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Cannabis Innovate Policy Report 1, March 2019

Martin Jelsma, Sylvia Kay and David Bewley-Taylor

Policy changes over the past five years or so have dramatically reshaped the global cannabis market.1 Not only has there been an unprecedented boom in medical markets, but following policy shifts in several jurisdictions a growing number of countries are also preparing for legal regulation of nonmedical use. Such moves are triggered by a recognition that decades of repressive policies have proved ineffective and have had grave negative consequences, and look set to bring a clear range of benefits in terms of health and human rights. There are also serious concerns, however, about the unfolding market dynamics. Many for-profit cannabis companies from the Global North2 are aggressively competing to capture the licit spaces now rapidly opening in the multi-billion-dollar global cannabis market. This threatens to push small-scale and marginalised traditional farmers from countries like Colombia, Mexico, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Morocco, South Africa, India, Nepal or Thailand – those who have supplied the illicit market for decades – out of the emerging market. 

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