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Why The U.S. Still Pushes The Global Cannabis Reform Discussion Forward

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If there is one thing most Americans can celebrate together across party lines about the turbulent events of last week, it is that cannabis reform moved forward, and significantly in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. Four more states moved into the recreational camp, with a total of five in sum passing cannabis reform over all. Several of those markets, notably, New Jersey and North Dakota, are designed to fast-forward recreational market implementation.

Indeed, this was good news in a more global climate where recreational reform has very much been put on (tempered) time release by just about everyone else also concurrently considering the question.

It also speaks volumes to the obvious and glaring reality that reformers still have to face: Namely, that in the highest ranks of the governing world – from the U.S. to Germany and New Zealand beyond that – the idea of recreational reform is on a delayed if far from back burner.

That said, it is also clear that the idea of medical reform is on the front of several national policy agendas, one way or the other. Namely, from North Dakota to New Zealand, the average voter believes that cannabis has impactful even if not yet (shamefully) scientifically proven efficacy. Even if they are not ready for recreational reform.

For this reason, it is also unlikely that the WHO will delay (again) another vote on reclassification – although where exactly this will end up at this point is anyone's guess. Most people believe that cannabinoid-based drugs (at minimum) will end up with Schedule II global designation (rather than say a more reasonable Schedule III). Certainly those with THC in them. Even if, in a last-minute nod to the holdouts, the raw plant ends up stuck in Schedule I, of any international treaty.

A Call For Federal Reform?

It is absolutely clear that one of the many negotiations that the new Biden-Harris team will engage in is the issue of federal reform. At this point, everyone who has been around the American discussion for decades knows that this, like many of the past Democratic Party platform positions on the same, was established in the name of "moderation for the election." Even though, at this point, it is not likely to hold for long, even if it fits the character of those just elected.

Joe Biden has a rather unfortunate history with drug reform issues, at least legislatively, although the official platform is now set to change the basic bar on decriminalization. Kamala Harris as a prosecutor and politician in a state that has been medical friendly most of her career is also not exactly the best recreational advocate. Thus the so-far "moderate" position of the incoming
administration that nobody believes will last for long.

With four years of tempestuous negotiations already on the docket, no matter who wins the American Senate in the January runoffs in Georgia, it is also just as clear that national reform will absolutely be on the agenda at least by the midterms (in 2022) if not the next general election in four years.

This in turn, will continue to drive the conversation elsewhere, starting with Europe.

It is also clear that the rest of the world is avidly watching not Canada, but in fact the U.S. And that at least for now, in turn, federal decision-makers in the U.S. are waiting for the signoff of the WHO – an organization America will now be re-joining – before going any further. Even then, it is likely that, much like alcohol, marijuana reform will be a state-based rather than a federal decision for (at least) the first half of the new Administration's term.

Be sure to stay abreast of developments. The International Cannabis Business Conference intends to return to Europe in 2021.

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