In terms of continental cannabis laws, cannabis is mainly decriminalized and permitted for medical use only in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia, and South America, but it is strictly prohibited in Asia and Middle Eastern countries, where laws are strictly enforced. Will you be traveling internationally or relocating to a new country soon and want to get a better understanding of the cannabis laws at your destination? Well, we’ve investigated cannabis laws in a variety of nations to help guide you on your journey – and while we have not included all the countries of the world, we’ve included some key destinations in this article. Keep reading for more details below!
If you are travelling to Asia in the near future, it may be a wise decision to leave your bong or cannabis accoutrements at home. Most Asian countries are strictly against the plant in any form, be it medical or recreational.
- Despite the fact that most Asian countries are widely against cannabis, as you will read below, countries like Cambodia and Russia are unexpectedly accepting of cannabis. Although the drug is illegal in Cambodia, the law remains widely unenforced, and there are even restaurants which serve marijuana-infused food.
- In Indonesia, possession of cannabis can result in four to twelve years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. This is partly due to the fact that, in Indonesia, marijuana and hashish are lumped into the same category as cocaine, meth, and heroin for drug crimes.
- In Singapore, federal law dictates that anyone who tests positive for drugs will be presumed to be in possession of said drug — so even if someone has not smoked cannabis in Singapore itself, anyone with cannabis in their system still faces severe consequences.
- Japanese law takes this concept one step further — according to the U.S. State Department, foreigners convicted of cannabis possession can face severe fines and solitary confinement. In fact, international visitors with previous drug convictions are generally not even allowed into the country.
Overall, not only do we recommend not bringing cannabis accoutrements on your trip, but it would also be wise to detox for a few weeks before travelling to the continent, since some countries will convict you based only on whether cannabis is in your system and not if you smoked in their country.
The Middle East:
If you are travelling to the Middle East anytime soon, you should also be wary of severe consequences for cannabis use.
- In the United Arab Emirates, including important business cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the minimum punishment for carrying any kind of drug, including weed, is 4 years in prison.
- In Saudi Arabia, 47% of executions were due to drug offenses in 2015, and those convicted may be sentenced to public floggings or deportation.
- Turkey is likewise against cannabis, punishing possessors with at least 4 years in prison and sellers with 10 years.
- Israel may be interpreted as one of the exceptions to strict Middle Eastern rules, as use of the plant is decriminalized.
While there are no countries in Africa in which recreational cannabis is legal, medical marijuana is legal in many areas.
- One exception to Africa’s tolerant and changing culture is Nigeria, where cannabis use is illegal.
- Lesotho and Zimbabwe are both nations which have legalized marijuana for medical cultivation.
- South Africa has decriminalized the plant.
- Other nations like Malawi, Morocco, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, and eSwatini are all reconsidering cannabis legislation and have potential to decriminalize or legalize it in the future, although none of these countries have at present.
For those travelling in the near future to Australia, good news!
- Australia was at the forefront of cannabis reform around the world, first legalizing medical marijuana nationwide in 2016.
- Recreational use is decriminalized and largely accepted, even within the cultures of Indigenous Australian peoples.
The countries of South America are largely accepting of cannabis, with numerous nations which have decriminalized marijuana possession, although sale and cultivation is still widely illegal.
- Argentina has laws to provide medical marijuana for free, and small amounts are decriminalized for personal use.
- Uruguay, likewise, allows consumers to buy marijuana at any pharmacy. Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis in 2013.
- Belize, Jamaica, and Colombia have all decriminalized cannabis.
- In Brazil, cannabis is illegal and criminalized, but medical marijuana is accepted.
- Paraguay allows small amounts of cannabis for personal use, and the country is one of the main cannabis providers for other countries in South America.
In Europe, weed is gradually becoming more and more decriminalized.
- Portugal is at the forefront of liberal cannabis law. In 2001, the nation decriminalized the use of all drugs, instead punishing offenders with fines or addiction rehab therapy, which has helped to significantly decrease its addiction epidemic.
- Recreational cannabis is illegal in England and the UK.
- Spain has decriminalized cannabis and personal smoking in private spaces is allowed. Spain even has many cannabis-smoking clubs.
- In France, medical marijuana is legal.
- Although cannabis is illegal in the Netherlands, it is culturally acceptable to actually buy and smoke weed in establishments called coffee shops.
- Switzerland has decriminalized small amounts of cannabis.
- In Italy, medical cannabis is legal and recreational use is decriminalized.
- In Monaco, cannabis is still illegal.
- The Czech Republic allows medical marijuana use.
- Estonia has decriminalized cannabis.
- Cannabis is fully legal in Canada, both medically and recreationally.
- The United States is growing in its acceptance of cannabis, with a current number of 32 states in which medical or recreational use is legal. For further insight into US national cannabis laws, be sure to check out our article on Cannabis Legality in the US.
Last but not least, we know what you’re wondering — what about Antarctica? In theory, people living in Antarctica can do anything they please because it is essentially a lawless land. However, those belonging to another nation who are visiting Antarctica for work or pleasure are still bound to the laws of their motherland, so it’s important to remember that any laws that apply in your native country will still be present on your trip.
Sources for this article include Time, Forbes, the U.S. State Department, Thrillist, and The Guardian.