Book:Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Laboratory Testing and Regulation in the United States/Future of cannabis regulation, testing, and market trends/Non-U.S. policy

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5.5 Non-U.S. policy

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Aside from a few mentions of Canada and European regulation, this guide has focused solely on the state of cannabis and related lab testing in the United States. However, it would be remiss to not look at how policy elsewhere may potentially impact the U.S. cannabis market, if nothing else at least indirectly. Broadly speaking, other countries like the Netherlands and Portugal have put more emphasis on decriminalization and recreational legalization of marijuana than on researching and providing marijuana for medical purposes.[1] Israel has been one of the major exceptions to this generalization, arguably "up to 10 years ahead of other countries in innovation in the cannabis industry."[2] The country has been involved with cannabis research since the 1960s, and today it has its hands in many medical research-based initiatives (though recreational marijuana is still illegal), including[2][3]:

  • The Green Book, a set of written protocols and policy detailing how doctors should work with medical marijuana as well as how it would be commercialized across the country; includes training and certification of 100 doctors for prescribing it[4][5][6]
  • the creation of the Medical Cannabis Unit, a government agency that regulates medical cannabis research and use
  • the development of significant investment and infrastructure for clinical trials involving medical cannabis
  • the development of a national institute for medical marijuana research
  • the discussion of potentially exporting cannabis and/or cannabis-related extracts and derivatives
  • several higher education facilities offering courses and research opportunities on cannabis
  • several start-ups developing improved cultivation, pharmaceutical, and medical device technology

Another major country challenging traditional cannabis regulation is Uruguay, which in December 2013 adopted the first stages of regulatory legislation that would ultimately make the cultivation, sale, and use (recreational and medical) of cannabis in the country legal and government-controlled. In part due to concerns regarding gang-related violence and a tentative but not proven connection to black-market cannabis, the country has since carefully and methodically implemented the laws and regulations with the goal of keeping in mind evidence-based research and the potential social impact.[7][8] In fact, a late February 2017 press release from Canadian company Emblem Corp. stated it and Uruguayan ICC International Cannabis Corporation would, pending finalization of regulatory processes between the two countries, begin a partnership that would have Emblem import CBD (cannabidiol) from ICC "to help fulfill the demand in the Canadian market."[9] The end result has been a growing body of evidence that the cannabis policies are working intended and that they can provide guidance to other countries seeking to legalize some aspects of cannabis, or even begin exporting it as a crop.[10][11]

The reality of all this—combined with the legalization momentum in the U.S. and other neighboring countries like Canada (the first G-7 nation to end marijuana prohibition)[12][13] and Mexico[14]—means that new pressures are being applied to organizers of international treaties and policy, and any future changes to those treaties and policy may inversely apply pressure back on the U.S. government to update its stance on cannabis. An October 2014 Brookings Institution interview revealed some of the issues "straining the limits of an international drug control regime that most participants, including the United States, have long understood to be quite strict."[15] Drug treaties such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), and United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988) represent hard policy that the U.S. government (as well as other federal governments) has followed steadfastly for years. However, a dichotomy begins to form when federal governments bend those treaties either through outright legalization or, as is the case in the U.S., by allowing the states power to determine their own laws.[15]

As a result of these stresses, policy experts around the world have been shining light on the need for not only federal governments but also international agencies such as the United Nations' World Health Organisation (WHO) to move forward with critical reviews of existing cannabis research in the social and medical domains and determine if revising cannabis' scheduling is appropriate. Additionally, policy experts have urged United Nations members to discuss and amend existing treaties, even if such amendments only provide greater flexibility in regards to marijuana.[15][16] That applied pressure has seemingly turned into action by the WHO and the European Union. In February 2019, the WHO recommended the rescheduling of cannabis under international drug treaties, removing cannabis and THC from Schedule IV (the most restrictive classification of drugs) of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and kept at Schedule I, with extracts and tinctures being removed entirely from scheduling. The WHO also recommended CBD to be removed from the list of schedules.[17] The European Union encouraged its members to vote in favor of the WHO recommendations, [18] and members of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) ended up voting in favor of WHO Recommendation 5.1 to delete cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention.[19] Optimistically, that action could be enough to "encourage countries to reevaluate how cannabis is classified on their own lists of narcotic drugs, potentially paving the way for more research into medical marijuana and its use as a treatment for a variety of ailments and conditions,"[19] further shaping how international cannabis businesses conduct business.

