Report: Cannabis & Sustainable Development

The European Institute of Multidisciplinary Studies on Human Rights and Sciences – Knowmad Institut together with our sister organization For Alternative Approaches to Addiction, Think & Do Tank – FAAAT present:

Cannabis & Sustainable Development

Paving the way for the next decade in Cannabis and hemp policies.

Recommendations for the implementation of Cannabis policies aligned with international Human Rights
standards, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2016 UNGASS outcome document.

Authors: Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, Simon Anderfuhren-Biget Ph.D, Martin Díaz Velásquez and Michael Krawitz.
Contributors: Olivier Bertrand M.D, Michal Brožka, Amy Case King, Swami Chaitanya, Genine Coleman, Chris Conrad, Julie P. Fry, Hanka Gabrielová, Kristen Garringer, Farid Ghehiouèche, Chris Halmo, Daniela Kreher,
Marcin Krzyżkowiak, Hannes Lenhart and Kirstin Nevedal.
Graphic design: Marilyn Reina, Victor Aragon.


Due to its characteristics, widespread cultivation and use, and diversity of its applications the Cannabis sativa L. plant directly pertains to at least 62 of the 169 targets found in 15 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Surprisingly, this plant affects the SDGs both positively and negatively.

This report explains how the “hemp-issues” of Cannabis sativa L. (non psychoactivity-related uses) can contribute to meeting  Goals 1, 2, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 15, but also why reforming the current repressive, prohibitive, and marginalizing policies relating to “marijuana-issues” (psychoactivity-related uses of Cannabis sativa L.) is indispensable to meet Goals 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 13, 16 and 17.

The Cannabis plant has accompanied humankind for millenia. It has provided food and numerous products derived from its fiber (various locally sourced and produced-materials). More recently, the plant has been explored for the soil-cleaning property of its roots and the significant biomass produced by the stems of the plant, a promising source of energy, a great building material and recyclable vegetative plastic. The plant has also been employed in all continents and throughout human history for use in medicine, spiritual ritual and recreation.

Current overly restrictive public policies addressing the psychoactive uses of the plant hinder the availability of the plant and its derivatives for medical purposes and prevent implementation of sound and sensible regulatory access frameworks. Repressive and authoritarian drug-control policies foster corruption, increase imprisonment rates, augment adverse social and health outcomes for people who use cannabis and generate innumerable human rights violations in particular among women, minorities, low income communities and indigenous peoples.

Reaching the Goals of the 2030 Agenda means adopting significantly different regulations to all aspects and
activities linked to the uses of the Cannabis plant, moving away from the artificial separation between “hemp” and “marijuana”. Scientists talk about Cannabis, farmers talk about hemp, politicians talk about marijuana, but none of them really get a clear picture of the ethnobotanical context of this plant. It is time for us all to get on the same page.


« …The tragedies caused by the lack of adequate and effective control of drug markets have increased social suffering, especially in relatively less developed countries and regions.

That is the reason why sustainable development opportunities must be taken as a guidance to improve the performance of drug policies. But this will not be possible without a strong public administration and efficient evidence-based public policies that, without repeating schemes worn out by the absence of results, take on the challenge of incorporating a new focus.

For all these reasons, we commend the efforts that Civil Society is undertaking to achieve an effective political incidence of this agenda, and we gladly join in an open dialogue where diverse voices and visions can fit. »

Diego Martín Olivera Couto,
National Drug Council,
Office of the Presidency of the Republic,
Oriental Republic of Uruguay.


The reformist trends in Cannabis policy globally is an ongoing movement unlikely to be stopped. A deficit of
democratic monitoring of the generalization of legal Cannabis markets could represent a threat for affected
populations and public health. Ethics are needed. A renewed interest and takeover of the topic Cannabis by all
categories of the population are urgent.

A one-size-fits-all policy seems neither desirable nor possible, both for geographical imperatives and for
the diversity of uses and products of the plant. This makes consensual policy models (exportable and
generalizable) difficult to emerge.

Rather than trying to solve the equation of the perfect Cannabis policy and its infinite variables, a more
feasible approach would be to step aside, list all the different public policies that affect, or are involved with
Cannabis, and address them individually. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals is
but a perfect tool for this purpose.

This discussion paper highlights important research and experiential outcomes from scholars, civil society
organizations, affected populations, and market stakeholders. It seeks to show the potential of the Cannabis
plant in appropriately regulated settings as transformative for our societies – so long as ethical practices and
sustainable approaches are kept central.

This document is not intended to be an exhaustive guide. It is designed as a valuable resource to contribute to
post-prohibition studies, and help understand, from diverse public policy perspectives, the links between the
policies of Cannabis and the Sustainable Development Goals, and the impact of the former on the latter.


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