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DEUTSCHE WELLE
German public international broadcaster
Archive photo of a police unit looking for hidden weapons in 1963 in a home in Corleone, the birthplace of one of the most powerful mafia clans.
Society
Riley Sparks and Ginevra Falciani

Weird Stuff, Guns & Money: Inside The Hideouts Of Mob Bosses And Fugitive Warlords

After the capture this week of Sicilian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, police revealed some notable contents of two of his hideouts after 30 years on the run. There's a long history of discovering the secret lairs and bunkers of the world's Most Wanted bad guys.

Expensive watches, perfumes, designer clothes and sex pills. A day after top Sicilian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro was captured after 30 years on the run, police revealed some of the possessions found in the Palermo apartment where he’d been hiding out under a false name.

By Wednesday, Italian daily La Stampa was reporting, police had found a second hideout near Messina Denaro's hometown in the Sicilian province of Trapani, with a secret vault hidden behind a closet, where jewelry, gold and other valuables were found.

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President Joe Biden speaks on midterm elections results. Live broadcast on CNN TV channel from Clermont-Ferrand, France, November 9, 2022​.
eyes on the U.S.
Alex Hurst

Eyes On U.S. — No 'Vague Rouge,' No Final Results: How The World Makes Sense Of Midterms

While some breathed sighs of relief that the Republicans' predicted "red wave" sweep didn't happen, others chuckle at how long it takes to count the votes. And then there's Senõr Musk...

PARIS — Three full days later, and there's still no real clarity on the U.S. midterms — but the world has gotten used to American elections dragging out for days or even weeks, for both political and technical reasons.

One French journalist wondered if there’s a simpler way.



But whatever the final tally, whoever winds up with majority control of the House of Representatives and Senate, readers learned that — after weeks of forecasts of huge Republican gains — the Democrats have avoided the vague rouge (Montreal)... onda rossa (Rome) ... chervona khvylya (Kyiv).

Elisabetta Grande of Italian magazine MicroMega noted that, while the midterms are not quite a win for the Democrats and President Joe Biden, voters rejected candidates in the "election denier" camp of the Republican party allied with former President Donald Trump.

France’s left-leaning Libération on Thursday was already looking ahead to the Republican battle royale shaping up between Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for the 2024 Republican nomination.

Portugal’s Publicozeros in on the Democrats man of the moment, John Fetterman, the newly elected Senator from Pennsylvania, who they describe as not having “supporters,” but rather “fans.” Publico sees particular relevance in the fact that Fetterman took down Trump’s handpicked candidate, Mehmet Oz.

Brazil’s O Globo gives Fetterman front page treatment, at least in part because he is married to a Brazilian, Gisele Barreto.


With DeSantis' midterms victory, "Trump already has a rival" for the 2024 presidential election, foresees Monterrey-based Mexican newspaper Milenio.

Global right-wing connections

European eyes remain concerned. From Germany, security and foreign policy watcher Marcel Dirsus quips, “it’d be a lot less unnerving to watch Americans vote from Europe if we weren’t so damn dependent on their choices.” No place is that more true today than the war in Ukraine, where Washington is by far the biggest contributor of military aid.

Kyiv-based news website Livy Beregnoted the results of exit polls that showed Americans are focused, above all, on the impact of a growing economic crisis and how it could affect U.S. support for Ukraine in the war against Russia. Notably, 81% of Democrats supported providing additional aid to Ukraine, compared to just 35% of Republicans.

For Jerusalem-based Haaretz, Moshe Gilad sees a dangerous connection between the U.S. far-right, the Israeli far-right, and “Birthright,” an organization that offers young American Jews a "discovery" trip to Israel.

Meanwhile observers from the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe), which typically monitors elections in countries with weak or no democratic institutions, deplored a state of “generalized disinformation” across the U.S. ahead of the elections.

Which brings us to our next topic, disinformation, and just what the heck is going to happen with Twitter.

📰 UP, FRONT PAGE AND CENTER

Korean daily Dong-a Ilbo

🐦 Monsieur Musk, alors?

Occupying almost just as much global attention this week as the U.S. midterms is Twitter under its new master, Elon Musk.

As An-Nahar sums up from Lebanon, Twitter is seeing a flood of users leaving for other pastures because it “became the place of a notable increase of speeches of hate and racist insults right after Elon Musk’s bought back the company.”

That’s unlikely to change anytime soon — as Germany’s Die Zeit reports, Musk sacked the Twitter team that discovered that Twitter’s algorithm tended to amplify far-right content. “Now that this team has been fired, it is even less likely that change will be possible — or even that these phenomenons could be better understood within the company,” Die Zeit writes.

