A map and list of the countries around the world that have legalized cannabis for medicinal and/or recreational use.
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The Legal Status of Cannabis Around the World
Cannabis is a controversial topic with a long history of criminalization and demonization. In recent years, attitudes towards cannabis have shifted and several countries have legalized its use for medicinal purposes. Here is a look at the legal status of cannabis around the world.
In Europe, the legal status of cannabis varies from country to country. Some countries, like the Netherlands and Spain, have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, while others have legalized it for medical use only.
Cannabis is fully legal in only two European countries: Portugal and the Czech Republic. In Portugal, possession of up to 25 grams (about 0.88 ounces) of cannabis for personal use has been decriminalized, meaning it’s not a criminal offense but may still incur a fine. Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, adults are allowed to possess up to 15 grams (about 0.53 ounces) of cannabis for personal use and can grow up to four plants at home.
The Netherlands is often seen as having a more liberal approach to cannabis than other European countries, but it’s important to note that possession and sale of cannabis is technically illegal in the Netherlands. However, personal possession of small amounts (up to five grams) has been decriminalized and there are “coffee shops” where cannabis is sold openly.
In Spain, personal possession of small amounts of cannabis for private use is not a criminal offense, but public consumption is still punishable by law. There are also “cannabis social clubs” in Spain where members can grow and consume cannabis together.
The legal status of medical cannabis varies widely across Europe. In Germany, patients with a valid prescription can get access to medical cannabis through pharmacies. Italy also has a medical cannabis program, but patients must import their medicine from another country since Italy does not yet have any licensed growers or producers. Poland recently legalized medical cannabis, but patients will only be able to access it through special hospitals certified by the government.
These are just a few examples — for more information about the legal status of cannabis in specific European countries, consult this helpful guide from Medical Marijuana Europe.
In North America, the legal status of cannabis varies by country. In the United States, the federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, making it illegal under federal law. However, individual states have passed their own laws decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis for recreational or medicinal purposes. In Canada, cannabis was legalized nationwide for recreational use in 2018.
In Mexico, possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use has been legal since 2009. A bill to legalize cannabis was introduced in 2018, but has not yet been passed.
In Central America, the legal status of cannabis also varies by country. In Belize and Costa Rica, possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal and personal use is decriminalized. In Panama, possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use is also decriminalized, and medicinal use has been legal since 2016.
In South America, Uruguay was the first country to legalize cannabis, doing so in 2013. Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Peru have all decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use.
In Brazil, cannabis is still illegal, but possession of small amounts for personal use was decriminalized in 2006. Recently, a bill was introduced in Brazil’s congress that would fully legalize cannabis.
Cannabis is legal for medical and recreational use in some Asian countries, but illegal in others.
In India, cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for millennia, and the government has recently taken steps to decriminalize it. In 2018, the country’s top court overturned a law that criminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis, and approved the use of medical marijuana. However, cultivation and sale of cannabis remains illegal.
In Pakistan, possession of small amounts of cannabis is punishable by a fine, but not imprisonment. However, cultivation and sale of the drug is still illegal.
Cannabis is completely illegal in Bangladesh, and possession can lead to a prison sentence of up to six months.
The penalty for possession of cannabis in Nepal is a prison sentence of up to one year. However, the government has been considering legalizing medical marijuana.
In Sri Lanka, possession of small amounts of cannabis is punishable by a fine or up to six months in prison. However, large scale cultivation and sale of the drug remain illegal.
Thailand began allowing medical marijuana use in 2018, becoming the first Southeast Asian country to do so. However, recreational use remains illegal.
Cannabis is illegal in most countries in Africa, with the exception of South Africa, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, the private use of cannabis was decriminalized in 2018. In Lesotho, cannabis is legal for medicinal purposes only. Zimbabwe has a partially decriminalized approach to cannabis, though personal use is still technically illegal.
There has been some movement toward legalization in other African countries in recent years. In Kenya, for instance, possession of small amounts of cannabis was decriminalized in 2019. And in 2018, the country’s Parliament passed a motion to begin studying the feasibility of legalizing the drug. Similarly, Uganda’s parliament passed a law in 2019 that decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use.
The Future of Cannabis Legalization
The use of cannabis has been a controversial topic for many years now. There are some countries where Cannabis is legal and some where it is not. The future of cannabis legalization is still unknown, but there are some people who are pushing for it to be legalized in more countries.
E cannabis industry is making its way across the pond to Europe. While most countries have not yet legalized recreational cannabis, many have decriminalized possession of small amounts and several have legalized medical cannabis. Germany stands out as a leader in Europe, with a thriving medical cannabis market and plans to fully legalize by 2022. Here’s a look at how cannabis legalization is progressing in some of the major countries in Europe.
