The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all the aspects of modern life, and it may delay cannabis legalisation in the U.S. and Europe. As most of the world’s countries struggle to contain and fight the epidemic, marijuana legalisation may no longer be a priority for local authorities.
And that seems to be happening already in the U.S.
Coronavirus disrupts cannabis legalisation process in New York
New York’s adult-use cannabis market is predicted to be worth billions in the near future. With an estimated number of 1.6 million cannabis consumers and over 65 million tourists visiting The Big Apple each year, New York has the potential to become the largest recreational market in the U.S. If New York legalises adult-use cannabis by the end of 2020, experts believe its market could be worth more than $2.4 billion by 2025.
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, declared that cannabis legalisation has a high priority for his administration, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic might change all that.
As of March 25, New York City witnessed the largest coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with over 15,000 cases and 192 deaths. And the worst part is that the infection rate started to spike. Between the 24th to the 25th, the city registered about 2,500 new cases in less than 24 hours.
The administration put New York on lockdown. As a result, lawmakers try to agree on matters remotely. These matters concern budget allocations, the enforcement of lockdown restrictions and more, and the lawmakers only come in to vote on said matters.
But as the state spends an increasing amount of time and money to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, even matters like cannabis legalisation that might otherwise be main talking points might be postponed.
And authorities might not want to legalise cannabis under these circumstances anyway. Cannabis legalisation is a controversial subject. Whether they support the bill or are against it, most people have strong feelings towards this matter.
Including the legalisation of cannabis in the state’s budget might harm lawmakers’ popularity, and it might also be unfruitful during a crisis. People should stay indoors, and legalising recreational cannabis might be an incentive for some people to leave their homes.
Other American states postpone their cannabis talks
In Connecticut, the state’s General Assembly put the legalisation bill through a public hearing on March 2, but then the General Assembly suspended its activity until at least the end of March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, lawmakers wonder whether they might pass the bill before the legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 6.
In Vermont, the state’s Senate and House passed an adult-use cannabis legalization bill, but they didn’t agree on how much to tax cannabis businesses and other issues. After passing the bill, the legislature adjourned at least until the end of March because of the coronavirus.
Since the legalisation bill passed in Vermont, it’s only a matter of time until authorities agree on the exact specifications of the law. Even so, this moment might be postponed because the state’s officials have other problems to deal with right now.
Cannabis legalisation no longer an important topic for Europe
France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are the top European players in the legal cannabis market. When the European Commission announced that it will vote on the removal of cannabis and its resins as Schedule IV drugs, it seemed like Europe was taking important steps towards a unified cannabis market.
However, the much-expected vote was postponed by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) — the UN’s central drug policy-making body. But this decision didn’t even make the news because all of Europe was focusing on something else entirely.
On March 6, when the CND voting took place, there were already over 3,900 coronavirus cases in Italy. Over the weekend, the number of cases spiked to about 8,000. At the same time, France had about 1,500 cases, Germany about 1,000 and the Netherlands had about 400.
Europe’s top cannabis players had their hands full with more important stuff than marijuana legalisation. And, as time passed, the talks about European cannabis legalisation vanished in thin air.
Why the coronavirus crisis might change the cannabis landscape for good
The coronavirus crisis might change the cannabis landscape for good. The U.S. and the EU will likely have to adjust their budgets and priorities to deal with the aftermath of this crisis.
Both the U.S. administration and the European Union leadership are facing harsh criticism for how they responded when some of their member states needed them the most. The shameful lack of solidarity with their fellow members should convince both American and European states to redesign how their unions work.
Chances are that, once they manage to put a lid on this pandemic, both world powers will try to devise ways to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. They might set in place different protocols to upgrade their emergency response, and they might also try to improve their healthcare systems.
Combined with the impending stock market crash, the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis is not something authorities will be able to resolve quickly. It’s safe to assume that officials will have a lot of things on their plates, so it might take a long time until someone will think of cannabis legalisation again.
Now, legal cannabis markets would certainly add much-needed revenue to the budget, so legalisation could be of tremendous help in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. But the truth is that most authorities probably won’t even consider it at first. In the current situation, cannabis is no longer a priority for most lawmakers, and it won’t be treated as one.