As a result, many are threatening to leave Twitter (1 million accounts have already been deactivated), and the platform that’s in the running to replace it is not-U.S. based: Mastodon was created in 2016 by German software engineer Eugen Rochko, who is the company’s only employee.

The quirk of Mastodon is that everything is hosted on a series of independently run, decentralized servers; there is no central company, or central organization behind it.

Our continent, our rules.

This week, both Deutsche Welle and Le Monderan explainer pieces, giving readers the rundown on how Mastodon works, and how to create an account. But whether or not the platform shapes up as a true alternative remains to be seen — as Publico’s Karla Pequenino writes, Musk’s ultimate goal is to transform Twitter into a “superapp,” the likes of which exist in southeast Asia — like China’s WeChat or Singapore based Grab.

However, though he is now the sole owner of Twitter, Musk won't necessarily be able to do as he likes with the platform. Twitter’s global reach is a strength, and a constraint, as global regulators intend to make clear.

Stéphane Séjourné, the head of the Renew Europe group — the third largest in the European Parliament — is demanding that Musk come and testify before the EU’s legislative body. “Whatever Mr. Musk chooses to do, our refrain remains the same: our continent, our rules," he tweeted. "We must assure that Twitter continues to act against disinformation and hate speech."


A crashing bird is singing on the front page of French daily Libération.

​🇪🇬 IN BRIEF

COP 27 is happening in Egypt, and the U.S., Canada, and Australia are being called out for contributing far less towards climate finance than they should, considering their share of historic emissions.

But in the case of the US, it’s not just far less, it’s far, faaaaaaaar less. The U.S. is #1 … at doing the least, says Carbon Brief. And developing countries — who will bear the biggest burden despite their lack of responsibility for the problem, are upset.

Photo of a hand waving a rainbow flag and a Cuba flag at a pro-LGBTQ+ rights demonstration in Havana, Cuba
LGBTQ Plus
Laura Valentina Cortes Sierra, Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdel, McKenna Johnson and Bertrand Hauger

LGBTQ+ International: Greece Intersex Surgery Ban, Cuba Gay Marriage Hope — And The Week’s Other Top News

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on a topic you may follow closely at home, but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Discover the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

Featuring, this week:

  • Athens banning “sex-normalizing” surgeries
  • Israel giving priority to gay men for Monkeypox vaccines
  • Guatemalan drags making history
  • … and more

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox: Subscribe here.

🇬🇷 Greece Bans “Sex-Normalizing” Surgeries On Children Under 15

Greece’s parliament approved a law last week banning “sex-normalizing” surgeries on babies born intersex, thus preventing doctors from performing such surgeries on children under the age of 15, “unless there is a court decision stating otherwise.”

According to the UN, intersex people “are born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.” “Sex-normalizing” surgeries sometimes lead to sterilization, loss of sexual sensation or other health problems in the past. Malta, Portugal and Germany already banned this procedure.

🇬🇧 Exclusive: The Secret Mission To Evacuate LGBTQ+ Afghans When Talibans Took Over

The BBC revealed exclusive details about a secret mission in Afghanistan to save LGBTQ+ Afghans when the Taliban took over the country. The UK was the first government to offer an evacuation program specifically for LGBTQ+ people, working with charities such as Stonewall and Micro Rainbow in addition to the Canadian organization Rainbow Railroad.

Three of the evacuees included Bella, a teacher who hid that she was transgender all her life; Ali, who lived cautiously to keep officials from finding out he was bisexual; and Ahmed, a former youth worker who is gay (Ali and Ahmed’s names have been changed for security reasons). When the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last year, LGBTQ+ Afghans began being hunted practically overnight. Ali said that “even a simple song could have been enough to get you in trouble.”

The charities involved in the mission worked with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to secure spots for LGBTQ+ Afghans on the final flights out of Kabul. Upon arrival in the UK after staying in an undisclosed country to await paperwork, Bella, Ali, Ahmed and the others were housed in quarantine hotels. The charity Micro Rainbow has been helping the group settle with lessons and workshops to help them adapt to the new country.

🇷🇺 Russian Tennis Star Comes Out, Criticizes Her Country’s Treatment Of LGBTQ+ People

Photo of tennis player Daria Kasatkina

Daria Kasatkina

Peter Menzel/wikimedia commons


Interviewed by Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko in Barcelona, Daria Kasatkina, the highest-ranked Russian female tennis player, came out as gay, and went on to criticize her country’s stance regarding LGBTQ+ people. Kasatkina, 25, currently ranked No. 12 in the world, also expressed empathy for Ukrainian tennis players in the context of the war, which she called a “full blown nightmare.”

