The legality of cannabis varies wildly from country to country. While there’s a definite trend towards legalization, it is a very slow process. Many forward thinking countries such as Uruguay, Canada, Australia, the United States (but only in 420 card states, where citizens can use their California medical marijuana card), the Netherlands, Colombia and Czech Republic have amended their laws to allow consumption for medical purposes at the very least. But other more conservative countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Ireland, still have draconian laws prohibiting any and all use of marijuana.
Even in countries where weed is illegal, often (when the amount is considered small enough to be for personal consumption) it is decriminalized, meaning punishment may be a ‘slap on the wrist’ or small fine. However there are still some countries where marijuana is lumped in with all other drugs and there is a zero-tolerance stance towards all drugs. In these countries, punishments can be severe. For those who have already got their California medical marijuana card, the concept of not being able to consume MMJ may sound like a travesty. Nonetheless, in Malaysia possession of a small amount of cannabis will land you in prison, and possession of a large amount (over 200g, which, let’s be fair, you would only need if you were juicing!) could send you to the gallows!
There are also some interesting countries where weed is illegal, but not really. And even one mysterious nation where the legality and usage of weed still remains a total mystery. Can you guess where that is? You’re about to find out!
In Uruguay cannabis is 110% legal. Once you are over 18 and a citizen of Uruguay you can purchase and use marijuana to your heart’s content. What is this place, heaven?
Chile allows cultivation of cannabis for personal or medical purposes. Sale of marijuana-derived medications is allowed on prescription from pharmacies.
Medical marijuana has recently become legal at a federal level in Australia, with implementation varying from state to state. So far, medical cannabis is legal with a cannabis card in Victoria and New South Wales. One or two plants may be grown for personal use in the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia.
In Colombia it is legal to possess up to 20 plants and/or to have up to 22 grams of weed, for personal consumption. Marijuana is completely legal for medical use.
Medical use of marijuana is fully legal in Czech Republic, and possession of up to 15 grams or 5 plants is considered merely a misdemeanor and subject to a minor fine, which is very rarely enforced.
In the Netherlands it is legal to sell weed is designated ‘coffeeshops’. Outside of coffeeshops, it is illegal but decriminalized to possess up to 5 grams or 5 plants. While being caught with a small amount of cannabis will not lead to prosecution – your weed may well be destroyed, so stick to the coffeeshops!
Although sale and importation of weed is illegal and punishable by jail in Spain, cannabis can be acquired in private ‘cannabis clubs’, of which there are now 500 (200 in Barcelona alone, which is why it’s now known as the ‘new Amsterdam’). It is legal to grow your own weed for personal consumption, although not in any area visible from a public place, i.e. a street-facing balcony.
Medical marijuana is legal in Canada with a government-issued cannabis card. However, plans have been announced to fully legalize and regulate weed in Spring 2017. Yay!
United States federal law designates cannabis totally illegal. However, states have the right to decide their own marijuana laws, and weed is legal for personal use in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, the cities of Portland and South Portland in Maine, and in Washington D.C. It is legal for medicinal purposes in 25 states, including California, where after a medical card evaluation, a person can get a California medical marijuana card. It is legal to grow for personal and commercial use in Colorado, Alaska and Oregon, for personal use only in Washington D.C., and for commercial use only in the state of Washington. Medicinal growing is legal in several states, including California with a California medical marijuana card and grower’s license.
In Jamaica it is legal to cultivate up to five plants for personal use. Imminent plans to legalize cannabis for medicinal and religious purposes are also afoot.
Weed is illegal at the federal level in India. However, it is legal or ‘tolerated’ in many states such as West Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar, Orissa and the North East. Large tracts of cannabis grow unchecked in the wild in many parts of northern and southern India, and in holy cities like Varanasi and various north Indian states government-owned shops sell marijuana in the form of bhang.
Weed-unfriendly countries in which marijuana is totally illegal but available strictly for medical use
In Israel, Romania, Macedonia and Puerto Rico, cannabis is totally illegal, but available for medical use in very specific cases, such as severe or terminal illness.
Weed is illegal in France; however, it is legal to sell medications containing cannabis derivatives.
Weed is technically illegal in Cambodia, however cannabis can be purchased and smoked in public without threat of arrest, and use is widespread among locals and foreigners. ‘Happy’ restaurants openly serve food containing marijuana in cities with a lot of tourists such as Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.
North Korean defectors and tourists have claimed there is no law against growing or possessing weed in the country, and that it is not even viewed as a drug. Other reports suggest it is technically illegal but that the law is not enforced. And others still claim that weed is illegal in the country. So it’s a bit of a mystery really, which is a shame, because I have no doubt that a stroll around Pyongyang while high would be (arguably) the most surreal and enjoyable experience available to a human being!
California, which is almost a country onto itself, with a population higher that many of the aforementioned nations, has over half a million registered medical marijuana users. So while weed is (currently, although possibly not for long) illegal in the state, it is very widely used for medicinal purposes. If you are a California citizen you may be wondering how to get a California medical marijuana card. It’s easy, you can go to your doctor and ask him to write a prescription and you’ll get a California medical marijuana card, or you can get a medical marijuana card online by finding a doc in cyberspace who will prescribe you a medical cannabis card online.
So there you go; many countries are now open-minded and intelligent enough to see the benefits of marijuana, as a medicine and even just as a means of relaxing and de-stressing. Kudos to these countries! And to the Malaysias, Saudi Arabias and Irelands of this world – c’mon guys, read up, educate yourselves and get real!