- While many pro-cannabis organisations have made great achievements, less fortunate groups are still making efforts to change the cannabis laws in their countries.
- In Spain, for instance, the cannabis circle of Podemos and the Think Tank on Cannabis Policies are working towards the implementation of a comprehensive regulatory framework. Meanwhile, institutions such as the Spanish Observatory on Medical Cannabis research the therapeutic properties of the plant.
- Across the pond, activist efforts have led to the legalisation of cannabis in Canada and in different areas of the US, while in the Southern Cone, Chilean and Argentinian parents called for cannabis-based treatments.
Interest in cannabis is growing worldwide, and this is largely due to the countless associations and organisations that have been advocating for years in favour of the legal access to the plant. Made up of physicians, scientists, legislators, lawyers and activists of all sorts, these associations have given focus and momentum to the debate on the legalisation of cannabis, with results ranging from the achievement of their goals to the increase of awareness of the therapeutic properties of the plant and its social role as a recreational substance.
Joining forces from Europe
One of the most influential European associations is the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policy (ENCOD), the section of the International Coalition in Europe. Founded in 1993 and made up of over 160 NGOs and individual experts, the ENCOND believes prohibition is unwholesome and lobbies for a more transparent and democratic policy making process for certain substances. Since 2006, the coalition supports cannabis social clubs understood as organisations of citizens who grow a limited amount of cannabis to meet the needs of their members.
Another European heavyweight is the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU). Founded in 1994, the association is the leading supporter of the public petition requesting the revision of the harsh Hungarian laws - in 2016 they released a guideline on how to get access to medical cannabis in the country, which is not provided for under Hungarian regulations.
Moving on to Spain, we find many other of associations that are advocating for the legalisation of cannabis. These include the cannabis circle of Podemos, which aims at decriminalising cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal and collective use and at regulating the status of cannabis social clubs, the Spanish Observatory on Medicinal Cannabis (OECM), that works to disseminate science-based information on the therapeutic benefits of the plant, and the Think Tank on Cannabis Policies (GEPCA). Founded in 2014 following a meeting between experts and representatives of the civil society organised by the Dutch think tank Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Spanish Federation of Cannabis Associations (FAC), the group has tabled a proposal to protect the rights of both cannabis users and non-users through a three-fold approach: the creation of a regulated cannabis market, the establishment of associations and the implementation of home cultivation schemes.
Other major European associations include Arge Canna in Austria, Clear and Cannabis Trades Association in the UK and the French and Irish branches of the American organisation NORML.
The voices of America: from north to south
Home to the biggest community of cannabis activists, America is where most pro-legalisation organisations are based. One of the most influential ones globally is the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICSR). Founded in the United States in 1992, its main role is to provide an open forum for cannabis researchers to meet.
Another major US organisation is the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Based in New York and founded in 2000 following the merger between the Lindesmith Center and the Drug Policy Foundation, the group envisions a society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, and works towards the legalisation of marijuana in more and more places. As they themselves say, the PDA has played a pivotal role in roughly half of the campaigns that have legalised medical marijuana in the US.
Besides the ICSR and the DPA, the list of organisations that advocate for cannabis legalisation in the United States includes names like the NORML - of international renown - the Marijuana Policy Project, Stop the Drug War and Common Sense for Drug Policy.
Meanwhile, Canadian associations keep working to ensure that the legalisation of recreational cannabis in the country, scheduled to take effect on 1 July, is properly implemented. Such is the case of the Cannabis Trade Alliance of Canada, which works with legislators and entrepreneurs towards the development of a sustainable, safe and ethical cannabis industry.
In South America, activist efforts have recently led to legalisation in pioneering Uruguay. Also worthy of attention is the movement in favour of medical cannabis, particularly for children, spearheaded by Chile and Argentina, where parents of children suffering from refractory epilepsy banded together to request cannabis-based treatments, the only effective remedy for most seizures. The movement saw the foundation of organisations such as Cameda in Argentina, Fundación Daya in Chile and Mamá Cultiva, present in both countries; associations whose hard work and commitment ultimately led to the legalisation of medical cannabis in their respective countries.
There is little doubt that, were it not for the efforts of the members of these associations, cannabis wouldn't be at the heart of the debate in most countries. Still, while many have been successful in their attempts to liberalise cannabis, others still have a great deal of work ahead of them.