The Australian government made news recently when it announced plans to allow medicinal CBD sales. The compound was previously illegal in Australia, a legacy of marijuana prohibition exported around the globe in the 20th century by American agencies.

Hopes among advocates of opening up the CBD market in the Land Down Under were sparked in January when the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced a review of potential CBD’s medicinal properties for therapeutic use.

The development comes as welcome news to the active CBD community in the country that has fought a long battle to decriminalize the cannabis compound that has improved the quality of life for millions around the globe.

CBD in Australia

The opening salvo of the legalization battle in Australia was shot in 2015 when the government reluctantly downgraded the “threat” of CBD by moving it to Schedule 4 classification. The government now mandates legal CBD products to contain less than 2% of other cannabinoids like THC.

Much like in the US, Australians’ therapeutic use of CBD to naturally treat a number of health conditions ranging from insomnia to chronic pain has skyrocketed in the last decade, confusing government regulatory bodies and opening up an enormous gray market with a patchwork of contradictory laws.

Rhys Cohen of FreshLeaf Analytics, an Australian data firm that tracks CBD statistics in the country, compared the gray market situation in Australia with the US’s grappling of the regulatory process. “We’ve gone through the same CBD craze as North America but without any legal avenues to access other than via prescription,” he said.

Australia’s Historical Approach to Drug Regulation

While the image of the laid-back Aussie surfer has merits, the generally liberal country is remarkably out of character when it comes to drug policy. Critics have noted the nation’s “tough on crime” drug laws that are typically more draconian and punitive than other Western countries.

Marijuana legalization took off more slowly in Australia than in other advanced societies. California, for instance, legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Australia took two decades to catch up, having only legalized medicinal cannabis in 2016.

The State of CBD Around the Globe

Because CBD has achieved widespread acceptance in many regions of the world, travelers often mistakenly assume that taking their CBD anywhere is safe and legal. In fact, possession of CBD, even for personal use, can still land users in serious legal trouble in a number of locations that still prosecute cannabis possession harshly.

Perhaps most frightening is the uncertain legal status attached to CBD. Many nations do not have updated laws to distinguish, for example, “marijuana” from “hemp” for enforcement purposes, opening up the real possibility of extortion at the hands of unscrupulous foreign law enforcement.

Third-world governments have only very recently begun to enshrine legal protections for CBD users into law.

However, the trend toward legalization that is seemingly occurring worldwide, with separate legal battles raging inside sovereign nations’ borders, is a bright spot for cannabis activists who hope to spread the proven medicinal powers of CBD Oil to as many beneficiaries as possible.

Australia made a crucial first step toward what should be the ultimate goal of eliminating unnecessary restrictions on CBD, which has no established safe limit in terms of dosage, is nonaddictive and non-habit-forming, and very rarely causes serious side effects.

Civil action groups will keep the pressure on Aussie lawmakers to more fully integrate CBD into the above-ground economy. Cannabis is the most commonly-used illegal substance in the Land Down Under. A 2016 poll found that 35% of Australians over the age of 14 had consumed some form of cannabis in their lifetimes.