Sixty-three percent of America, or 33 US states and municipalities, have now decriminalized or legalized cannabis or allow citizens to access and use cannabis medicinally. But all the state’s rights in the country can’t outrank the federal government’s classification of cannabis, aka marijuana, as a Schedule I drug. The state of New Mexico’s medical cannabis program has already netted over $54.2 million in sales revenue from a drug that the US federal government still considers on par with harmful, highly addictive drugs like heroin or cocaine. Nationally, American cannabis businesses did almost $9 billion in sales during 2017, according to BDS Analytics.
Cannabis’ murky micro vs. macro American legal status is exemplified by the medical and recreational cannabis industry’s effective designation as cash-only, unbankable businesses. As reported by Quartz, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is struggling to handle cannabis companies’ cash tax payments and issue refund payments. The IRS doesn’t require that payments be made in cash and has produced guidelines for banks working with cannabis clients; yet 70 percent of all legal cannabis businesses remain unbanked. This cash-in-hand setup is largely attributable to banks not wanting to deal with the internal compliance procedures required when banking an emerging—and still technically, federally illegal—industry.
The Southeast Asian country of Malaysia, officially known as the Federation of Malaysia, may be more well known for its conservative drug laws, harsh sentencing and affinity for capital punishment than for its own considerable natural beauty—think beaches and rainforests—or its multicultural mix of Indian, Chinese, Malay and European cultural influences. On Aug. 30, Malaysia sentenced 29-year-old Muhammad Lukman to death for selling medical cannabis oil.
While Malaysian death sentences for drug offenses remain very much the norm, BBC News reports that drug policy reform advocates both within and outside the country have forcefully protested Lukman’s fatal conviction to some avail. A petition boasting the signatures of thousands of citizens, including those of high-profile politicos, have rallied momentum to Lukman’s cause. Reform-minded PM Mahathir Mohamad has called for a review of the case, and governing coalition MP Nurul Izzah Anwa pronounced Lukman’s death sentence a “miscarriage of justice.” Malaysia’s Cabinet has now briefly discussed marijuana’s medical value and have begun early, informal talks in the process of amending draconian Malay cannabis law and prescribed punishment.