Marijuana activists around the world call for major reforms

By @chelean on
A demonstrator with his face painted takes part during a rally for the legalization of marijuana in Mexico City, Mexico, May 7, 2016.
A demonstrator with his face painted takes part during a rally for the legalization of marijuana in Mexico City, Mexico, May 7, 2016. Reuters/Henry Romero

A global call for marijuana reform takes place in various cities around the world in celebration of the Global Marijuana March (GMM).

According to RT, the annual May event was celebrated in 829 cities of 72 countries this year, unifying an urgent call for governments to expedite marijuana reforms, especially on its legalisation.

Marijuana activists from different countries around the world have organised parades, marches and rallies to voice out six demands for global marijuana reform. These demands include putting a stop to cannabis arrests and making medical marijuana available for the sick.

Aside from court rulings that favour possession of marijuana of up to 5 grams and allowing home cultivation, which happened in some countries in South America , marijuana activists urged lawmakers to “free the weed” and legalise its use entirely.

Several countries around the world have taken the initial steps to legalise marijuana in some forms, whether for recreation or medical use. For instance, the United States have 24 out of 50 states that legalised marijuana in some forms. This move opened new doors for various medical cannabis startups to invest further in marijuana research and development. Among the companies that produce high-quality medical cannabis products is Med-X. The Los Angeles-based medical cannabis company is also the first to run a Regulation A+ approved crowd funding initiative based on the JOBS Act.

Still, other US states remain firm in their decision to criminalise marijuana use, this amplifies the federal stance which still considers marijuana use as a criminal offence. This puts into question the other Global Marijuana March participatory countries’ disposition in terms of marijuana activists’ call for marijuana legalisation. Are these countries’ lawmakers prepared for the consequences of marijuana reform?

Uncontrollable dispensaries

In Toronto, about 20,000 activists marched in Queen’s park towards King Edward IV’s statue, in observance of the 18th GMM, the Toronto Sun reported. Consequently, Toronto was one of the hundreds of marijuana parades scheduled around the world.

Among the participants of the march was a 52-year old wheelchair-bound Burlington resident who used marijuana for pain relief from multiple sclerosis. Another cannabis activist, who owns a vapour lounge, joined the march as a cry for help since he has been growing his own cannabis plants since 1974. In Canada, medical cannabis can only be legally obtained through licensed producers authorised by Health Canada and these dispensaries are at risk of being criminalised.

The country’s forthcoming marijuana legalisation is still set in the spring of 2017, as the Huffington Post reported. However, allegations of dispensaries springing from various parts of the city in an uncontrollable number leaked.

Earlier this month, Toronto Mayor John Tory hinted of an imminent growth in the number of marijuana dispensaries across Toronto neighbourhoods. Thus, Tory called on city officials to find ways to limit its growth that could affect the city’s quality of life.

“I don't think it's sustainable for neighbourhoods, and for life in neighbourhoods that we want to be peaceful, quiet and law-abiding, to have 20, 21, 31 medical marijuana dispensaries," Tory said in an interview regarding Trudeau’s transit announcement . "You have to do these things in an orderly way that respects public safety and health and access to minors.”

Imminent market monopoly

In another part of the globe, protesters in Colombia thought of a unique way to display their message by filling fruits with cannabis roll-ups. The streets of Bogota and Medellin were filled with marijuana lovers who smoked cannabis out of crafted tropical fruits while others smoked three-foot long hand rolled pipes as they heed the call for the relaxation of drug laws.

Colombia has one of the most lenient drug laws in South America, which particularly allows medical use of marijuana. The decree was signed into law last December 2015 by President Juan Manuel Santos, allowing the growth and use of marijuana for medical use. Three months after the decree approval, the country allowed commercial sale of a marijuana-based mouth spray called Sativex, CCTV America reported. Although the product is used to treat muscle spasms for multiple sclerosis, critics pointed out that only big pharmaceutical companies benefitted from the marijuana legalisation. The bill proponent, Senator Juan Manuel Galan, was quick to reiterate that local marijuana production will be promoted to balance the market.

Insufficient medical and legal pieces of evidence

On May 7, more than 3,000 protestors marched in the streets of Cape Town carrying placards calling for the legalisation of marijuana for medical and recreational use. The activists believe that medical marijuana has been widely accepted in various parts of the world to relieve pain from cancer, HIV and AIDS, and thus pleaded to have it legalised in the country.

Mario Oriani-Ambrosini, a member of the South African Parliament who eventually died of cancer, championed the Medical Innovation Bill which would allow the commercial, industrial and medical applications of marijuana, locally known as dagga. However, a minority party, INKATHA Freedom Party, asked for the removal of the commercial and industrial applications of marijuana, which was seconded by the leading party, Democratic Alliance.

Insights from the Marijuana Politics wrote that the bill lacks medical evidence and that the medical research council in the country still asks for more research before the law is passed. Furthermore, the bill calls to authorise cannabis use for medical treatment in cases without prior medical evidence. It also lifts liability to any person found to be growing, processing and distributing among others, cannabinoids whether commercial, medical or industrial.

The growing acceptance of marijuana either for recreational or medical use has been evident as various countries continue to pass laws on its legalisation. Though there may be endeavours and critics that are sceptical of marijuana reforms’ success, lawmakers, health ministries and private medical companies work hand in hand to straighten the path and help people understand the benefits of cannabis, especially for health.

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