Which Countries Will Likely Legalize Cannabis In 2022? Industry Experts Weigh In.
And why isn't the U.S. among them?
Cannabis reform is heating up across the nation. With it comes a booming multinational market, including a projected $102 billion in sales by 2026, according to Prohibition Partners.
Global reform efforts also received a late-in-the-year shot in the arm when Malta legalized possession of up to seven grams and home cultivation earlier this month. With the third nation to legalize now cemented, the question naturally shifts to who will be fourth?
Benzinga received an array of answers from various cannabis sectors, spanning legal, capital, investors and consultants for this topic. Their responses showed that legalization prospects have never been hotter.
More than ten nations came up as possible movers in 2022, with sources citing expected regulatory movements, statements from national officials and intuition as part of their rationale.
These were the most discussed nations among the group.
Of the many European nations discussed, Germany is often considered one of the future global market leaders. Prohibition Partners mentions Germany, Israel and Australia as nations likely to develop their marketplaces over the next five years.
Legalization prospects heated up when the post-Angela Merkel era was finally determined–with the incoming coalition of progressive parties agreeing to legalize adult-use cannabis and promote broader drug policy reform. Germany legalized medical use in 2017.
"2022 is going to be the year that everyone watches Germany and how the Green Light Coalition handles Germany's EU and UN obligations," said Jason Adelstone, an associate attorney for national cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg.
Adelstone and several sources believe Germany will catalyze other European nations to implement similar laws.
"You will see the other countries follow like a brush-fire starting with the eastern EU countries and moving westward," Michael Sassano, CEO of Somai Pharmaceuticals forecasted.
Other European countries
Several sources believe that various neighboring nations will follow Germany's path. Adelstone noted that Switzerland and the Netherlands appear set to implement trial programs.
The Swiss city Zurich will soon launch a three-and-a-half-year pilot program allowing people to buy cannabis from pharmacies and pot clubs. A scientific study of the trial and the effects of legalization will be conducted.
In July, the ten-city Dutch cultivation pilot program appeared stalled and could miss its planned autumn 2022 implementation, according to NL Times. The blame has been placed on differences between participating municipalities and the country's Justice of Health.
Luxembourg also stands on the cusp of legalization after a plan was put forth this year that includes an early 2022 vote. Luxembourg has already legalized growing cannabis and personal use via laws passed in October 2021.
"If countries like Luxembourg and Germany move forward, it could mean more," said Laura Bianchi, founding partner of national cannabis law firm Bianchi & Brandt.
Bianchi predicts that five to seven nations could move on adult-use reform in 2022, noting that the pandemic halted reform in many cases.
Sources also highlighted Portugal, Spain and Italy as EU countries to possibly join the reform movement.
Mexico gets mentioned regularly when discussing legalization projections. Still, it has not reached the finish line despite a Supreme Court ruling.
Like South Africa, Mexico has been obliged to change its laws following Supreme Court rulings. Still, lawmakers have lagged behind the several-year-old court rulings.
In June 2021, Mexico's Justices waited no longer, voting 8-3 to legalize adult use. However, national laws still must be revised by Congress.
Jorge Escalona, a Mexican citizen, cannabis consultant and co-founder of Nabis Group said the nation's pot laws remain in a "lawless gray area."
He added that the country's medical rollout also required revision that he hopes 2022 brings about medical and adult-use reform.
"The Mexican Senate will change the draft bill for a fourth time, and they expect it to be passed in Q1 of 2022," Escalona added.
Along with Mexico, sources also expressed hope for nearby nations, including Jamaica and Costa Rica. Meanwhile, many noted that South American countries, including Brazil and Colombia, may reform their medical cannabis laws in 2022.
Will the U.S. legalize in 2022?
Few, if any, sources mentioned the U.S. as a candidate for federal reform in 2022.
Rob Sechrist, president of Pelorus Equity Group and co-manager of the Pelorus Fund, said he doesn't see the GOP making any cannabis deals while President Biden is in office.
"I believe we are looking at the next administration for having the next shot at legalizing cannabis on the federal level," Sechrist said.
Laura Bianchi believes banking reform will be the focus in 2022. "We may see banks and lenders treat the cannabis industry like every other industry and make it easier to actually do business," she noted.
Meanwhile, Adelstone noted his interest in the bipartisan Harnessing Opportunities by Pursuing Expungement (HOPE) Act, introduced by Representatives Dave Joyce and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
"This bill would not only assist in removing the stain of a cannabis conviction for millions of Americans disproportionately affected by the war on drugs but could also place even greater pressure on Senator Schumer to allow a vote in the Senate on SAFE Banking," Adelstone said.