What if drinking tea were illegal? Worse still, what if drinking a latte were legal, but a shot of espresso were illegal?
Thankfully, legislators across the globe haven’t degraded themselves to this level of incompetence…yet.
But the way the world’s governments have handled hemp is insane.
Hemp laws are twisted.
An act was illegal – let’s say – in 2017, and legal in 2018.
An act could be legal in Los Angeles, but not in New York.
An act could be legal in New York, but not in London.
An act could get you a $500 fine in LA, but 10 years imprisonment in New Delhi.
Does this make sense? It’s true though.
|Year of legalization||2018||1993||2018 (the state of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh)||2018||2008-2017|
|Chemical composition||THC < 0.3%||THC < 0.2%||THC < 0.3%||THC < 0.3%||THC < 0.3%|
Table 1: Hemp legalization: Status in major countries
What’s more baffling is how varied the punishment is. Not just across countries, but even across states.
|NYC||Possession of 5 ounces to 2 pounds of concentrated cannabis||Misdemeanor||1 year||Up to $1,000|
|NYC||Possession of 2 – 4 pounds of Concentrated Cannabis||Felony||Up to 4 years||Up to $5,000|
|California||Cultivation of up to 6 plants||No penalty||None||$0|
|California||Cultivation by under 18 years||Infraction||None*||$0|
|California||Cultivation of 6 plants or more||Misdemeanor||6 months||$500|
|UK||Possession of cannabis||Class B drug||Up to 5 years||Up to £2,500|
|UK||Supplying or producing cannabis||–||Up to 14 years||–|
|India||Possession of small quantity (up to 1kg)||–||Up to 6 months||Up to Rs 10,000|
|India||Possession of quantity less than commercial but greater than small||–||Up to 10 years||Up to Rs 1 lakh|
|India||Possession of commercial quantity (20kg or more)||–||10-20 years||Rs 1-2 lakhs|
Below is a map showing US states and their stand on cannabis.
The mess of inconsistent policies will leave you scratching your head. For millions, the trouble has been grave. They’ve been jailed for acts that are now perfectly legal.
Picture this: A farmer in Australia finds himself facing conviction for cultivating hemp on 5000 hectares of land. Now, if this farmer happened to be in Canada or the USA, where the cultivation thresholds are higher, he would have pranced away scot-free, no problem!
Would we have similar double standards for assault or robbery?
Failure of Governments To Understand Hemp: Consequences
It’s not like the governments don’t know.
A virtual information session hosted by Doug Shipley, MP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Canada revealed that policy inconsistencies plague cannabis operations in municipalities.
Here’s why this can’t continue.
- Lives Shattered By Imprisonment
Jail Time for millions, for acts that are neither immoral nor (by the standards of so many nations) illegal – think of the injustice!
This hurts people, communities, and nations.
Just picture this. The repercussions of a simple act of growing or holding a bit of hemp can change a person’s life forever, and not for the better. It’s like a shadow that never leaves, a record that follows you everywhere you go.
A person serves jail time for possessing hemp. Even when they rejoin society, the criminal record haunts them.
- Imagine going for a job, only to be turned away time and again. Picture submitting countless housing applications, just to face rejection.
- Think about trying to get into schools or colleges and hitting a wall every time.
- It can even seep into your personal life, turning friends into strangers due to the stigma attached to a criminal record.
That’s the reality for many people out there. All because some legislators ditched science and made hemp illegal.
- Disruption of Communities
Here’s the catch. The fallout doesn’t stop with the individual. It spreads out like waves, touching every corner of their community.
When one person in a community gets hit with a hemp-related penalty, it’s like a tear in the fabric that holds everyone together.
- Imagine a family dinner table with an empty chair, because a loved one is behind bars. Neighbourhoods change, trust evaporates, and people begin to see each other through a cloud of doubt and judgement.
- The spirit of teamwork and moving forward together takes a hit, making things tougher than they need to be.
All this, just because of some disagreements over a plant named hemp.
