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2022 Breakdown: 5 Most Progressive Drug Law Changes of the Year

progressive drug law changes
Written by Joseph Mcqueen
2022 is over and with that comes a newer and more futuristic number: 2023. Doesn’t it sound odd to say out loud? 2022 was certainly a dramatic one, with the death of the British Queen, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the US overturning abortion rights – it’s hard to see much positivity in it really. However, if you compare it to the covid-tarnished years of 2021 and before that, then perhaps there are elements of optimism to be had.

But perhaps an unlikely place to look for rays of sunshine is in the global drug laws. 2022 had its fair share of substance legalizations and mind-shifting moments, let’s take a look at the 5 most progressive drug law changes of last year. Hopefully there’ll be even more to come in 2023. Happy new year everyone!

The War on Drugs

Sometimes it’s easy to forget – in the midst of the world’s chaos and fear mongering – why having an open mind to drugs is beneficial. The War on Drugs era is still in full force, but time and time again it is being proven to be wrong. Substance use is going up, death rates are going up, crime rates are going up – the War on Drugs has officially failed. Nixon and the rest of his generation have failed us. In 2021, US voters were involved in a poll by the American Civil Liberties Union, it showed that:

“65 percent of voters support ending the war on drugs. They recognize that current drug policies have led to the incarceration of millions while doing nothing to make the country safer or healthier. Furthermore, 66 percent support eliminating all criminal penalties for drug possession and investing the resources saved in treatment and addiction services.”

It is surely a problem. The US authorities make around 1.5 million substance arrests each year, with more than a third of those being cannabis related. Half a million people are put in prison for simple drug law violations each year – with the majority of these people being black or brown. This, of course, is only in the United States. But it’s proof that the War on Drugs is more of a war on people than anything else. Then drugs still exist and are used regardless. So what’s the point?

Why Legalize Drugs? 

If the War on Drugs doesn’t work and instead actually exacerbates the situation, then what is the alternative? Well, here are some of the top reasons why an open-minded view on substances is not as scary as it sounds, and is instead highly important. 

  • Increased safety from legal market
  • Decreased drug-related crime
  • Increased tax revenue
  • Improved access to treatment
  • Reduced stigma
  • Decreased burden on law enforcement
  • Decreased incarceration rates
  • Increased personal freedom

Of course you cannot simply legalize every single drug all at once, and every substance needs to be dealt with separately. Heroin and cannabis, for instance, are of course very different substances. One step at a time. Many nations around the world in 2022 realized the benefits of changing their drug laws and so did. Here are the top 5 cases of that. 

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2022: 5 Most Progressive Shifts in Drug Law 

1 – Germany 

Substance: Cannabis

In 2022, Germany made it their ambition to become the most powerful nation in Europe to legalize cannabis. This would surely be a turning point for the continent and force many other nations to follow suit. Whilst Luxembourg and Malta have already done so, the economic power of Germany would be unignorable. Their plans are to make it legal for adults to purchase and own up to 30 grams of cannabis and grow up to 3 plants for recreational use. The plan is being pushed in order to protect the German population. The Guardian writes:

“We don’t want to expand cannabis consumption but to improve the protection of youth and health,” Lauterbach said. With about 4 million people in Germany having tried cannabis at least once over the last 12 months, he added, the current prohibitive model “isn’t working”

Whilst this law is not official yet, with EU approval, it should take effect before 2024. This plan would make Germany one of the most weed-liberal countries in the whole continent. Let’s see what happens next. 

2 – America 

Substance: Cannabis

The USA was and always has been a leading nation when it comes to cannabis legalization. For a while it looked like the Netherlands would be the only place to ever allow for a open weed market, but then came California and many other US states. Well, 2022 has only improved this. Missouri, Rhode Island and Maryland all legalized recreational cannabis this year – meaning that America has now legalized the substance in 21 of the 50 states. Plus, 37 out of 50 have legalized medical cannabis use.

It is surely only a matter of time before the plant is legal everywhere in the country. It’s not only the state governments that are putting in the work, due to the power of Hollywood, many famous stars are also using their influence to put pressure on the rest of America and the world. Seth Rogen uses his films, social media following and his new cannabis company to increase the pressure of full cannabis legalization. With around 42 million cannabis users in the nation, America is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to shining a beacon of green light to the rest of the non-legalized world. 

3 – Thailand 

Substance: Cannabis

In June of 2022, Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis. Since then, the nation has been popping up with weed-related companies and shops. The estimation is that this industry could be worth around 1 billion dollars by 2025. There are still government officials who want to go back on the decision and are doing all they can to make that happen. However, whilst it’s been a slightly slow start, the country does seem to be pushing for it, and after some slight adjustments it should soon become what it sought to be all along. Thailand has gone from being a place where cannabis possession could put you in jail, to now decriminalizing the plant entirely. This is a great message being sent out to the rest of Asia and the world. 2022 was definitely Thailand’s year. 

4 – America

Substance: Ketamine

In 2022, more people began turning their heads to the idea of using ketamine to assist with various mental health ailments. Although ketamine is used by many as a party drug, it also has important effects that reduce the feelings of depression and anxiety. Whilst many beta blockers and other antidepressants can take months to take effect, ketamine reduces the feelings of severe depression or anxiety almost instantly.

Doctors in the US are now especially researching how ketamine can stop people who are – in essence – on the edge of considering taking their own life. Scott Smith, one particular doctor, is now licensed in all US states to treat depressed patients online and prescribe ketamine accordingly. Many others like him have followed suit since the substance was legalized for medical use in 2019. America is one of the nations leading the charge in this particular school of thought and it’s likely that in 2023 more advances will occur. 

5 – Canada 

Substance: Psilocybin

Another major advance in 2022 came from Quebec, Canada. This state was able to use psilocybin in psychotherapy and successfully get paid by the government for doing it. This is all part of an ongoing effort to fully legalize the use of this substance for therapy. Psilocybin –  the psychoactive drug in magic mushrooms – has been proven to help those suffering from resistant depression. When combined with therapy, the drug allows people to open up their minds, reduce the power of their own ego, and see the positives.

According to WHO, they estimate that depression affects around 320 million people around the world, which is almost the population of America. Canada has seen the power that psilocybin can have, when partnered with psychotherapy sessions, and how it can allow people to shift their mindsets. Whilst other nations are too afraid to explore this idea, Canada has realized that the traditional treatments of mental health issues are outdated and need to be reevaluated. 2022 was a major moment for this.  

What about 2023? 

2022 was yet another year of shifting mindsets and law changes and the hope is that there will be many more to come in 2023. It is evident that there is a pattern emerging, one of many nations deciding to go against the grain and try something different. Cannabis will surely continue to be legalized in 2023, with more countries realizing the financial, social and medical benefits of having a legal market. In addition, drugs such as ketamine, MDMA and psilocybin will hopefully also continue to be researched for their amazing benefits for those with mental health issues. So let’s see what comes next. What do you think will happen in 2023?

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.