Why are so many countries now saying cannabis is OK?

The legalization of cannabis varies from country to country and is influenced by a complex interplay of social, political, economic, and cultural factors.

Commercial sale of recreational cannabis is legalized nationwide in three countries (Canada, Thailand, and Uruguay) and in all subnational U.S. jurisdictions that have legalized possession except Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Several reasons can explain why some countries have not legalized cannabis:

1. Cultural and Social Attitudes: Cultural norms and social attitudes toward cannabis use can significantly impact legalization efforts. In countries with a strong historical stigma against cannabis, changing public perception can be challenging.

2. Political Factors: Political ideology and party affiliation often play a crucial role in cannabis legalization. Conservative governments may be less inclined to support legalization, while more liberal or progressive administrations may be more open to it.

3. Economic Concerns: The economic implications of cannabis legalization can be a significant factor. Some countries fear potential negative effects on productivity, workforce, or public health costs. Conversely, others see cannabis legalization as a potential source of tax revenue and job creation.

4. International Treaties: Many countries are signatories to international treaties, such as the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, that restrict or prohibit the legalization of cannabis. These treaties can limit a country’s ability to change its drug policies without facing international consequences.

5. Public Health and Safety: Concerns about the potential health and safety risks associated with cannabis use can also influence policy decisions. Some countries worry about the potential for increased substance abuse, impaired driving, or negative health outcomes.

6. Lack of Scientific Consensus: The scientific community is still studying the long-term effects of cannabis use. Some policymakers may hesitate to legalize cannabis until there is a more definitive consensus on its risks and benefits.

7. Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice: In some countries, law enforcement agencies may oppose legalization because they see it as a threat to their existing operations, including the prosecution of cannabis-related offenses.

8. Lobbying and Interest Groups: The influence of interest groups, including pharmaceutical companies, alcohol and tobacco industries, and anti-drug organizations, can also shape cannabis policy. These groups may support or oppose legalization efforts depending on their interests.

9. Public Opinion: Public opinion can be a significant driver of cannabis policy change. Legalization efforts often gain momentum when a majority of the population supports them, but this support can vary widely depending on a country’s demographics and cultural values.

10. Fear of Unknown Consequences: Some countries may simply be cautious and prefer to observe the experiences of other nations that have legalized cannabis before making a decision. This allows them to learn from the successes and challenges faced by early adopters.

Public Opinion

The shift toward the acceptance and legalization of cannabis in many countries can be attributed to a combination of factors, including changing attitudes, evolving scientific research, economic considerations, and public health concerns. Here are some key reasons why many countries are now saying cannabis is okay:

1. Changing Attitudes and Public Opinion: Public opinion on cannabis has evolved over the years, with a growing number of people viewing it as a relatively harmless substance when compared to more harmful drugs like opioids. Many individuals and advocacy groups have pushed for cannabis reform, leading to changes in laws and policies.

2. Medical Benefits: Scientific research has uncovered various potential medical benefits of cannabis, such as pain relief, management of certain medical conditions (e.g., epilepsy, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis), and alleviation of symptoms from chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS. This growing body of evidence has prompted some countries to legalize medical cannabis.

3. Economic Opportunities: Legalizing and regulating cannabis can create new economic opportunities. It can generate tax revenue, create jobs in the legal cannabis industry, and reduce the burden on law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

4. Harm Reduction: Some countries have shifted their approach to drug policy, emphasizing harm reduction over punitive measures. By legalizing and regulating cannabis, they aim to reduce the risks associated with unregulated black-market cannabis, such as contamination and uncertain potency.

5. Reducing Criminalization: Cannabis criminalization has disproportionately affected certain communities, particularly marginalized and minority groups. Legalization is seen as a way to reduce the negative impact of drug convictions and reduce the strain on the criminal justice system.

6. International Trends: As more countries move towards cannabis legalization, there may be international pressure to align with global trends and harmonize drug policies. This can be seen with the loosening of international treaties and conventions related to cannabis.

7. Consumer Demand: Cannabis has been widely used for recreational purposes for decades, and many governments have recognized that criminalizing its use has not been effective in curbing its popularity. Legalizing and regulating it allows governments to control the quality and safety of the product.

8. Social Equity: In some jurisdictions, cannabis legalization is coupled with efforts to address social equity concerns. This includes reinvesting tax revenue into communities that have been disproportionately affected by drug criminalization and creating opportunities for minority-owned cannabis businesses.


It’s important to note that the landscape of cannabis legalization is evolving, and attitudes and policies can change over time. While some countries have legalized cannabis for recreational or medicinal use, others continue to evaluate the potential benefits and risks before making a decision.

Public opinion, scientific research, and international agreements will continue to influence the path toward cannabis legalization in different parts of the world.

It’s also important to note that the specific reasons for cannabis legalization may vary from one country to another, and the pace and extent of legalization can differ significantly. Legalization models also vary, with some countries permitting only medical cannabis, while others allow both medical and recreational use.

Additionally, not all countries have embraced cannabis legalization, and the legal status of cannabis can still vary widely around the world.