Regulation: Cannabis

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March 2024: Germany

Germany’s lower house of parliament (“Bundestag”) voted (407 in favor, 226 against, 4 absentees) to legalize cannabis for limited recreational use1 in Feburary 2024 – despite the resistance from Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the country’s largest opposition party. Germany’s upper house (“Bundesrat”), formed by the delegates from 16 state governments, approved the “partial legalization” Bill in March 2024.

According to the new rules, adults can possess small amounts of cannabis for personal use: from April 1, they can cultivate up to three plants for private consumption and be allowed to possess 50 grams at home and 25 grams in public. From July 1, cannabis will be available in licensed non-profit clubs (with no more than 500 members) for the consumption of club members. Recreational cannabis use will remain banned for minors (under 18s).

“The aim is to crack down on the black market and drugs-related crime, reduce the amount of dealing and cut the number of users”, Germany’s Health Minister stated ahead of the vote at the Bundestag. The move makes Germany the third country in Europe – after Malta and Luxembourg – to remove cannabis from the official list of banned substances and legalize it for recreational use .

January 2024: Thailand

In a major policy reversal, Thailand’s new conservative coalition government is moving ahead to pass new legislation banning recreational use of cannabis after becoming the first Asian nation to decriminalize the plant in June 20222. Use of cannabis and cannabis-related products will be limited to medical purposes only.

The draft bill released by Thailand’s Ministry of Health outlines hefty fines and/or prison sentences of up to one year for offenders and the laws on cannabis will be rectified by the Government within the next six months. An earlier draft bill failed to win parliamentary approval in November 2023.

December 2023: Netherlands

Two Dutch cities, Tilburg and Breda, allowed legal sales of cannabis as part of a four-year pilot program to test the idea of legalization of recreational cannabis use in the Netherlands3. Production will be limited to a few farms, whose produces will be quality controlled and measured (for the THC and CBD content) before being supplied to coffee shops. Independent researchers will monitor the trial with a view of eventual decriminalization. However, the far-right Party for Freedom, which won the general elections last month, is against the legalization and vows to scrap the tolerance policy in push for a “drug-free Netherlands”.

Despite the general misconception, recreational cannabis use is not legal in the Netherlands. Cannabis is consumed in the country based on a tolerance policy adopted by the Governments since the 1970s: individuals possessing up to five grams of cannabis don’t face criminal or administrative charges.

November 2023: USA

Ohio became the 24th state in the US to legalize recreational (non-medical) cannabis use4. The measure, first introduced in 2022, was stalled by the state’s Republican controlled legislature, triggering a lawsuit to get legalization on the ballot. 57% of the Ohio voters approved the legalization – which will take effect in 30 days.

The new law will allow adults over 21 to purchase and possess up to 2.5oz (70g) of cannabis and to grow up to six marijuana plants at home. Buyers will pay a 10% tax imposed on sales going mostly toward addiction services, communities with cannabis facilities and social equity and jobs programs.

Cannabis is permitted for medical use in 38 US states and it is now legal for adult recreational use in 24 US states, including all west coast states and in Washington DC. More than 50% of Americans live in a state where recreational cannabis is legal. An additional 10 states permit the use of products containing CBD and small amounts of THC. Only two states (Idaho and Nebraska) do not allow for any kind of cannabis use.

October 2023: UK

UK food regulators lowered the recommended safe daily dose of cannabidiol (CBD; present in many different retail products, including drinks and snacks) from 70 milligrams a day to 10 milligrams of a day5 based on the concerns that long-term use might cause liver damage or thyroid issues.

At the 2021 Investor Day, when asked about the CBD products, PMI CEO replied:

“…there are also some toxicological concerns because in those who are CBD, pure CBD has efficacy, means it binds with the cannabis receptors, then you start having issues with cytotoxicity and other problems. Now that’s embryonic first cut. And we also know from medical studies… you do have, because of usage, liver effects and other psychiatric effects. So all I’m saying is the product is not purely innocuous…”

October 2023: US

US Senate will vote on the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (Safer) Banking Act that would allow the federally chartered banks to do business with cannabis companies6. As cannabis is still an illegal controlled substance at the federal level, large financial institutions (banks, insurance companies and payroll services) have been hesitant to serve cannabis businesses.