Germany legalized medical cannabis in 2017 and the market has been growing rapidly since then. The country recently passed a law that will allow pharmacies to sell recreational cannabis starting in 2022. The law will also create a system of licenses for growers and retailers, with strict regulations around quality control and advertising.
Italy decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis in 2016 and legalized medical use in 2017. The country has a thriving medical market, with over 200,000 patients registered to receive medical cannabis. Recreational use is still illegal, but possession of small amounts is punishable by a fine rather than jail time.
Spain has had a long history with cannabis, dating back to the 1600s when the country was a leading producer of hemp. However, possession of any amount of cannabis was not decriminalized until 2015. Medical use was legalized in 2017 and the country now has one of the largest medical markets in Europe, with over 1 million patients registered to receive medical cannabis. Recreational use remains illegal but possession of small amounts is not punishable by jail time.
The Netherlands is well known for its tolerant attitude toward cannabis, with Amsterdam’s infamous coffee shops selling small amounts of weed for personal use. However, technically speaking, only possession of up to 5 grams (about 1/6 ounce) is decriminalized—anything above that amount can lead to prosecution. Possession of any amount for sale or cultivation remains illegal. Medical use was legalized in 2003 but the market only began to grow recently, with the first Dutch-grown medical cannabis being sold in pharmacies in 2018.
In 2018, Canada became the first G7 nation to fully legalize cannabis for adult recreational use. Uruguay had previously legalized cannabis in 2013. Prior to full legalization, a number of states in the US had already decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis, and eight states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) had legalized adult use. Michigan and Illinois legalized adult use in 2019.
In October 2018, the Mexican Supreme Court issued a ruling that found that the country’s ban on recreational cannabis was unconstitutional. The ruling gives lawmakers a deadline of 180 days to revise current laws; if they do not act by that time, recreational cannabis will be legal in Mexico.
A number of other countries have decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, including Australia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, India (in some jurisdictions), Italy, Kenya, Lebanon (in some jurisdictions), Netherlands (for citizens only), Peru (in some jurisdictions), Portugal(up to 25 grams), Spain(up to 40 grams for public consumption), Switzerland(up to 10 grams for private consumption) and Zimbabwe.
South America is home to some of the most cannabis-friendly countries in the world. Uruguay was the first country to fully legalize cannabis, and other countries in the region, such as Argentina, Chile, and Colombia, have also decriminalized the drug or created legal medical cannabis programs. Here’s a look at the current state of cannabis legalization in South America:
Uruguay: Uruguay was the first country in the world to fully legalize cannabis. Adults over the age of 18 are allowed to purchase and consume cannabis from licensed retailers. The country has also created a legal framework for cannabis cultivation and commercial sales.
Argentina: Argentina has decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of cannabis and created a legal medical cannabis program. The country is also considering legalizing recreational cannabis.
Chile: Chile has decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of cannabis and created a legal medical cannabis program. The country is also working on a bill to fully legalize recreational cannabis.
Colombia: Colombia has decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of cannabis and created a legal medical cannabis program. The country is also considering legalizing recreational cannabis.
Peru: Peru has decriminalized personal possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. The country is also considering creating a legal medical cannabis program.
The future of cannabis legalization in Asia is shrouded in uncertainty. Although some countries in the region, such as Thailand and South Korea, have shown signs of reform, others remain staunchly opposed to changing their laws.
Thailand became the first country in Asia to legalize medical cannabis in 2018, and the government has since issued licenses to several companies to cultivate and manufacture the drug. So far, only a limited number of patients have been able to access medical cannabis due to strict regulations, but the government has said it is committed to expanding access.
South Korea passed a medical cannabis law in 2019, but implementation has been slow due to opposition from conservative groups. The law allows patients with certain conditions to receive prescriptions for cannabis from licensed doctors, but only a handful of doctors have been approved to prescribe the drug so far.
Elsewhere in Asia, there has been little movement on cannabis legalization. Japan’s parliament is currently considering a bill that would allow medical cannabis, but it remains uncertain whether the measure will pass. In China, the government continues to crack down on illegal cultivators and dealers, and there is no sign that it is considering changing its stance on the drug.
In September 2018, the South African government legalized the private use of cannabis. The country’s parliament voted to change the law after a court ruled that the ban on marijuana was unconstitutional. decriminalize marijuana for personal use. Individual grow ops will be allowed for personal use, but smoking in public places is still prohibited.
In April 2018, Zimbabwe became the second country in Africa to legalize medical marijuana. The country’s parliament passed a law allowing people to grow and use cannabis for medicinal purposes. The move was largely seen as an effort to boost the country’s struggling economy.
In September 2017, Lesotho became the first country in Africa to legalize medical marijuana. The government issued licenses to two local companies, Verve Dynamics and MediGrow, to cultivate and export cannabis products. Lesotho’s prime minister said at the time that the move could “unlock the economic potential” of the country.