You might assume it's progressive, democratic nations taking the lead on legalizing cannabis.

In fact, North Korea is one of only three countries that have already done so. The other two are democratic countries, the Netherlands and Uruguay.

Is Iran next in line? Maziyar Ghiaba tackles that question in an article for The Conversation, an online academic forum.

Ghiaba writes that Iran is exploring the idea though the state's Expediency Council, a branch of government that acts independently of parliament.

The idea of Iran taking a liberal approach to cannabis defies the popular conception of the Islamic Republic as a conservative, isolated opponent of more-liberal Western countries.

Ghiaba argues that Iran has actually made many progressive moves on drug policy in the last 10 years, including the opening of 6,000 methadone clinics to help people beat addictions, and the distribution of clean needles to drug users in order to combat the spread of HIV.

Legalizing cannabis could save the lives of many Iranians and international visitors: presently, possessing, buying and selling certain amounts of cannabis are offences punishable by death.

h/t The Conversation