Medical Cannabis: 2010-2019

Total prohibition to legalization

Few industries have changed as much as the medical cannabis sector over the past decade.

A lot has happened in the world of medical cannabis over the past ten years.

In many ways, the 2010s was the decade of cannabis.

The coming years promise growth and acceptance of cannabis beyond anything we have already seen. The signs were there to begin with. In the first decade of the century, some countries had already started to take a more benign approach to this substance, which historians tell us has been a feature of human life for over 8,000 years.

In those first tentative years of the millennium, Luxembourg, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Belgium decriminalized cannabis consumption and possession, while Portugal decriminalized everything from cannabis to opium, and Canada and Austria legalized medical cannabis.

That was just the start of a wave that has taken over the world.

2013 was the 100th anniversary of the first ban on cannabis consumption implemented in the US, adopted by the states of California, Maine, Wyoming, and Indiana.

It would take another 20 odd years for it to be controlled at a federal level, but quickly, nearly every state raised barriers against the use of the substance.

The United States is in many ways unique. Its war on drugs sees no parallel in terms of violence and scope anywhere else on earth, and ranking cannabis at the same level as heroin has helped to add to the world’s biggest population of imprisoned citizens; that’s absolute numbers, not even per capita.

But as with everything in life, things change.

By 2010, 17 states had opened the door to medical cannabis licenses.

The decade that followed, however, was the decade of recreational use, of the freedom to consume for pleasure, rather than to respond to pain.

The first was Colorado, but many others followed.

In 2019, the state of Illinois legalized recreational cannabis through state legislature, becoming the 11th state in the country to allow its citizens to smoke up freely.

Medical cannabis has been made legal in 33 (out of 51) states and four (out of five) permanently inhabited US territories.

In the rest of the world the trend was much the same.

From Europe to South America and Australia, in one way or the other, laws covering cannabis and derivatives have been softened.

Uruguay broke ground in 2013 by becoming the first country in the world to explicitly legalize the recreational use of cannabis on a national level.

Most, however, looked to medical cannabis and low-THC high-CBD non-psychoactive products. Lesotho, in 2017, became the first African nation to grant a medical cannabis license, but Zimbabwe and South Africa followed.

While most of Africa and Asia remain starkly opposed to this substance, the Americas, Europe, and Australia have clearly followed a trend of liberalization that will be hard to reverse, not only because laws cannot be changed easily, but because of the most unifying human desire in modern civilization: money!

While the forbidden fruit may be the most desirable, the legalization of cannabis has made it in no way less popular. Across the world, demand for the plant in its many forms has skyrocketed, and where there is demand, there is money to be made.

Businesses that were small at the beginning of the decade have become giants, while major pharmaceutical firms have joined in, farmed in, bought in, and done anything to get in on the game.

In 2014 there was talk of oil companies investing in the sector.

The cannabis craze was such that throughout most of the decade any company that would create any division with a cannabis-associated word in its name would see its stock rise to the double digits. Investment funds were created focused solely on this industry, information agencies were created to cover the sector, and fields were cleared for production.

A plant that once financed wars in Colombia was being replanted there as a promise for growth and fortune.

Central America has benefited uniquely from this development, boasting ideal weather for the crop. New supply chains were created, along with distributors, dispensers, marketing campaigns, logos, and designs. The world of today in most western cities is a world where anyone can enter a cannabis store, which is sort of a mix between a designer clothing shop and a hipster pharmacy, and buy a nicely-designed sustainably-produced package of a couple of grams of quality-controlled black widow CBD without a second thought.

The shift is so dramatic that it is hard to make comparisons due to the simple lack of data. Today, it is estimated that the global cannabis industry could be worth around USD33 billion, with most estimates suggesting it will reach USD50 billion within the next five to 10 years.

However, in 2009, estimates of how big the industry was worth were made based on the amount of illegal plants seized and on estimates over the size of the black market. That is how far we are from 2009.

Today, the cannabis industry employs hundreds of thousands of people in the US alone, and some analysts suggest it could become bigger than the soda industry and even give the alcohol industry a run for its money.

No doubt, the decade to come will see a continuation of this acceleration and growth, as well as the progressive normalization of this once taboo industry.

Just keep in mind that you were there, when it all began, and tell your grandchildren that you saw it happen, that you saw the world abandon the laws of cannabis prohibition and that you have witnessed the times that followed. Maybe you even bought some cannabis stock!

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