Panama Is One Step from Legalizing Cannabis: The Drug War is Dead

High Times

For those who remember the 1980s, the irony of the Panamanian government’s decision to legalize medical cannabis is indeed rich in the late summer of 2021. This is especially true as it is occurring four years after the death of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.  For any country in Central America to legalize cannabis in any way, was always going to be a significant if not landmark moment. The entire region was the center of illicit drug cultivation and smuggling that, depending on the country, helped finance autocratic regimes propped up by the U.S. government, or, in reverse, the revolutionary movements that sought to overthrow them during much of the 20th Century. Indeed, the decision in Panama by the democratically elected government to move forward on legalizing medical cannabis is particularly momentous in part because of the legacy of the War on Drugs. In some ways, the American invasions, occupations and “influencing” of countries in both Central and South America were, more than Vietnam, a precursor to the recent defeat in Afghanistan. Expensive and bloody. The fact that no other country in Central America has, up to this point, legalized any use of cannabis by legislative mandate, until now, is a telling fact. Panama is, indeed, leading the way to cannabis reform on a federal level just south of the Rio Grande. The rest of the “dominoes” are also lined up to start falling—including the country just north of the river dividing Mexico from Texas. A Tortured History The cultivation and use of cannabis (also called Kanjac or Canyac locally) was banned in the country in 1923, at the height of U.S. imperialism in the southern hemisphere. North American political and military presence in the country began in 1903 and lasted until 1999 because of the strategic Panama Canal.  At the…

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