Though a handful of states have paved the way for nationwide marijuana reform, some other countries have left our progressive marijuana laws in the dust. While we stumble through legislation as we try to get this whole legal weed thing right, others are already reaping the benefits of their pro-pot stance – and have taught us quite a few valuable lessons in the process.
Cannabis has been shown to have profound therapeutic benefits – it can help manage pain, reduce inflammation and even improve neurological damage – but is still often scoffed at as a form of medicine in America. But such is not the case in Israel where medical marijuana is literally available to anyone with a medical need. Deputy Minister of Health Yakov Litzman announced last year that cannabis is to be sold in pharmacies and granted doctors more freedom to prescribe it to patients.
This is a huge difference compared to the US where patients face location-based marijuana restrictions and where many doctors avoid prescribing cannabis for fear of legal repercussions. But this is not the only difference between the two countries; unlike the USA, the Israeli government does not block medical marijuana research. In fact, Israel both funds and supports breakthrough medical marijuana research making them the go-to for unbiased medical marijuana research.
Marijuana’s popularity makes it a great product for black market vendors – especially in areas where it isn’t otherwise available – which has resulted in horrendous acts of violence by dangerous drug cartels in Latin America. According to a report published in Frontline, the number of homicides in Mexico outnumbers homicides in both Afghanistan and Iraq combined – more than 164,000 between the years of 2007 and 2014 – of which as much as 55 percent may be directly related to drug cartels.
In an effort to limit cartel power (and thus violence and other drug-related crimes), the Uruguayan government has legalized marijuana nationwide and vowed to keep prices extremely low to undercut cartel prices (which are currently resting at a dollar per gram). Individuals are also allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants and purchase as much as 10 grams at a time after registering with the state.
Though Uruguay’s heart is in the right place with this move, Mexican drug cartels garner the most business from their neighbors up north which means that, as long as marijuana remains illegal in much of the US, cartels will continue to wreak havoc on Latin America.
Though marijuana legalization is only barely catching on in the states, it’s been legal for decades in Spain. In fact, Barcelona, the second-most populated city in Spain and the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, is well on its way to becoming the go-to marijuana tourist destination in the world — perhaps even trumping Amsterdam thanks to a relatively low price for lodging, food and weed (and, of course, amazing food).
What sets Spain’s marijuana tourism apart from other countries are the cannabis clubs a-plenty. Though not technically open for public use like coffee shops in Amsterdam, Spain does allow residents to form collectives where they can gather, toke and grow cannabis. Because of a loophole in the law, many cannabis clubs operate on a “member’s only” basis by charging a membership fee to join which toward establishment up-keep and cultivation costs. As long as members are at least 21 years old and residents in the country (the latter of which isn’t always enforced, either), they can gain membership access to one of almost 700 pot clubs in Spain. Once inside, members can acquire, consume and enjoy marijuana, and often have the added advantage of freshly-prepared food or live entertainment, too.