The first country to ever legalize cannabis for adult use was Uruguay back in 2013. Lawmakers in Uruguay passed a measure which, among other things, legalized cannabis cultivation, possession, consumption, and for local residents, legal purchases via cannabis clubs and pharmacies.
In 2018 Canada became the second country, and the first G-7 nation, to legalize cannabis for adult use. Unlike Uruguay, Canada immediately implemented legal sales and purchases by all adults in Canada, regardless of their residential status. In 2021, Malta joined Uruguay and Canada by legalizing cannabis for adult use, albeit in a more limited fashion. Malta will not have regulated adult-use cannabis sales.
With the end of 2021 on the horizon and the dawn of 2022 only days away, many within the international cannabis community are wondering which countries are the most likely to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2022? While no country is guaranteed to do so, and hypothetically any country could pass a legalization measure at any time, below are the countries that are most likely to pass laws to end cannabis prohibition within their borders in 2022.
In October 2018 Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that cannabis prohibition as it pertains to individual use was unconstitutional. At the time, the ruling shook the international cannabis community given the fact that no European country had legalized cannabis yet, and Canada had barely legalized cannabis earlier that same month. Lawmakers in Mexico were tasked with passing a measure that would completely legalize cannabis and create a regulated industry, however, that has yet to happen. Next year will hopefully be the year that lawmakers finally make it happen.
Somewhat similar to Mexico, Italy’s Supreme Court ruled in late 2019 that prohibitions on ‘small-scale’ cannabis cultivation and consumption were unconstitutional. Since that time lawmakers have tried and failed to pass a legalization measure to clarify what is legal and what is not. Activists took matters into their own hands and submitted over 630,000 signatures to put legalization in front of voters in 2022, and Italy’s government has indicated that it will not stand in the way of the referendum moving forward.
Germany has a new ruling coalition government, and members of that coalition have indicated that creating a regulated adult-use cannabis industry is a top priority. It’s unclear exactly when a measure will be passed, although many are confident that something significant will happen in 2022 even if the launch of an actual regulated adult-use industry may take longer. With Malta having already beaten Germany to the legalization punch, yet not creating its own regulated adult-use industry, it could encourage lawmakers in Germany to speed up their plans.
Lawmakers in Luxembourg have indicated that an adult-use measure will be passed in 2022 and that the measure will legalize cannabis cultivation, possession, and consumption. However, similar to Malta’s legalization model, Luxembourg will not have a regulated adult-use market, at least not at first. With that being said, the looming legalization measure will still be a significant improvement over prohibition.
In 2018 South Africa’s top court ruled that cannabis use in a private setting is legal and that any related prohibition policies were unconstitutional. Lawmakers in South Africa have since worked on building the framework for a regulated adult-use industry, even releasing a comprehensive cannabis industry plan in 2021 with the goal of implementing it in 2022 or 2023. Only time will tell when it actually happens, however, the odds are decent that it could happen next year which would make South Africa the first country on its entire continent to implement a legalized adult-use industry.
The region where Thailand is located has historically been one of the harshest places on earth when it comes to cannabis penalties. Over half of the countries that have a death penalty for cannabis offenses are located in the same region as Thailand. However, that has not stopped Thailand from pursuing cannabis reform at a blazing speed, including plans to push for ‘full legalization’ in 2022 according to Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health.
In November 2020, lawmakers in Israel indicated that cannabis would be legalized for adult use ‘within 9 months.’ Obviously, that timeframe came and went and no legalization measure was passed. Lawmakers are still pushing for legalization, with at least some members of the current coalition government making political threats if cannabis legalization isn’t pursued in good faith. Israel has long served as a leader when it comes to international cannabis research, and hopefully, adult-use legalization becomes a reality there in 2022.