In a Global Cannabis Market, U.S. Can No Longer Lead, Must Follow

by | Dec 1, 2020

Detroiter Karhlyle Fletcher is the host of High Lit, a cannabis research and classic literature podcast featuring leading voices and independent music. In addition to years in written and video cannabis journalism, he is also a traditional author.

2020 has ushered in a new era of the cannabis industry where Colorado’s legalization is old news. Now the international cannabis trade is flourishing between countries with federal legalization, yet America is stuck with archaic limitations. 

The International Situation for Federal Legalization is Rapidly Shifting

After the crises of 2020, many governmental budgets are hurting. Due to this stress, eyes around the world are resting on cannabis as a lucrative industry, possibly to balance some of the losses from a devastating year. Such reasoning is shared by cannabis advocates and lawmakers in AustraliaTexas, and Germany, pushing federal legalization. However, up to now, their proposals have been met with mixed results. Germany’s push for adult-use cannabis outright failed, Texas Republicans are offering much resistance, and the outcome of the Australian effort has yet to be seen. 

At the same time, Mexico has made significant ground, with a bill for federal legalization of cannabis approved by the senate now making its way through the rest of the government. In the words of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador: “Things do not have to be prohibited, prohibited, prohibited. [sic] If something is authorized, if something is allowed, well, act responsibly. I believe that this will happen in this new legislation on the use of marijuana. Have confidence in people and seek [to] do good.” If this bill passes, then Mexico will be the largest federally legal cannabis market in the world. 

After the U.S. federal legalization bill was postponed in September, the House will vote for it in one of two congressional sessions; either in the December 1-4th session or the December 7-10th session. This bill, the MORE act, will decriminalize cannabis and expunge convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses. While passing this will be a massive victory for citizens, it’s a late push from lawmakers.

International Trade Already Flourishes Without American Federal Legalization

Israel is making deals to export to FranceGermany, and Australia. Meanwhile, Canada is exporting to Poland, East Africa is poised to become a major cannabis exporter, and Clever Leaves alone is exporting to Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Perú, Poland, Spain, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

International trade is here.

Not only has cannabis exporting come online, but it’s a thriving industry, and with Canada having passed federal legalization some time ago along with Mexico likely to do the same, the United States may lose its position as a leader in the field. At this point, it is already a laggard.

Private businesses have already realized the global opportunity and were quick to grow wherever they are allowed to, such places as South AfricaMalawiUzbekistan, or Denmark. Yet, while Uruguay contemplates selling cannabis to tourists, American opponents of cannabis are trying to overturn election results from November 3rd, where many state voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of cannabis legalization.

From the Isle of Man to Thailand, the potentials of the cannabis industry are being realized, and so America cannot afford to keep dragging its feet. Hopefully, the newly founded Cannabis Regulators Association can help usher in federal legalization, or at least compliance, and thus an era of prosperity in American Agriculture.

Past the Numbers, Countries Support Federal Legalization

Despite federal agencies maintaining a hostile approach toward cannabis for most of the last century, other governments are not so against it. The E.U.’s highest court has declared CBD is not a narcotic, securing the CBD trade among union members. While that’s on par with America, Thailand has removed cannabis from the list of narcotics. The Thai Health Minister publically stated that at least 70% of patients report their symptoms improving after using medical cannabis, and 98% report no side effects. 

While the American government is scared to offer any such support to the cannabis industry before federal legalization, Canada gave $25 million in federal wage subsidies to their cannabis industry in the wake of the 2020 crisis. Other countries have supported and encouraged their cannabis industry due to its profitability and medical value rather than having an attitude of disinterested permissiveness. 

Little Victories Could Add Up for America

Given incredibly fertile farmland, a massive population, profound wealth, and a potent talent pool, America could easily maintain its position as a leader in the cannabis industry. With 9 million new CBD users since the lockdown and  69 approved plans for hemp production, America maintains profitability from the lucrative cannabis industry. However, until federal legalization kicks in, cannabis and hemp industry limitations are losing billions in revenue for the nation.