A Global Look at Cannabis Reveals Inconsistent Enforcement and Broad Demand

March 10, 2017

GPJ-USAGLOBAL PRESS HQ — For all the controversy over cannabis, there’s surprisingly little research into how regulations are applied around the world.

A massive, U.S.-led effort to formalize global efforts to curb drug use won big when 185 countries ultimately signed the United Nation’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which led to widespread criminalization of drug use, including use of marijuana and related products.

But today, nearly 60 years later, it’s a serious task to determine each country’s laws governing drug cultivation and use, both in general and specifically for cannabis. There are dozens of maps showing cannabis policies around the world, but those regulations are constantly shifting. Most of the maps, even those created within the same time frames, contradict one another.

Even more challenging is tracking how that 1961 treaty is practically applied, regardless of local laws. In Nepal, for example, cannabis use is common in religious traditions related to Shiva, a Hindu god. When I asked Kalpana Khanal, a reporter at the Global Press Nepal desk, to look into the topic, she came back with a story about the widespread cultivation of cannabis in her country’s rural areas. (Read that story here.) Police routinely burn those cannabis fields, but demand for the plant is significant enough for farmers to keep returning to it.

Nearly all African nations have zero-tolerance policies for any form of marijuana use, but in Zimbabwe, and probably in other nations, too, traditional healers use the plant in their practices, and government officials look the other way, according to a story by Fortune Moyo, a reporter at the Global Press News Desk there. (See our story here.)

Just as there’s little research into how cannabis laws are applied globally, there’s also scant information on how people around the world feel about the plant. The stories Global Press published on the topic this month offer a rare look at what really happens around the world — including that local officials aren’t necessarily keen to enforce the letter of the law when it’s being broken in a  culturally-acceptable manner.

All signs point to continued changes in cannabis laws around the world. As those laws change, we’ll continue to examine how they’re enforced — or not enforced — in places that are far-removed from where high-volume discussions on the topic are occurring.