When Canada legalizes cannabis later this summer, it won’t just be a big deal for hoser stoners; the move could have global impact. While the substance is already legal in Uruguay, Canada will be the first G-20 country and perceived global power to permit its recreational sales and use.

Researchers from other countries all over the world have already begun to look to Canada for information on legalization’s impact on health, economics, and crime. As reported by The Guardian, one medical marijuana manufacturing facility in Ottawa has had fact-finding visitors from countries including Australia, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Jamaica, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. There have been politicians, medical professionals, and law enforcement officers, so many that the facility has had to cut extra viewing windows into their doors and walls, and split up tour groups by birth date to accommodate them all.

There are a lot of uncertainties about what happens to a country when legal cannabis is introduced into its system, and Canada is seen by many as a guinea pig. As The Guardian put it, “Legalization could affect Canada’s crime patterns, health and countless other factors – but exactly how, no one yet knows.”

While Canada prepares to go forward as the first world’s first cannabis-legal country, the global community at large is rethinking their stance toward cannabis. Last week in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization (WHO) met to review the health and safety of marijuana. WHO is preparing to make a recommendation to the UN, based on independent research and feedback from participating countries, which could lead to a change in international drug treaty language.

Among WHO’s initial findings are that cannabis is a “relatively safe drug” which could be used to treat a host of serious conditions including HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia.

One major hurdle to the legalization of medical and recreational cannabis are the restrictions in most countries which constrain medical research. Here too, Canada could become a forerunner, possibly outpacing the United States in the coming years.

Photo via Flickr user John McCallum