The legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational use is gaining greater acceptance, worldwide. According to recent publication by Meticulous Research®, the global legal cannabis market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.3% from 2019 to reach $75.6 billion by 2025.

In 2018, the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Colombia, and South Africa were the top 5 legal cannabis consuming countries across the globe. Cannabis was by far the most widely consumed and available illicit drug in these countries. Since legalization, cannabis use has risen and there are now dramatic changes in the cannabis economy. Among these countries, the U.S. and Canada held the highest percentage of their population using cannabis on a daily or near-daily basis.

  • United States

The U.S. has the highest number of cannabis consumers across the globe. Cannabis has been described as the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S.; Cannabis use is widespread among adolescents and young adults. However, cannabis laws are changing which may result in an increase in legal use. As of June 2017, 26 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that have legalized cannabis use in some form, and three additional states have passed measures permitting use of medical cannabis. In addition, as of November 2018, ten states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of cannabis for recreational purposes.

Moreover, according to the Pew Research Center (U.S.), in 2018, about six-in-ten Americans (62%) supported cannabis legalization, reflecting a steady increase over the past decade. Rising consumer spending on legal cannabis, growing aging population, increasing cancer diseases, and increased research and development expenditures are the major factors driving the growth of the legal cannabis market in the U.S.

  • Canada

Canada was the world’s 2nd largest cannabis consumer in 2018. Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. Also, according to the Government of Canada, in 2018, the rate of cannabis consumption remains higher among males (19%) than females (11%). In Canada, cannabis is the second most-used recreational drug after alcohol. Increasing recreational cannabis use, growing health awareness, increased population of smokers, rising investment in cannabis firms, and increasing licensed producers are the major factors expected to drive the growth of the legal cannabis market in the Canada.

  • Argentina

Argentina ranked 3rd in the global legal cannabis consumption. Currently, Argentina is growing cannabis in large quantities which is used for medicinal, therapeutic, and scientific purposes. In March 2017, the Argentinian senate legalized cannabidiol (CBD) oil for treatment of certain conditions, including epilepsy. The medicinal cannabis law authorises the free import of cannabis oil for people with refractory epilepsy. Furthermore, the national medical authorities are the only group allowed to produce and distribute the medicine. Moreover, according to the national study on the consumption of psychoactive substances, in 2016, cannabis is the most commonly consumed illegal drug in Argentina and has seen a significant increase in its use in the last 7 years. Also, 7.8% of the people surveyed reported consuming cannabis in 2016. Thus, the growing consumption of legal cannabis is supporting the growth of the Argentina legal cannabis market.

  • Colombia

Though, Cannabis is illegal in Colombia for public consumption, it landed on 4th spot in terms of legal cannabis consumption across the globe in 2018 thorough its commercial sale. However, there are few exceptions for medical and personal use. In 2012, the Colombian government legalized the possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis for personal use. Further, in 2015, the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that it is legal for any individual to grow up to 20 cannabis plants for personal use. In addition, there are several regulations in the field of law for medical cannabis. Law 1787 of 2016 is one of the main laws, which regulates access to cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes in Colombia. In 2018, the Colombian government’s Drug Control Fund authorized the harvest of up to 40.5 tons of medical cannabis for export purposes. The major factors driving the growth of legal cannabis market in the Colombia are growing foreign direct investment, presence of optimal climatic conditions, low cost of production, government-directed focus on exports, and availability of skilled labour.

  • South Africa

South Africa ranked 5th amongst the top legal cannabis consuming countries. In September 2018, cannabis in South Africa has been decriminalised by the country's Constitutional Court for personal consumption by adults in private. According to the National Survey of Youth Risk Behaviour, in 2015, 12.8% of South African students in grades 8−10 (13−15-year-olds) have used cannabis. Also, the South African Stress and Health Study (SASH), in 2015, surveyed over 4,000 adults aged 18 years and up in a household survey and found 8.4% lifetime use. Males were more likely to use than females as well as urban dwellers more likely to use than their non-urban counterparts. The major factors that will drive South African legal cannabis market includes low-cost labour, huge consumer base, high prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS, and low prices. On the other hand, affordable land and an experienced agricultural workforce offer enormous opportunity for local start-ups and foreign international companies to expand into South Africa legal cannabis industry.

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Tags: Food & Agriculture Technologies


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