- Disproportionate Impact on Disadvantaged Sections
Legal policies – surrounding hemp or otherwise – seem to have an uncanny knack for disproportionately impacting the disadvantaged sections of society.
The weight of the punishment falls harder on those who are already struggling.
For example, in the US,
How much higher?
Well, a black person is still nearly 4X more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than a white person.
The most likely reason?
- Limited financial resources, which means limited access to legal representation.
- Plus, it is more challenging to mitigate the consequences for the disadvantaged.
- Scarce employment opportunities become scarcer.
- Social stigma becomes overbearing.
- The cycle of disadvantage starts perpetuating with greater vigour.
The Need for Policy Consistency Around Hemp
- We can’t lose more people to outdated laws
Right now, it’s like trying to find your way through a labyrinth while wearing a blindfold. What we really need are some clear road signs saying what’s right and what’s not.
In one part of the world, hemp is hailed as a wonder plant. In another, it’s seen as a threat, like some kind of monster.
Does it really make sense for folks to live in fear of breaking the law just because they want to tap into the possibilities of this all-round plant? Not really.
Consistent rules about hemp would be a beacon of light in this fog, a guiding hand for everyone – from the regular Joe, to businesses, to even the police.
- We need the prosperity that only hemp can bring
Think about it, hemp could be a real game-changer for many industries. We’re talking clothes, health, wellbeing, and so much more.
But here’s the issue: uneven rules are like roadblocks on hemp’s highway to success.
For businesses and forward-thinkers to really dive into exploring and expanding this goldmine, they need a steady and sure-footed set of rules. Because who wants to gamble on a game where the rules keep changing?
- We need hemp to be a symbol of equality, not the opposite
You see, this hemp policy mess hits those who are already down on their luck, the hardest. But what if we had fair and even rules?
Now that could change the game completely. It could make sure that no matter who you are, where you come from, or how thick your wallet is, everyone gets a fair shot at grabbing the opportunities hemp brings to the table.
Everyone gets to reap the benefits, no favourites. That’s the kind of world we should be striving for.
The remedy: Who can do what?
Want to ensure clear, coherent, and comprehensive policies around hemp that foster growth, fairness, and understanding? Here’s what you can probably do:
If you are from the local/state/national government
How about setting up regulations on growing, holding, and sharing hemp that everyone across the globe can agree on?
Let’s push for policies that are backed by solid evidence. How do we do that? By doing a deep dive into the economic, social, and health sides of hemp.
And don’t forget, teaming up with other players around the globe to create international standards could be a great way to iron out the kinks in hemp policies worldwide.
If you are from the UN
Why not stand up for hemp, championing its decriminalization and regulation on the world stage?
Let’s build bridges between countries, sharing what we know and learning from each other.
Support efforts to boost skills and resources. How? By helping countries design their own effective hemp rules and regulations.
Let’s also give a thumbs-up to research and data collection on the good, the bad, and the in-between of hemp.
Working hand-in-hand with international groups and key players could be a great way to tackle any hiccups we face related to hemp, especially the ones that cross borders.
Step 1 Towards Hemp Policy Consistency Across The Globe: Expunging Criminal Records
Imagine a world where leaders in the White House, 10 Downing Street, and Vidhan Sabha are all on the same page about hemp laws. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? But, we’ve seen stranger things happen.
Now, consider this: a hardworking father, convicted for a minor cannabis offence, struggling to provide for his family because of an old mistake. Isn’t it high time we gave people like him a second chance?
Our attitudes towards cannabis and hemp are shifting. Old ‘offences’ don’t quite look the same anymore. By wiping these records clean, we’re acknowledging this change and balancing the scales for communities that suffered the most under old laws.
Yes, aligning hemp laws globally is a challenging feat. But, by taking this first step, we’re inching towards fairness, justice, and progress. By erasing past crimes, we lay the foundation for a more fair and uniform approach to hemp regulation, leading to a society that appreciates hemp’s potential in a whole new light.