point to the potential benefits, such as the dismantling of the black market and increased regulation.
The journey towards legalization has not been uniform across the globe. While some countries have decriminalized cannabis, such as the Netherlands with its long-standing de facto legalization, and others like Lebanon have legalized cannabis for medical use, the overall international stance remains one of prohibition. The differentiation between decriminalization and full legal recognition is stark, with the former often seen as a step towards the latter.
Medical marijuana programs are sometimes viewed as a precursor to the legalization of recreational use. Evidence suggests that there is a gender disparity in cannabis use, with consumption among men increasing more than among women from 2002 to 2014. This widening gender gap raises questions about the social and health implications of legalizing cannabis.
Cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids, with THC being the primary intoxicating component, and CBD, which does not impair cognitive function. The complexity of the cannabis plant and its compounds adds layers to the discussion around medical and non-medical use.
In December 2013, Uruguay became the first nation to legalize the production, supply, and consumption of cannabis for adults, setting a precedent. Nationals of Uruguay can access cannabis through self-cultivation, pharmacy purchases, or membership in a cannabis club that produces cannabis for its members.
Research continues to evaluate the outcomes of legalization, examining factors such as age of access, societal attitudes, and public health implications. The discussion around cannabis legalization extends beyond the recreational and medical spheres, often touching on political, economic, and cultural facets of society.
Six policy lessons relevant to cannabis legalization
Cannabis legalization in the US
International Perspectives on the Implications of Cannabis Legalization
What We Know about Marijuana
Non-medical cannabis use: international policies and outcomes overview
The Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes in the Arab World
Legalization of recreational cannabis: Facilitators and barriers
Medical Marijuana and Marijuana Legalization
The legality recreational and medical use of cannabis varies widely