🇨🇺 Cuba Opens Door To Gay Marriage, Will Hold Referendum In September

On September 25, Cuba will hold a binding referendum on the New Family Code, which would replace the law in force for 47 years. As independent news website El Toque explains, the voters' ballot will contain a single question: Do you agree with the Family Code?

To be considered approved, the Code must reach more than 50% of the valid votes in its favor. If the Yes is imposed, it would legalize, among other measures: same-sex marriage, adoption between same-sex couples, as well as outlining regulations for surrogacy and the role of the family in the care of the elderly.

Even so, this new referendum family code has been criticized, as LGBTQ+ activist Sandra Heidl told Deutsche Welle "the Code includes certain progressive content for the first time, and somehow the government didn't want to take responsibility for it. It seems to me a huge mistake, because they are talking about human rights, and human rights cannot be taken to a referendum."

🇺🇸 Record Number Of LGBTQ+ Candidates In U.S. Election

1,008

A record 1,008 LGBTQ candidates are seeking political office in the U.S., according to data from LGBTQ Victory Fund. This, CNN notes, “coincides with a more sobering statistic,” as this year also sees a record 162 anti-LGBTQ state bills being introduced. It also comes just weeks after the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade, sparking fears that same-sex marriage could be the next target.

🇩🇪 Germany To Commemorate LGBTQ+ Victims Of Nazis For First Time

The German parliament will commemorate for the first time those who were persecuted, imprisoned and murdered because of their sexual orientation in the Nazi state. The event will be held Jan. 27 during the annual memorial hour for the victims of National Socialism. For years this has been demanded by many groups, associations and individuals. German parliament members will put those victims “as the focus of the commemoration ceremony”, SPD politician Bärbel Bas told German daily Tagesspiegel.

Henny Engels, member of the federal board of the Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD), stated “In order to draw lessons from all of its facets, history must be kept alive comprehensively. Unfortunately, after the end of National Socialism, the exclusion and suffering of sexual and gender minorities in Germany continued.”

The activist highlighted in the press release, that gay and bisexual men continued to be prosecuted in both West and East German states for years. Section 175 of the Criminal Code was finally abolished on June 11, 1994. The so-called "gay paragraph," dated back to the 19th century. According to Deutsche Welle, “this put an end to the legal persecution of male homosexuals in Germany, which had lasted more than a century.”

🇬🇹 Guatemalan Drag Queens Make Theater History

For the first time, drag queens performed at a public theater in Guatemala. Last week, the Lux, one of the main cultural spaces in Guatemala City, used to hosting film shows, concerts, literary festivals and plays, welcomed a drag event for the first time.

As Guatemalan independent media Agencia Ocote reports, the venue is located in the historic center of the Guatemalan capital, opened in 1936. The night’s objective was to reach audiences beyond the young LGBTQ+ community, with the aim of fitting a bigger crowd than in a bar or other spaces where drag events usually take place.

“We are making history,” Gloria, one of the drag queens declared.

🇺🇸 Department Of Education Invites Florida Student To Delivers Banned Grad Speech


A gay high school senior from Florida delivered his banned valedictorian speech last week at the invitation of U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. Last May, Zander Moricz was informed by his school principal that his microphone would be silenced if his speech to graduating seniors mentioned LGBTQ+ issues, advocacy or his sexual orientation, according to news site LGBTQ Nation. Moricz resorted to using a metaphor for the banned subjects, but was invited to deliver the original version in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Education.

🇬🇭 Hotline Launched To Assist Ghana's LGBTQ Victims 

One Love Sisters Ghana, an association seeking to empower women to embrace diversity in Islam, is launching a gender-based violence hotline. On their Facebook page, they have encouraged lesbian, bi, queer and transwomen to report all forms of violence they may experience. This is a welcome move in a country where the LGBTQ+ community often suffers from abuse.

The 5 hotlines operate 24/7 with correspondents “ready to listen and render the assistance needed.” One Love Sisters Ghana creates safe spaces for conversations about gender-based violence within Muslim communities and is trying to reach people on multiple platforms.

🇦🇺 Seven Rugby Players Boycott Game Over Pride Jersey


Seven members of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles team, playing in the Australian National Rugby League (NRL), decided to boycott a game against the Sydney Roosters this Thursday, important for the qualification to the NRL finals. The reason: they refused to wear a jersey carrying the LGBTQ+ rainbow on “religious and cultural grounds,” as part of the club’s initiative to promote inclusivity and diversity in sports.

