Whether it is blue jeans, or Blue Dream, what happens in America, rarely stays in America. When states across the nation began shifting towards medical marijuana legislation, the rest of the world barely blinked.
But once Colorado and Washington took the plunge into full recreational pot legalization, the South American country of Uruguay followed suit, and now the dominoes of worldwide marijuana reform have begun to tumble.
As reported by Gene Johnson, of the Associated Press, officials in Morrocco are debating legalizing the nation’s world-famous cultivation of hashish. Argentina’s drug czar, a Catholic Priest, is calling for cannabis reform, and even Jamaica is looking to loosen its pot laws. “The discussion has changed,” says Delano Seiveright, head toker of Ganja Law Reform Coalition-Jamaica.
Whether the aim is to offer more public health services than automatic incarcerations, or if the goal is to quell the violence that surrounds black drug markets, or if it is just a blatant cash grab at an inevitable multi-billion dollar industry, governments worldwide are shifting their positions on the miracle plant.
President Obama’s silence before the votes in Colorado, Washington, and even Uruguay spoke volumes to pro-marijuana advocates worldwide, and emboldened leaders who once may have considered the topic too toxic to touch.
Sam Kamin is a law professor at the University of Denver, and was a contributor in drafting Amendment 64, the law that legalized weed in Colorado. He states, “A number of countries are saying, ‘We’ve been curious about this, but we didn’t think we could go this route. It’s harder for the U.S. to look at other countries and say, ‘You can’t legalize, you can’t decriminalize,’ because it’s going on here.”
But it is the lack of silence lately from the Obama Administration that has seemingly set the talking points for leaders globally, as incarceration rates, medicinal value, and the overall safety of marijuana use have all been discussed in recent interviews with the president.
Never silent, unfortunately, is Kevin Sabet of the ironically named Smart Approaches to Marijuana, who can’t wait to spew to the rest of the world the same tired rhetoric that makes his mortgage payments back here in the States. “There’s been a real hunger from people abroad to find out how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place and how to avoid it,” says Sabet in an attempt to kill the buzz.
He couldn’t be more off base, as even perennially “red” states like Utah and Alaska, among others, are on the verge of their own legalization measures. Many European countries have made similar strides in cannabis reform, including Spain, Belgium and the Czech Republic.
Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, and Guatemala, fed up with drug-fueled cartel violence, have also pledged to make changes to their own cannabis laws.
Time and again, foreign nations point to the progress made in America, as the catalyst that inspired their own change. Clara Musto, a spokeswoman for the government of Uruguay, says that the meeting with American consultants and leaders on the matter was what finally pushed her country’s historic reform over the edge. “They knew so much about how to lead,” says Musto.
Interestingly, though it may be Obama’s coming out on cannabis that gives foreign nations the wiggle room they need to enact their own reform, it may very well be the rebounding pressure from the global community that finally pushes our own federal government to wake up and smell the chronic.