This month is filled with hopeful news on cannabis reform, and you would know it if you diligently read our blog - a decriminalization bill passed both legislative chambers in Illinois, the first large-scale industrial hemp processing plant opened in Colorado, a bill allowing the plant for medical purposes passed the Pennsylvania Senate in a landslide, while good bills were introduced in the New England states Maine and Rhode Island. U.S. territory Puerto Rico just legalized medical use as well. A state with one of the most draconian laws, Louisiana, has its state Senate passing a bill to reduce jail terms for possession. These developments are not just an American phenomenon. The momentum is also catching on outside of the United States.
To be sure, the good news from abroad is of a much smaller scale. Yet, it represents a trend with much upside. Though the Brazilian government’s announcement was only that a specific hemp oil product is now legal with a prescription, in the same month hundreds of activists marched in the capital of the country protesting not only for legalization, but also for the release of all prisoners who are incarcerated for growing cannabis. The latter is an oft-overlooked but crucial aspect of drug policy reform – individuals imprisoned unjustly during decades of prohibition must regain their freedom. In Germany, the topic of cannabis legalization came into spotlight after a politician in the ruling party proposed a bill to legalize and regulate the plant. This is significant because the Christian Democratic Union in Germany is a socially conservative party through and through like its name suggests. A smaller party, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), has already added regulated legalization to its platform. This progress indicates that cannabis legalization has quite the future in Germany.
Both Brazil and Germany already had a somewhat more liberal approach to cannabis than the U.S. federal government, as in these two countries small possession usually does not mean a jail term. However, even in one country with Draconian drug laws, Sweden, a small scintillation of light is now present. In Sweden, the police can detain and drug-test anybody it perceives to be under the influence of cannabis and the penalties are severe. No surprise that then-top American drug warrior, “Czar” Gil Kerlikowske, effusively praised the Swedish model. Recently, a party official of the major center-right party there called for the end of cannabis prohibition. Admittedly, it is only a small voice, but the Italian poet Dante once said “A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark.” We certainly would like to see that pro-legalization statement to be the tiny spark that is to set the mighty flame of reform that would spread not only throughout Sweden, but all the other countries as well as American states that are still dominated by inflexible prohibitionist policies.
Lastly, in Latin America, often plagued by cartel wars exacerbated by U.S.-influenced drug policies, we have Ecuador’s legislature considering a bill to decriminalize the use of all drugs, under which cannabis is included. Ecuador’s current government has often voiced its dissatisfaction with undue U.S. influence in the country that includes U.S.-mandated War on Drugs, once expelling DEA agents, the brutal enforcers of prohibition, in 2009. We are happy to see that more countries are dissenting from a U.S. foreign policy that is costly both in terms of money and more importantly in terms of human lives lost.
Progress in any country is conducive to our efforts inside the United States, as it’s more and more clear that cannabis prohibition is contrary to human nature and freedom, does not work anywhere in the world, and certainly does not work here. And it’s crucial for us to know that none of this is happening in a vacuum. Grassroots activists everywhere, like ones working at Peace on Our Streets, are moving forward to change policies in their respective nations, states, and towns. Conversely, any success at home in U.S. contributes to campaigns abroad - many in foreign countries supporting legalization cite Colorado and Washington as examples. Our work is reverberating nationwide. So join us, and help us achieve our goal of drug peace before more people have to suffer unjustly.