Recently, there have been increasing reports in the American and Western media about the legalization of marijuana in various countries. Although using marijuana is illegal in many countries, in the US the process has been very active in recent years, giving a major boost to an entire industry.
The process of drug legalization in violation of international law is underway in the United States, Mikhail Ulyanov, Permanent Representative of Russia to International Organizations in Vienna, said in an online briefing on August 19. He recalled that, according to the UN conventions, drugs, including marijuana, can be used only for medical and scientific purposes. However, this process of liberalization and legalization has been ongoing since as far back as 2012 in Uruguay, then in Canada in 2018, and in even more territories now. Under the guise of alleged “recreational purposes,” more and more countries are beginning to allow marijuana production. Although the United States itself complies with the prohibition at the federal level, a growing number of states are legalizing marijuana, in flagrant violation of international law and national legal provisions.
Europe is also actively engaging in this process, blindly following “fashion from the US.” For instance, on August 24, the former Deputy Head of General Inspectorate of Moldovan Police, Gheorghe Cavcaliuc, said that the country’s Ministry of Justice, under the banner of the presidential Party of Action and Solidarity, was promoting laws that would legalize the use of drugs. He particularly wrote on social media that this party has no shame or responsibility towards future generations, “shoving drugs down their throats in this way, closing schools and universities, intending to destroy the nation’s gene pool.” Moldovan Minister of Justice Sergei Litvinenko proposed a day earlier to decriminalize the illegal use of cannabis, cocaine and other plant-based drugs. Under the proposed bill, criminal penalties would apply only to ethnobotanical drugs (synthetic drugs) or their analogues. But the penalty will be abolished for the illegal use of cannabis committed in public or on the premises of educational, social or penitentiary institutions, military units, as well as in recreational areas for minors or young people, other cultural or sporting events or in the immediate vicinity of these.
The speedy legalization of marijuana in Germany was promised by the country’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the end of August. When asked about the timing of legalization, he pointed out that the coalition agreement contained the relevant provisions. The country’s Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann has also said that the first marijuana legalization bill in Germany is possible in 2022. It is well known that a coalition of the German Social Democratic Party, the Greens and the Free Democratic Party agreed a year ago to legalize the sale of marijuana, while promising to assess the impact on society four years after cannabis becomes legal, with stricter rules on cannabis advertising.
Against the backdrop of the recently deepening financial and economic crisis in the West, cannabinoids have attracted increased “business activity” as a way to make quick money. The market, already regarded as the most promising in the US, is predicted by analysts to be worth $100 billion in this country by 2030, and the medical marijuana market alone could be worth $59 billion by 2025, according to Global Market Insights estimates. With Joe Biden in the White House, the situation has become even easier in favor of legalization supporters, as it is the Democratic Party that has championed the decriminalization of marijuana in recent years.
Although the traditional way of using cannabis herb is through smoking, recently, as a result of the current authorities in the US and several Western countries, food products and oils containing cannabidiol, a natural compound found in cannabis plants, have been gaining traction. Commonly, cannabis and medicines containing cannabidiol are simply referred to as medical marijuana. It is increasingly being prescribed as a treatment for patients suffering from chronic pain or convulsions, and is being included in dietary supplements. New Frontier Data estimates that the market for cannabidiol derived from cannabis will already exceed one billion dollars in 2022.
Marijuana legalization benefits US authorities through taxes, with US states taking turns to decriminalize cannabis use and possession. According to reports in the US media, tax revenues from the sale of marijuana exceed $350 million a year in the State of New York alone. Retail shops are licensed to sell marijuana. A state tax is levied on retail sales, and US cities also levy an additional tax of 4%.
The tobacco giants have begun to invest in the growing marijuana market. Back in 2018, for example, US cigarette maker Altria Group bought a stake (45%) in marijuana company Cronos for $1.8 billion. Other tobacco corporations are also seeking to diversify their businesses by buying stakes in cannabis-related companies.
A private investor also has various options for investing their money in the industry. In particular, through shares in ETF, REIT, NFT and so on: some rent out land to grow cannabis, others grow the plant itself, others supply the farms with fertilizer and equipment. On January 2, 2015, an index of promising companies in the industry was even created, which includes the top businesses operating in the legal cannabis industry in the US and Canada. Shares in such companies can be bought on the Canadian CSE, the Toronto TSX, or the US NYSE and NASDAQ. In addition to the American and Canadian exchanges, there is the British company GW Pharmaceuticals, among others, as well as a number of other European companies.
Given the considerable profits from this industry for “businessmen” close to the authorities in Western countries, there are no state-level public outreach efforts on the dangers of using marijuana. The media has deliberately concealed the negative experience of the Netherlands, which legalized marijuana back in 1976, and the objective data on the results of this legalization. And the addiction to marijuana is just like the addiction to other drugs, but over a longer period of time. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the USA estimates that mental disorders occur in about 30% of regular marijuana users, who are characterized by increased irritability, fatigue, insomnia, decreased appetite and unreasonable restlessness. The Canadian Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry reports on a serious rise in mental health problems during adolescence. Research shows that marijuana is scarier for the brain than alcohol.
Nevertheless, certain circles in the US and Western countries are not stopping efforts to legalize marijuana altogether. But the European experience clearly shows that the legalization of marijuana leads to the drugization of the population, taking on the features of a mass social phenomenon. And by doing so, the authorities legalizing marijuana are achieving their goal of making more and more people easier to control…
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.