Changes in the Estonian Cannabis Debate

Author:Marianne Paimre

The article analyses the discussion of cannabis regulation in the Estonian media. In the past five years, there has been a noticeable shift in discussion of drug policies in some Western countries and regions (the US, Canada, Latin America, etc.) from a punitive focus towards a more liberal approach. The Global Commission on Drug Policy recommends that countries put an end to civil and criminal penalties for drug use... (see full summary)

Marianne Paimre
PhD, Lecturer
University of Tartu
Changes in the Estonian
Cannabis Debate
1. Introduction
In recent years, a shift in drug-politics discourse has taken place in various Western countries from a punitive
towards a more liberal approach. The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) stressed in its 2011 report
that the war on drugs has failed and that fundamental reforms of global drug-control policies are urgently
needed*1. A report recently published by the group recommended that countries put an end to civil and
criminal penalties for drug use and possession*2. By 2016, four states*3 in the US had legalised recreational
use of cannabis, and 23 states have legalised marijuana for medical use*4. Federal marijuana legalisation in
Canada will be introduced in the coming years*5. Even in the states of Latin America, as varied as they are,
an urgent need to reform drug policy has been spoken of lately*6. In Uruguay, use and sale of cannabis have
been allowed since 2013*7. However, there is no consensus on regulation of illicit drugs in the world. At the
UN General Assembly held in April 2016, it was generally acknowledged that the objectives of the prohibition
policy have not been achieved, yet it was decided, though not unanimously, to carry on as before*8.
As of today, no government in Europe has legalised cannabis. Contrary to the common perception
that cannabis is legal in the Netherlands, this is not entirely true pursuant to the Dutch legislation*9. They
have merely arrived at a consensus that cannabis use will not be punished by the authorities. Several Euro-
pean countries, among them Portugal, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Italy, have decriminalised the use
GCDP. War On Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. . Available at http://www.globalcommissionon- (most recently accessed on ..).
GCDP. Advancing drug policy reform: A new approach to decriminalization. . Geneva: Global Commission on Drug Policy.
Available at recently accessed on
These states are Washington, Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon.
S.T. Wilkinson et al. Marijuana legalization: Impact on physicians and public health. – Annual Review of Medicine  (),
pp. . DOI:./annurev-med--.
Canada plans marijuana legalization by spring : Minister. NBC News, ... Available at http://www.nbcnews.
com/business/consumer/canada-plans-marijuana-legalization-spring--minister-n (most recently accessed on
See materials from Drug Law Reform on the situation in Latin America, from , at
country-information (most recently accessed on ..).
Uruguay’s drug policy: Major innovations, major challenges: Improving global drug policy. Comparative Perspectives and
UNGASS . Available at//Walsh-Uruguay- nal.pdf (most
recently accessed on ..).
UNODC. Outcome document of the  United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem. Avail-
able at//outcome/V-E.pdf (most recently accessed on ..).
EMCDDA. Legal topic overviews: Possession of cannabis for personal use. . Available at http://www.emcdda.europa.
eu/legal-topic-overviews/cannabis-possession-for-personal-use (most recently accessed on ..).

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