This week, Smoke Signals goes around the world in cannabis news, starting in the Great White North:
Legalization in Alaska
Santa may be extra jolly this year, as last week brought the revelation that the North Pole has a commercial cannabis growing operation. OK, the grow op is not at the North Pole. As far as we know, Santa's elves are not busily tending a fresh crop of Afghani Kush. But Black Rapids LLC is growing such a crop in North Pole, Alaska.
And that was the strain sold last week at Arctic Herbery, the first cannabis store to open in Anchorage, Alaska's largest city. The first customer in a long line stretching around the block was 81-year-old Anna Ercoli, who told reporters she would be mixing her 2.5 grams of Afghani Kush flower into a medicinal cream. "This is really the only thing that when I put it on my skin, I can go to sleep and I can sleep because I have no pain," she said.
Canada's Cannabis Policy
Next door in Canada, the government's cannabis legalization task force issued its much-awaited report on cannabis policy. The report states that, "There is growing recognition that cannabis prohibition has proven to be an ineffective strategy for reducing individual or social harms" and recommends that Canada implement a public health and research-focused system to displace the illegal cannabis market.
The report makes 80 recommendations in all, including a minimum age of 18 for purchases, a 30-gram limit on public possession, a growing limit of four plants per home, separation of cannabis from alcohol and tobacco, both in products and in sales locations, and legalizing dedicated locations for cannabis consumption and cannabis mail-order services. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration is expected to introduce nationwide cannabis legalization legislation in 2017.
Mexico Moves Toward Medical
South of the border, the Mexican Senate passed a bill legalizing medical cannabis. Last week's vote was the latest in a series of actions by the Mexican government that have included decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis and allowing individuals to grow cannabis for personal use. The bill will now be considered by Mexico's Chamber of Deputies. Over the past decade, an estimated 100,000 Mexicans have been killed and 30,000 have gone missing due to the war on drugs.
Colombia's War on Drugs Ends
And speaking of the war on drugs, Colombia's civil war, which dragged on for over 50 years, has finally ended. The conflict was closely tied to the war on drugs, as the FARC rebels were funded by proceeds from illegal drug trafficking. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Price for his efforts to end the war, and used his acceptance speech to address the issue. "The war on drugs has not been won, and is not being won. The manner in which this war against drugs is being waged is equally or perhaps even more harmful than all the wars the world is fighting today, combined," Santos said.
The Numbers from Portugal
Finally, in Portugal, 15 years after decriminalizing all drugs there still has been no increase in drug use and drug-related deaths, and illnesses have decreased dramatically since the policy change. A similar picture is emerging in the United States, where millions of people now have access to legal cannabis but teen drug use is at historic lows—but the connection, or lack thereof, still baffles officials.
"I don't have an explanation," Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told U.S. News & World Report.