News, Politics

What’s Happening With Cannabis Around the World?

September 2, 2022 08:00 am ET
What’s Happening With Cannabis Around the World?

Exciting things are happening with cannabis around the world. While cannabis reform in the United States may seem like it’s moving at a snail’s pace, there is an abundance of progress happening overseas. Let’s take a closer look at some of the stories coming from countries around the world.

The Number of U.K. MMJ Patients Is on the Rise

The medical cannabis program in the U.K. is thriving. As more patients have sought out legal medical cannabis patient status in the country, it is believed that the number of registered U.K. medical cannabis patients now exceeds 17,000. Individuals in the country with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, depression, insomnia, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, chronic pain, and epilepsy have embraced the option of medical cannabis.

John Robson, a managing director of a private medical cannabis clinic in the U.K., estimates that 60-70% of his patients are seeking out medical cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain. He estimates that roughly the same amount of his patients are utilizing cannabis flower as opposed to cannabis oils and other options.

Medical cannabis became legal in the U.K. in 2018. In 2019 it was estimated that there were only 250 medical cannabis patients, most likely due to the lack of importation of product as well as the red tape that had to be navigated in order to become a medical cannabis patient. To see that number now exceeding 17,000 is monumental, and we can only hope to see that number grow in the coming years.

Switzerland Has Legalized Medical Cannabis

Next up on current cannabis hotspots around the world is Switzerland. While some European countries have already taken steps to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, Switzerland did not join the circle until Aug. 1. Now, patients in the country can obtain medical cannabis through a medical prescription. In order to access medical cannabis previously, patients had to submit a request for approval by the Federal Office of Public Health, which is the government center of public health in Switzerland.

With this fully legalized medical cannabis program also came the legalization of the export of medical cannabis products for commercial purposes. Authorization for such export, however, has to take place through a request from Swiss Medic, which is a surveillance authority for medicine and medical devices in the country.

In order to make this change in policy surrounding medical cannabis in the country, the Swiss narcotics act that was previously approved in March 2021 had to be amended. This change in policy was sparked by the increase in authorizations in recent years. In 2019 alone, it is estimated that the Federal Office of Public Health approved around 3,000 requests for patients looking to access medical cannabis for conditions such as multiple sclerosis, neurological diseases, and cancer.

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While more patients are going to be able to access cannabis in the country, there are still stringent restrictions surrounding what is legal. Currently, the Federal Council has only legalized cannabis that contains high levels of CBD and no more than 1% THC content.

Albania Could Become the Next Medical Cannabis and Hemp Exporter

In other European cannabis news, the Albanian government recently announced that they also plan to legalize the cultivation of hemp and medical cannabis for exportation purposes. The current draft of the law calls for the establishment of a national agency that will control and monitor the cultivation and processing of cannabis in the country.

Starting in 2023, the bill would allow for industrial hemp and medical cannabis production on up to 150 hectares of land. Cannabis production licenses will be available from the Council of Ministers. Those seeking out licenses must validate that they have capital exceeding 86,000 and that they employ at least 15 individuals. In order to participate, businesses would also have to pay a fee of 1.5% of their annual company turnover. This draft bill does not in any way legalize access to medical cannabis treatment for patients in the country but rather would simply allow for companies to operate in the realms of cultivation and processing for export.

The bill will be forwarded to parliament after the public comments close on the consultation website. According to Forbes, Albania is already one of the largest outdoor producers of illegal cannabis in Europe, so this may be a move by the government aimed at reducing these illegal market efforts. Unfortunately, this lack of reform surrounding cannabis isn’t due to a lack of support by Albanian citizens. According to recent surveys, over 308,000 Albanian citizens voted yes on the topic of legalizing medical cannabis, while only 148,000 voted against the option.

Thailand’s Tourism Options Now Include Cannabis Cafes

When many people think about cannabis tourism, it’s not likely that Thailand comes to mind; however, it seems that cannabis cafes are now a hit with tourists in the country. CNN Travel reported in August that just four days after opening, a local cannabis cafe known as RG420 was slammed with customers. RG420 is just one of many cannabis cafes that have opened since Thailand decriminalized cannabis.

Since opening, the establishment’s owner says that there have been hundreds of customers visiting the cafe each day. The owner of RG420, as well as many others, views these cannabis cafes as a way to hopefully help revive what used to be a thriving tourism industry prior to COVID restrictions. In 2018 Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes, and in June of this year, they took steps to fully decriminalize cannabis. So next time you are planning a trip overseas and looking for something cannabis-centric, perhaps a stop by a Thailand cannabis café is in order!

These are just a few of the stories in recent weeks coming from countries around the world regarding cannabis. It is great to see such progression taking place, no matter how big or small. Only time will tell how cannabis reform will evolve. For now, let’s celebrate these victories and look forward to more news coming from countries that are embracing cannabis around the world.

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