Whether or not the decriminalization, rescheduling, and legalization efforts of Israel, the Netherlands, Uruguay, and other global entities such as the WHO has a noticeable impact on international and U.S. federal law remains to be seen. However, it would be foolish to entirely ignore foreign policy when considering the future of cannabis in the United States.


  1. Johnson, R.M.; Fariman, B.; Gilreath, T. et al. (2015). "Past 15-year trends in adolescent marijuana use: Differences by race/ethnicity and sex". Drug and Alcohol Dependence 155: 8–15. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.08.025. PMC PMC4582007. PMID 26361714. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Press, V.S. (13 February 2017). "5 reasons Israel is dominating the cannabis industry". ISREAL21c. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  3. Kershner, I. (17 December 2016). "Israel, a Medical Marijuana Pioneer, Is Eager to Capitalize". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  4. Efrati, I. (20 October 2016). "Israeli Pharmacies Prepare to Sell Medical Cannabis". Haaretz. Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  5. iCAN Israel (1 September 2016). "Israel: A Peek Inside the Israeli Knesset’s Special Committee on Medical Cannabis". Cannabis Law Journal. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  6. "The Green Book: The Official Guide to Clinical Care in Medical Cannabis". Cannabis Magazine. 6 January 2018. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  7. Ramsey, G. (November 2016). "Getting Regulation Right: Assessing Uruguay's Historic Cannabis Initiative" (PDF). WOLA. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  8. Reuters (19 July 2017). "Uruguay pharmacies start selling cannabis straight to consumers". The Guardian. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  9. "Emblem to Import CBD from Uruguay into Canada". New Cannabis Ventures. NCV Media, LLC. 27 February 2017. Retrieved 09 July 2022. 
  10. Laqueur, Hannah; Rivera-Aguirre, Ariadne; Shev, Aaron; Castillo-Carniglia, Alvaro; Rudolph, Kara E.; Ramirez, Jessica; Martins, Silvia S.; Cerdá, Magdalena (1 June 2020). "The impact of cannabis legalization in Uruguay on adolescent cannabis use" (in en). International Journal of Drug Policy 80: 102748. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102748. 
  11. Iglesias, M.; Saldías, A.N.; Ross, G. (19 February 2021). "Marijuana: Made in Uruguay". Weekly Asado. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  12. Porter, C. (11 November 2018). "Canada’s Message to Teenagers: Marijuana Is Legal Now. Please Don’t Smoke It". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  13. Rogers, K. (24 September 2018). "Eyes of the global marijuana industry are on Canada as it legalizes recreational use". CNBC. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  14. Timmons, P. (31 October 2018). "Mexico's Supreme Court legalizes cannabis for recreational use". UPI. United Press International, Inc. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Rauch, J. (16 October 2014). "Marijuana Legalization Poses a Dilemma for International Drug Treaties". Brookings FIXGOV: Making Government Work. The Brookings Institution. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  16. Hamilton, I.; Monaghan, M.; Rolles, S. et al. (23 November 2016). "Why WHO needs a radical rethink of its draconian approach to cannabis". The Conversation. The Conversation US, Inc. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  17. Sandy, E. (4 February 2019). "World Health Organization Recommends Rescheduling Cannabis Under International Drug Treaties". Cannabis Business Times. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 
  18. Schiller, M. (29 January 2020). "European Union Urges Member Nations to Vote for World Health Organization’s Cannabis Rescheduling Recommendations". Cannabis Business Times. Retrieved 27 February 2020. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Pascual, A. (17 December 2021). "United Nations approves WHO recommendation to reschedule cannabis in historic vote". MJBiz Daily. Retrieved 09 August 2022. 

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Citation information for this chapter

Chapter: 5. Future of cannabis regulation, testing, and market trends

Title: Past, Present, and Future of Cannabis Laboratory Testing and Regulation in the United States

Edition: Fourth edition

Author for citation: Shawn E. Douglas

License for content: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Publication date: August 2022