The cannabis plant grows in all corners of the world. However, with varying laws in many nations, it’s hard to know where it grows the most. Some countries have legalized cannabis entirely, others have only allowed for it to be used medically, whilst some have banned it completely. Is it reasonable to presume that the nations who have legalized cannabis grow it the most? Or is it actually more likely to flourish in the vast continents of Asia or Africa, where the substance is usually dealt with more strictly? The place that grows the most cannabis may be somewhere you wouldn’t expect. Let’s find out.
Cannabis Growing Countries
In ancient times, there were a few countries and continents that were known for a mass growth of cannabis. In fact, it is believed that the first plant was found at the bottom of the Himalayas – in Asia. It is thought that 28 million years ago, on the eastern Tibetan Plateau, weed began evolving. It was then used as hemp by China and other Asian nations. There was also a great deal of it found in the Americas, Middle East and Africa which, as the empires took hold, caused it to make its way to European shores.
Before this period, it would have been right to assume that the most cannabis in the world would be found in these areas. However, in recent times, the world’s view on the substance has changed. Although the majority of the world banning it in 20th century, in recent times the global mindset has shifted. There are now 21 states in the US that have legalized cannabis, with another 10 decriminalizing its use. Canada has also fully allowed the use of weed. With these legal changes, has come a brand new market, where these nations are now openly growing the plant domestically. The North American weed market has been valued at $12.4 billion and is predicted to rise by 15% every year from 2022-2030.
In addition, Europe is also steadily on the cannabis rise. Luxembourg and Malta – two proud but small nations – were the first to take the legalization leap. However, in bigger news, the next country to join them seems to be the global superpower of Germany. BBC news writes:
“Germany’s coalition government has agreed on a plan to legalise recreational cannabis use among adults. Possession of up to 30g (1oz) for personal use would be allowed. Licensed shops and pharmacies would sell it. The plan has yet to be approved in parliament – but also receive the green light by the European Commission. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the plan could become law in 2024.”
When this officially comes into place, it would be a massive push for the rest of the major European countries to follow in their footsteps. This global shift of cannabis laws has begun what can only be described as an arms race – but for weed. The next step is for these locations to create their own successful cannabis market, competing with their own domestic production of the plant. So with this recent shift, how can we know who now produces the most cannabis in the world?
There are varying types of cannabis cultivation. Some nations grow it uncontrollably and illegally, for recreational purposes. Whilst others have huge legal medicinal markets that are reasonably new. The first sector we will look at is the recreational one. Who grows the most in the world?
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime claims that Morocco is the largest producer of psychoactive cannabis in the world. In other words, the nation that grows the most weed containing the THC cannabinoid. There are just over 70,000 hectares that are taken up by Morocco’s cannabis ventures, and 70% of Europe’s hash came from this nation in 2003. In fact, in 2021, 40,000 tons of hashish derived from Morocco. However, it’s important to note that recreational weed is illegal here, despite it being widely grown. But a recent law change in 2021 has allowed the cultivation of the substance for medicinal purposes, protecting the farmers from illegal activity.
Mexico is a close second, with many believing that it will overtake Morocco imminently. Cannabis has a grand history in this country, with the word ‘marijuana’ originating there. In the 16th century, the plant was introduced to Mexico by the Spanish as hemp. Whilst cannabis is not completely legal in this country, there seems to be a shift in thought. It is this shift that could lead Mexico to becoming number one. Earlier in 2022, as the Mexicanist reports, litigious change began happening:
“On May 11, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) ruled that it is unconstitutional to criminalize the possession of more than 5 grams of cannabis unless it can be proven that it is not for personal use.”
Afghanistan also deserves a mention. It was the largest producer around 10 years ago, with 20,000 hectares being dedicated to cultivating cannabis. The indica plant is native here, and has been growing for centuries. There is reported to be 1,500 to 3,500 tonnes of weed shipped overseas every year from Afghanistan, which makes them at least the largest exporter. In addition, like Morocco, Afghanistan is incredibly popular for its strains of hash – with 10% of the world’s produce coming from here.
Alternatively you have the medical cannabis sector. Now this one is up for debate and there are varying reports, but let’s take a look at the leading nations when it comes to this. What you will notice is that newer countries – with less history in cannabis – begin to rise up in this category.
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The USA is definitely one of the main nations leading the charge when it comes to cannabis legalization. With 21 out of 50 states having legalized weed, they have made a global stance. With this, has come a booming medical and recreational market. It is believed that their market was worth around $10.8 billion last year, and will rise to $13.2 billion this year. This is then predicted to hit $40 billion in 2030. These are record numbers. Leafly reported this year that the US farmers grew around 2,834 metric tons of weed. 37 out of the 50 states in America have legalized medical cannabis, meaning that the majority of the US are welcoming to it. It is no surprise then that, with a nation of 331 million people, they would be growing some of the most medical cannabis in the world.
You probably did not expect to see the United Kingdom anywhere near this list, in any way whatsoever. However, a report in 2019 claimed that the UK – with its modest population of 67 million – was the largest producer of medical cannabis. The Independent wrote:
“Britain is the world’s largest producer of legal cannabis, a new report from the United Nations has revealed. Ninety five tonnes of marijuana was produced in the UK in 2016 for medicinal and scientific use, accounting for 44.9 percent of the world total, its International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) found.”
Medical cannabis has been legal in the UK since 2018, but recreational use is still banned. With the rest of Europe beginning to change their tune, it is inevitable that, one day, the UK do legalize the entirety of the substance. However, this could take a while. Nonetheless, it is a constant surprise to citizens that their country could be the largest producer of medicinal cannabis. This is especially because there are only around 6,000 people in the UK who are able to access a cannabis prescription, despite the fact that 1.5 million people need it. Yet 320 tons of legal weed was produced by the UK in 2019, accounting for 75% of the global total at the time. This proves, yet again, that many nations are more interested in the financial side of cannabis, rather than the medical benefits that it can offer their own people.
It is hard to pin down, for certain, which country grows the most cannabis in the world. This changes and shifts year by year, with varying reports and varying legal alterations. However, these nations are definitely leading the charge in their sectors – for good reasons or bad. It is likely that, as time goes on, more countries will legalize cannabis in order to benefit from the huge amount of market worth there is. Germany is on the rise, Canada is doing well and – of course – the superpower of India is naturally a huge producer. The game is on. Who will become the next largest cultivator of cannabis?
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