The US market for cannabis has become massively lucrative, with the market set to reach $1.5 billion by 2020, according to Forbes. A big driver of that growth is the legalization of recreational marijuana in states like Colorado and Washington. Other states will likely follow, with legalization likely to be put to a vote in 2016.

After Mexico legalized recreational use, a flurry of countries followed suit. Uruguay, Jamaica, and Canada have all legalized cannabis for recreational use. Now the consensus seems to be that Latin America is a step closer to following suit, leading to much speculation about what other countries will do. Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Argentina have all expressed interest in legalizing, and Brazil is also considering decriminalization. And it’s not just the drug side of things that is moving forward in Latin America. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile have all legalized abortion, and Mexico has just passed a bill that will allow same-sex marriage in all the states, with no religious exceptions.

These three countries are by no means the only jurisdictions of interest in Latin America and the Caribbean. There may be dark horses that surprise us.

Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that a ban on cannabis for adults is unconstitutional, in what is probably the most important news in Latin America of late. This means that you can now travel the 7,498 miles from Sydney, Nova Scotia to Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas exclusively through areas where cannabis is legal (although you shouldn’t try to cross international borders with cannabis).

After Mexico’s historic move, cannabis observers are wondering who the next newcomer will be. Here are some countries to keep an eye on, in alphabetical order.

Photo: Fabian Schmiedlechner / EyeEm/Getty Images

Argentina

A bill was introduced in June to regulate medical cannabis and industrial hemp. As explained in a previous article, medicinal cannabis was legalized in Argentina in 2017, but a poor regulatory framework has forced many patients to turn to the black market.

Additionally, Congressman Enrique Estevez introduced a bill in November 2020 to legalize cannabis for adults; once the new regulations are in place for medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp, it would make sense to move to recreational use. Although President Alberto Fernandez believes that this legalization should be approached with great caution, he has very liberal views on the matter. In addition, the November general election could bring a wind of reform to Congress.

Chile

As we wrote in a recent post, Chile is in the process of writing a new constitution. Given the composition of the Constituent Assembly, the final document can be expected to pave the way for full legalisation. The cohort of mayors elected in May also shows strong support for legalization. The legislature is likely to see a similar trend when Congressional elections are held later this year. Moreover, one of the main presidential candidates, the communist Daniel Jadoue, is openly in favour of legalisation. In general, the stars seem to be in favor of legalization in the land of the poets.

Photo by Ignacio Amenábar via Unsplash

Colombia

Last year, the House of Representatives voted for a bill that would have legalized cannabis for adults. However, a new legalisation proposal was soon tabled in the Colombian Senate. Some analysts say the new proposal is more likely to succeed because it legalizes cannabis through new regulations rather than requiring a constitutional amendment, as the failed bill did. In addition, under the new bill, the government will play a central role in the legal cannabis industry and structure licensing to benefit small farmers and historically marginalized communities. These characteristics can help make legalization attractive to a wider range of voters.

The three countries mentioned above are by no means the only jurisdictions of interest in Latin America and the Caribbean. There may be dark horses that surprise us. Don’t worry, we’ll be there to tell you all about it.

Fred Rocafort is a former diplomat who joined Harris Bricken after more than a decade of experience in international law, primarily in China, Vietnam and Thailand. This article was originally published on the Canna Law Blog and is reprinted with permission.

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