Prime Minister Zoran Zaev of North Macedonia stated recently that the government is deliberating about whether to allow the recreational use of cannabis in places frequented by tourists, such as Ohrid, the biggest city on Lake Ohrid, as well as in hospitality places and cafes in the country’s capital, Skopje.
If the decision is agreed upon, this will make North Macedonia the first country among the Balkans to authorize the recreational use of cannabis. The government plans to use Amsterdam as its model, with plans of implementing strict rules to govern the sector.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, the prime minister explained that the idea was to authorize cannabis consumption in tourist places and in both new and existing cafes, requiring them to adhere to specified requirements, including proof of origin of cannabis, ventilation, etc.
The prime minister stated that this move was part of the government’s plan for stimulating the economy, which has been greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In the last two years, Prime Minister Zaev has assured that a public debate would be held on the issue, adding that the government had not finalized its decision. He insists that if a majority of the country’s population is opposed to the move, he will pull back.
The country, under the VMRO DPMNE right-wing government, authorized the sale of medical cannabis in 2016. The medical cannabis market makes up only 30% of this regulated market, which allows cannabis exports of extracts and oils, while the remaining 70% is made up of the cannabis bud, whose export and sale is still banned. It had been announced earlier in 2018 that the export law on cannabis would change. However, that is yet to happen.
Despite criticism from pro-cannabis, not-for-profit organizations citing issues with the law prohibiting small-scale entrepreneurs from joining the market, legal cannabis producers have begun working towards production.
Bojan Maricic, the country’s justice minister, has stated that the NGO sector should voice its opinions, adding that it was good that the debate on fully decriminalizing cannabis had begun. Maricic also noted that regulations in the sector could provide several benefits to North Macedonia. These regulations could include reducing criminal offenses, regulation of cannabis trade and economic benefits, mainly for the hospitality and tourism industries.
Over in Croatia, a law was drafted that focused on fully legalizing marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes earlier this year. The bill is currently in the public debate phase.
Elsewhere in North America, new cannabis companies such as Gage Cannabis Co. are causing quite a stir. This company now has five retail outlets in Michigan and aims at becoming the leading vertically integrated player in that market.
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