Is Weed About to Sweep the Hemisphere?

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Every day, it seems, the push to reform arcane drug laws picks up a little more speed. It started with a simple experiment in two states, Washington and Colorado, and has evolved into a full-on juggernaut.

Man Smoking JointIndeed, with recent developments in Mexico and Canada, the Americas may be on the verge of a tidal wave of legalization. The only big question is where it will strike first, and how long it will take to blanket the Western Hemisphere.

The Mexican Supreme Court ruled in early November that a small number of medical marijuana patients may legally use the drug. Though seemingly narrow, the ruling calls into question the nation’s entire anti-drug system, including the laws that prohibit weed for personal use.

It’s only one step toward reform; the Mexican Congress of the Union must still repeal the statutes that bar cannabis use for recreation. But the court decision marks a landmark moment in the legalization movement and greatly increases the likelihood Mexico will ultimately allow legal pot.

Canada elected Liberal Prime Minister

Meanwhile, in Canada, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize recreational use, soon. Trudeau and his Liberal party swept national elections last month in a dramatic rebuke of the previous Conservative government. His mandate for change should make it easier to move on legalization.

These developments, though big, are just part of a much larger trend toward marijuana reform throughout the hemisphere. Several Latin American countries are seriously considering full legalization, while the South American nation of Uruguay has already taken the plunge.

Colombia, Peru, Chile – all could see legal marijuana soon. But for now, the real action is in North America and the Caribbean. Cannabis is legal for any use in four American states and the District of Columbia, and it’s allowed for medical use in another 33 states. Canada also allows medical weed, as do Mexico and Jamaica.

More U.S. states poised to legalize

marijuana leavesThere’s no telling when Mexico or Canada might make the move to full legalization, but there’s a good chance more of the United States will beat them to the punch. At least 11 states are considered good bets to legalize within the next few years. It could take that long for lawmakers in Canada or Mexico to act.

At the moment, all eyes are on California. The nation’s most populous state stands a good chance of legalizing at the polls next year, and that would mean the entire West Coast between Mexico and Canada would allow weed. The sheer size of that front could trigger quick reforms south of the border. The same could happen in Canada.

New York is another critical battleground. The legislature there is considering a bill that would legalize recreational pot. It’s unclear what its chances are, but support for the idea is strong. And New York, like Washington, shares a border with Canada, a fact that would make it much harder to stop the international flow of black market weed.

The good news is that legal marijuana is on its way. The bad news is that there’s no way to predict where it will plant its flag next. It could come from the north, from the south, or from closer to home. Let’s just hope it reaches everyone soon.

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