2018 marked the beginning of what many forecast as a golden era for the cannabis industry. Regulatory reform took place in nearly every corner of the globe, sparking unprecedented market growth. Although we are still some way from complete acceptance of the plant, significant strides have been made in the medical marijuana sector especially. It is also within this segment of the industry that we have seen some dramatic changes in how nations control and regulate the substance.

Although the global cannabis industry continues to drive forward, it is worth looking back at just how pivotal 2018 was. With that in mind, below you can find a summary of some significant legislative changes that happened across the world. As you can see, the impact of cannabis was far-reaching, with all continents (excluding Antarctica) witnessing some degree of regulatory reform.

Europe

In July, the UK reformed decades of cannabis legislation by rescheduling cannabis-derived medical products. The move was on the back of growing pressure from third parties after several cases of epilepsy in children were denied access to cannabis oil.

Earlier in the year, Germany made a similar decision, legalising medical cannabis. Although the first wave of cannabis cultivation licenses are still in the pipeline, these are expected to be issued in the early part of 2019. Portugal has also followed suit with a bill being passed that allows marijuana-based medicines to be available via a doctor’s prescription. The country has long since been at the forefront of cannabis reform after decriminalising all drugs in 2001.

Luxembourg is now part of an exclusive group of countries to allow both medical and recreational cannabis. During the latter months of 2018, the three coalition parties agreed in favour of cannabis legalisation. While the specifics of the regulatory reform are yet to be decided, 2019 will be an exciting year for the cannabis industry in Luxembourg.

North America

Canada’s decision to legalise all cannabis will go down as a momentous occurrence in the history books. It will come as no surprise that the cannabis market there has exploded, giving rise to billion-dollar investments and rapidly expanding global business ventures. Legal sales began on the 17th October after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presented the legislative change, and the senate agreed.

There are still several stiff penalties in place should individuals operate outside of the amended legislation, but it is too early to tell just how successful the change has been. Canada is currently regarded as the proving ground for cannabis reform. Several countries have indicated that they would like to see the impact of Canada’s legal market before making their own decisions.

America has experienced such a rapid spread of cannabis reform that it is difficult to keep track. In total, 33 states have legalised the drug for medical use, with 10 states allowing marijuana to be used recreationally. Of those 33 states, Utah and Missouri are some of the newest members of the medical cannabis club. For recreational users, Michigan was one of the most recent states to vote for legalisation of the substance. It is worth noting that cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic under federal law, despite legislative changes at a state level.

In another monumental moment, the last few weeks of 2018 saw President Trump sign a farm bill that will make hemp legal to cultivate across America from the 1st of January, 2019. It also allows the legal production and distribution of cannabinoid-based products provided they are derived from hemp that contains less than 0.3% THC.

Asia

Places like Thailand, China, and Korea are known for their zero-tolerance stance on cannabis. While Western countries have reformed policy based on public support for cannabis, in many Asian nations the stigma attached to the plant is deeply ingrained in communities. That made the decisions by both Thailand and South Korea to legalise medical cannabis all the more surprising.

In Thailand, legalisation of medical marijuana is still awaiting the approval of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, although Thailand’s military government has already unanimously approved the substance. One of the nations that the world never expected to legalise cannabis, South Korea, was in fact the first Eastern country to do so. During the final months of 2018, South Korea approved medical cannabis and other CBD products as long as strict guidelines were adhered to.

The Future Of Cannabis Legislation

As you can see, even a summary of legislative changes is a lot to take in. There were also several other changes that took place throughout the year, so it is best to regularly check the latest news where you live to see how it all affects you. You never know, access to cannabis may be easier than you think. Now that 2018 is over, the hope is that the same level of acceptance will be shown by governments around the world in the years ahead.