During a press conference, Manly’s coach Des Hasler apologized on behalf of the club and said it had made a “significant mistake” for not consulting the players beforehand. The situation is seen as an embarrassment for the club, as the first NRL rugby player to openly come out as gay in 1995, Ian Roberts, was playing for the Eagles.

🇮🇱 Israel To Give Monkeypox Vaccines First To Gay Men At Risk

The first 5,000 Monkeypox vaccines are arriving in Israel this week, where at least 105 cases have been confirmed. Health authorities have declared that they will be offered in priority to gay men at risk, since this category of the population has been particularly affected by the virus, which is transmitted through physical contact.

HIV positive men born after 1980 are particularly at risk, as well as men who take pre-exposure prophylaxis medication to avoid contracting HIV. Men who have tested positive for syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea since the beginning of the year are also included. Health authorities hope to be able to prevent a larger outbreak by taking such preventive actions.

🇻🇳 ​Trans Woman With “Hug Me” Sign In Saigon Street Overwhelmed By Acceptance

Strangers hug trans woman Do Ba Duy on Nguyen Hue Street

Duy


As part of communication contest in a transgender beauty pageant, 22-year-old Vietnamese Do Ba Duy recorded a social experiment on Nguyen Hue Street in Saigon. She stood with a sign reading "I'm transgender person, you want to hug or throw water?” and waited anxiously for people to react. She was hugged by over 100 people in an hour and a half, and no one threw water at her. The video clip has now gone viral on social media.

OTHERWISE

• South African news site MambaOnline focuses on LGBTQ elders and the importance of learning old tricks

• Feminism in India offers a review of Hindi comedy-drama Badhaai Do which highlights “the suffocation of being queer in a homophobic society.”

• Take a look at Japanese photographer Takashi Homma’s portraits of young members of the queer community in Tokyo.

• Comic book writers, podcasters … Head here to read about some great “Advocates for Change Working to Better Queer Lives.”

• Check out this list of 21 cultural varieties of same-sex unions that have been part of traditional African life.

Putin Turns Up The Dial In Donbas
In The News
Irene Caselli, Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

Putin Turns Up The Dial In Donbas

Russia may allow over-40s to enlist in military as resources are needed to step up the assault in eastern Ukraine.

Signs are pointing to Russian combat operations accelerating in the southeastern Donbas region, as the invasion in Ukraine nears the three-month mark. The British Ministry of Defence said Friday that more Russian troops are likely to be deployed to Donbas to reinforce operations there once they finish securing the strategic port city of Mariupol, where a growing numbers of Ukrainian soldiers has surrendered this week.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky told Ukrainian students during a virtual address on Thursday that the war is not over yet, and is entering “the final stage (which) is the most difficult, the bloodiest.” He added that it is not time yet for him to tell Ukrainians abroad to return home.

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Why The Right To Die Is Expanding Around The World
Society
Anne-Sophie Goninet

Why The Right To Die Is Expanding Around The World

Euthanasia and assisted suicide laws are still the exception, but lawmakers from New Zealand to Peru to Switzerland and beyond are gradually giving more space for people to choose to get help to end their lives — sometimes with new and innovative technological methods.

The announcement last month that a “suicide capsule” device would be commercialized in Switzerland, not surprisingly, caused quite a stir. The machine called Sarcophagus, or “Sarco” for short, consists of a 3D-printed pod mounted on a stand, which releases nitrogen and gradually reduces the oxygen level from 21% to 1%, causing the person inside to lose consciousness without pain or a sense of panic, and then die of hypoxia and hypocapnia (oxygen and carbon dioxide deprivation).

While active euthanasia is illegal in Switzerland, assisted suicide is allowed under certain conditions and under the supervision of a physician, who has first to review the patient’s capacity for discernment — a condition that Sarco aims to eliminate. “We want to remove any kind of psychiatric review from the process and allow the individual to control the method themselves,” Australian doctor Philip Nitschke, the machine’s creator, told news platform SwissInfo. Some argue that this is against the country’s medical ethical rules while others expressed concerns about safety.

But Nitschke says he found the solution: an online AI-based test, which will give a code to the patient to use the device if he passes.

