World Wide Weed: What Are Cannabis Laws Like Around The World?

by Kevin

At some point, the coronavirus spikes will get less dagger-like, the world will return to something resembling normalcy – or, hopefully, some better version of normalcy – and we’ll all start traveling again. For many newly-telecommuting workers, money saved on gas will all go toward next year’s vacation – not to mention the money we saved by skipping a vacation this year. And that all depends on Coronavirus levels smoothing out by next year, which, if the number of masks at the line outside the Council Bluffs Applebee’s is any indication, might not even happen. 

But we can fantasize. And while we’re fantasizing, we can fantasize about the places we’d like to visit with our stash bag intact. That means knowing about the laws that govern the use, sale and possession of weed around the world. Of course, you’re probably going to consider other factors as well – cuisine, attractions, languages – but here’s a few pot-related data points to keep in mind.

Canada. Great White North?!? More like Great Green North! Sorry. Anyway, Canada is a great place to be if you’re a big fan of parliamentary politics, winter sports and marijuana – which is legal for both medical and recreational use. Canada was only the second country in the world – after Uruguay – to fully legalize weed at a countrywide level (rather than a piecemeal province-by-province approach similar to what we have in the States). It’s also the first G7 nation in the world to do so. Canada probably respects cannabis use more than almost any other developed nation – and for most Americans, getting there isn’t that difficult (sorry, Hawaii), so a weed vacation in the homeland of Alex Trebek and Wolverine is totally doable.

Mexico. Do your research here, because Mexico can be tricky when it comes to weed. It’s technically illegal – but only on the books, since the Supreme Court of Mexico said the law was unconstitutional in 2018, making the laws unenforceable. Thus, possession of small amounts have been decriminalized. But be careful – shifting, poorly understood laws are an excellent way for small-time local tyrants like cops and judges to hassle weed users, especially those from out of town who don’t know the lay of the land. But there’s still good news: acceptance of cannabis use is increasing, in part due to the obvious failures of drug policies in both the US and Mexico. So a new day could be in the process of dawning. 

The UK. Let’s get the confusing-to-Americans part out of the way: The United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (and Scotland and Northern Ireland are not super keen on remaining). Throughout the UK, weed is illegal, though for a few years in the early 2000s was classified as a lower-offense drug. The sentences are high, too – 14 years in prison and a no-limit fine. Still, pot is used by a lot of people across the UK. (It’s illegal in Ireland too, so don’t assume you can just cross the border to get high.)

Uruguay. Cannabis enjoys full legality in Uruguay – the South American nation was the first nation on Earth to fully legalize it in 2013. It’s regulated, but largely to promote safety and give locals the resources they need to use it properly. The government also registers growers’ clubs and manages all marijuana dispensaries. In fact, South America in general is a great place to get high – other countries where weed is either legal or decriminalized include Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador. We could do a whole separate article on South America alone. 

Australia. Weed is legal in the Australian Capital Territory – the closest thing the Aussies have to  an area like Washington D.C. But that conflicts with Australian national law, much like state laws in places like California and Colorado conflict with US federal law. Medical weed has been legal in Australia since 2016.

Portugal. Yeah, you can smoke weed in Portugal. You can also do, like, literally everything else. All drugs are legal in Portugal. And while we can’t really recommend anything other than weed (like, heroin? really???) but if you do get caught, the worst you’ll experience is a small fine or access to substance abuse treatment. 

Japan. Don’t go to Japan for the pot. Japan is a beautiful country with amazing cuisine, friendly people, world-class cinema and thousands of years of rich, vibrant history. But with a hard prohibition against cannabis that’s lasted over 70 years, it’s no place for a pothead. Cops catch you using it, you get five years in jail and a fine. Selling it or growing it will get you 7-10 years. So go to Japan, enjoy the anime, enjoy the karaoke, enjoy the best sushi the world has to offer, but leave the stash at home and don’t plan on finding any when you get into town. 

Singapore. Laws against pot use in Singapore are even worse than those in Japan. Just using it can get you sentenced to ten years in prison, and importing or exporting weed in Singapore can result in the death penalty. The government of Singapore is so serious about prohibiting weed that it’s demanded that Netflix take down all its cannabis-themed programming within Singapore’s borders (Netflix, sadly, buckled to local pressure and complied with the order). Don’t plan any weed vacations in Singapore, no matter how cool it looked in Crazy Rich Asians.

Jamaica. Do you even need to ask? Weed is decriminalized here, and adherents of the Rastafarian religion can use unlimited amounts with no legal penalties or repercussions.  

Europe. Like South America, Europe could be the subject of its own article – many countries in the EU offer decriminalized environments perfect for regular weed users. Scandinavia is where most people go – in The Netherlands, for instance, has always been a destination for pot tourism – but countries like Italy and Spain have plenty of opportunities as well. 

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