Meanwhile, Georgia becomes the first US state to allow medical marijuana in pharmacies. Medical marijuana (low THC oil with less than 5% THC) will only available to Georgia residents with approval from a physician to treat severe illness. Patients will be able to buy cannabis oil at pharmacies if they show a state-issued THC registry card and identification.

In the US, 38 states legalized marijuana for medical use and 23 states legalized it for recreational purposes. An additional 8 states decriminalized its use. States with legalized marijuana laws have collected $15Bn in tax revenue between 2014 and 2022 (with $3.8Bn in 2022 alone).

September 2023: Thailand

Thailand will clamp down on cannabis use in a major U-turn on drug policy7. Thailand’s new government is set to rectify its cannabis policy and limit its use to medical purposes within six months. Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis last year, leading to a boom of cannabis cafes and weed dispensaries in popular tourist destinations.

August 2023: US

The US Health Department calls on the Drug Enforcement Agency to loosen federal rules on cannabis8

– Cannabis is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug (no medical use and a high chance of abuse, such as heroin and LSD) under the Controlled Substances Act

– A move to Schedule 3 (low potential for dependency and abuse) would align it with drugs such as ketamine, anabolic steroids and 90mg/dose codeine

– Rescheduling could eliminate certain scientific research limitations and financial restrictions.

Following the US Health Department’s call, a cannabis banking bill is put into preparation by a bipartisan coalition of senators9. The bill will provide federally regulated financial institutions the legal cover to take cannabis dispensaries & growers as customers. Financial institutions have been hesitant to serve cannabis businesses (legal only at the state-level) due to the federal ban on the drug.

July 2023: US

The US Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services examined the failure of the US FDA to regulate CBD and hemp-derived products10, noting that

– The FDA has refused to regulate CBD & hemp-derived products, or to even acknowledge that it has the authority to regulate it

– FDA’s refusal to regulate CBD has suppressed the ability for good faith manufacturers to engage with consumers, while letting bad actors flood the market with potentially unsafe products and intoxicants

– The public needs the FDA to do its job and regulate CBD for the benefit of industry, farmers, businesses, and consumers alike.

July 2023: Germany

Germany unveils the draft bill to legalize cannabis11: the long-waited draft bill is the first pillar of a comprehensive two-pillar model that will put an end to cannabis prohibition in Germany. However, it is a far cry from Germany’s initial ambitious plan to legalize cannabis by building up a commercial supply chain for recreational use – aiming massive tax revenues as a result. Following a lengthy consultation period, the cannabis bill is expected to go into effect on April 1, 2024.

References:

  1. https://edition.cnn.com/2024/02/23/europe/germany-cannabis-legal-parliament-intl/index.html ↩︎
  2. Thailand cannabis: Kingdom moves to ban recreational cannabis use, 18 months after historic decriminalization | CNN ↩︎
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/dec/15/netherlands-begins-trial-to-make-cannabis-fully-legal ↩︎
  4. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-67357157 ↩︎
  5. Cannabidiol safe daily dose limit cut by food regulator – BBC News ↩︎
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/oct/08/cannabis-companies-us-financial-system-banking-safer-act ↩︎
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/22/thailand-to-clamp-down-on-cannabis-use-in-major-u-turn-on-drug-policy ↩︎
  8. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-66667191 ↩︎
  9. https://thehill.com/business/4202941-senators-push-to-pass-cannabis-banking-bill-after-marijuana-rescheduling ↩︎
  10. https://oversight.house.gov/release/hearing-wrap-up-fdas-failure-to-regulate-cbd-threatens-consumer-access-to-safe-products ↩︎
  11. https://www.forbes.com/sites/dariosabaghi/2023/07/10/germany-unveils-draft-bill-to-legalize-cannabis ↩︎

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