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Photo of a sunset over Chicago's O'Hare airport with backlit plane tails
Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

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G7 Afghan Talks, Paralympics Open, Summoning The Candyman
BBC
Meike Eijsberg, Alessio Perrone and Bertrand Hauger

G7 Afghan Talks, Paralympics Open, Summoning The Candyman

Welcome to Tuesday, where G7 leaders meet to discuss Afghanistan, Kamala Harris accuses China of "coercion" and the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games open. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based media The Initium reports on the pressure still put on unmarried women in Chinese society.


• G7 leaders plan to pledge unity on Taliban recognition: The leaders of the G7 are expected to pledge unity on whether or not to officially recognize or sanction the Taliban, the organization that took over Afghanistan last week. The G7 will meet virtually today to discuss the situation in the Central Asian country.

• COVID-19 update:New Zealand is bracing for its biggest outbreak of the pandemic after it recorded an additional 41 new cases in a day, taking the total to 148. Experts say the cluster could grow to 1,000 and take four to six weeks to eradicate. In Israel, however, there is hope: the country's COVID-19 vaccine booster program shows signs of taming the Delta variant. Officials began administering booster shots — a third dose of the vaccine — to people above 60 on July 30. Meanwhile, after almost a year of emergency use, the U.S. drug regulator, the FDA, granted the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine full approval.

• Haiti desperate for "right" aid: Ten days after the earthquake that struck southern Haiti, more than 2,200 people have died, and at least 30,000 families had to abandon their homes. And yet, many Haitian families are wary of the massive international aid response underway, saying that "the international NGOs do what they want, not what we need."

• Floods linked to climate change: According to new research, the climate crisis made the record-shattering rainfall that caused the floods in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands earlier this summer "up to nine times more likely". The work reinforces the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's report this month that there is "unequivocal" evidence that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the main cause of worsening weather.

• Paralympic Games kick off: The 16th Summer Paralympic Games are beginning in Tokyo today after being delayed for a year due to the pandemic. But the city — the first ever to host two editions of the Paralympic Games — is still grappling with COVID as cases continue to rise.

• Duterte to run as VP in 2022: The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has agreed to be the ruling party's vice presidential candidate in next year's elections. In the Philippines, the president can only serve one six-year term, but political observers say Duterte's vice-presidential un could be an attempt to hold on to power.

• Dare to summon the Candyman: The trailer for the latest installment in the horror movie series Candyman is out — but there's a catch: to unlock it, you must whisper the killer's name, Candyman, five times in your computer's microphone. Spooky …

"Amatrice, 5 years of nothing," headlines Italian dailyIl Tempo, as it reports on the fifth anniversary of the 6.2 magnitude earthquake that ravaged more than 100 towns of central Italy, killing 300, displacing some 65,000 people and razing the town of Amatrice to the ground. Today, as they witness the fifth Italian prime minister who visits Amatrice in as many years, locals are still waiting for any of the crumbled houses and buildings to be rebuilt.

In China, women still have to fight for their right to be single

Nowadays, Chinese women are gaining higher social status through access to better education. And yet, the traditional norm of "getting married as early as possible" is still popular, albeit women have gained new social powers, Hong Kong-based media The Initium says. The writer argues that societal norms make marriage the only significant relationship for women to be accepted in society. That discriminates women who have not walked down the aisle as being somehow "leftovers".

The issue of single women was also brought up, interestingly, in a 2017 IKEA commercial that aired in China. In the ad, which stirred up more than a bit of controversy on social media, a girl dines with her parents and calls out to her mother, who slams her chopsticks on the spot and turns against her: "Don't call me mom if you don't bring your boyfriend back!" Then, when the girl's boyfriend comes to visit, the girl's parents completely change their attitude and immediately set up a happy and warm home.

In another ad (SK-II's "She Ended Up at the Matchmaking Corner," from 2016) several "leftover women" are shown speaking with their parents. It opens with the parents putting pressure on their unmarried daughters. But in the second half of the commercial, the daughters explain to their parents that they "don't want to get married just for the sake of getting married." In the end, the parents seem to understand, and there's a reconciliation between the generations.

While social norms pressure women to choose between infertility and marriage, some single Chinese women are looking for a third way: single parenthood. A particularly well-known case is Haiyang Ye, CEO of a cosmetics company, who traveled to the United States in 2017 to buy sperm and gave birth to her daughter Doris through artificial insemination. The effort cost her more than $75,000.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

День незалежності

Ukraine celebrates Independence Day ("Den nezalezhnosti") today, 30 years after the country separated from the Soviet Union. Celebrations come amid tensions with Russia after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed yesterday to reclaim areas of its territory that were annexed by Moscow.

We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea.

— U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said in a speech delivered in Singapore on the first leg of her Southeast Asian tour. She referred to the landmark international legal case the Philippines won over China about its territorial incursions in the South China Sea. Despite the ruling, Chinese coastguards remain present with Filipino fishermen frequently reporting harassment. Harris also touched on other issues, such as the Afghanistan pullout, which she described as "courageous and right."

Newsletter by Meike Eijsberg, Alessio Perrone and Bertrand Hauger

 The pandemic is itself leading to an increase in demand
Coronavirus
Anne Sophie Goninet

What COVID-19 Means For Worldwide Push To Legalize Marijuana

New Zealand's referendum last month to legalize recreational marijuana use was the first time a country put the controversial topic to a popular vote. Initial results point to a narrow defeat of the measure, which would still leave Uruguay and Canada as the only countries to fully legalize cannabis at a national level.

Still, in normal times, such a vote would have made worldwide headlines. But with COVID-19 dominating the news, it's mostly wafted under the radar.

• And yet ... In other countries, the pandemic is itself leading to an increase in demand, creating new (and old) questions about the burgeoning cannabis industry as well as the question of its legalization.

Locked down and lighting up: Recreational use of cannabis is banned in all European countries, though some have legalized it for medical use. But according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, cannabis is Europe's most commonly used illicit drug, with an estimated 24.7 million users in 2019.

• The EMCDDA issued a report this summer that found that during the lockdown, occasional cannabis users had reduced their consumption but frequent users had increased it, citing reasons such as "boredom" and "anxiety."

• During the lockdown, users faced a shortage as the availability of marijuana "significantly decreased" because of the pandemic, leading to an increase of home growing of cannabis as well an increase in online searches for terms relating to domestic cultivation in various European countries.

A worker harvests cannabis in the U.S. — Photo: Jim West/ZUMA

In Germany, where the use of marijuana has been legal for treating diseases since 2017, the number of patients applying for cannabis-based treatments has been growing steadily.

• Total sales increased to €120 million in 2019, compared with €73 million the previous year, and more than 50 companies now own an import permit, Deutsche Welle reports.

• And while the country relies mostly on imports from the Netherlands and Canada, it is now looking towards ensuring domestic supply via its first local cannabis harvest at the end of 2020 — a crucial question especially since the lockdowns in Europe have taken a toll on Germany's logistics operations.

Boon for the lawyers: It's been two years since Canada legalized recreational marijuana, but the pandemic has provided an unexpected opportunity for the industry to thrive and truly compete against the black market for the first time.

• Compared with the same period last year, Canadians spent 74% more money on licensed cannabis from April to June, while spending on the black market has decreased by 5%, according to data from Statistics Canada.

• Legal sales have also generated more than $231 in July, a 15% increase compared with the previous month and the biggest monthly increase since the country legalized cannabis, Le Journal de Québec reports.

• "There's been a downturn in the black market because people are much more reluctant to go out and meet their regular cannabis dealer in the way that they were prior to the pandemic," retail marketing expert David Soberman told Global News.

An employee arranging cannabis products at the HOBO Cannabis Company during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto — Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press/ZUMA

Pushing for legalization: In the United States, 11 states have already legalized recreational marijuana and the pandemic seems to be pushing others to follow their lead, whether it be for economic reasons or to curb the anxiety caused by the lockdown.

• Cannabis in Hawaii is only authorized for medical use, but a new law was signed on Aug. 27 to legalize the growth of hemp in the state through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Domestic Hemp Production Program.

• For former State Senator Will Espero, talking to local network KITV, if the state was hesitant to legalize recreational marijuana until then, the pandemic and its impact on unemployment and the state's economy have "changed the game." Marijuana tax revenue could indeed help diversify Hawaii's tourism-heavy economy.

With New Jersey set to vote in a state-wide referendum to legalize recreational marijuana for those over 21, the pandemic seems to have changed the mind of some.

• A recent poll from Brach Eichler's Cannabis Law Practice showed that 13.5% of those surveyed said the pandemic caused them to now favor legalization and that in total, 65% of the state's residents strongly supported or somewhat supported the ballot question.

• Some may have realized that cannabis could be used to treat anxiety, something many experienced during the lockdown, as the state also allowed medical cannabis dispensaries to remain open.

• For Charles Gormally, co-chair of the firm's Cannabis Law Practice, talking to local news website NJ.com, people are beginning to "accept the concept that cannabis isn't harmful ... and that it actually has a positive impact in many circumstances."