Over the past few years, there have been more and more countries where marijuana is legal. It’s often complicated, though, so we’ve created a guide to marijuana legalization around the world, pointing out a few safe places to smoke weed as well as countries to avoid while trying to find pot abroad based on our Cannabis Friendliness Index.
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This index of “cannabis friendliness” was created using four factors:
- The Prevalence of Use (+100 points): This data from the UNDOC shows the annual prevalence of cannabis use as a percentage of the population aged 15-64.
- The Legality of Recreational Marijuana (+100 points): Full points were awarded to those countries where it is fully legal. Countries where the drug has been decriminalized were awarded 50 points or less on a graded scale. Countries where the personal use was illegal but not enforced earned 10 points.
- The Legality of Medical Marijuana (+50 points): Full points were awarded to those countries a form of medical legality. Countries where only low-THC weed or specific products under specific conditions were available were awarded less than half points. Also, countries like the United States where not all parts of the country had medically legal weed were awarded less than half points.
- The Punishments for Use and Trafficking (-50 points): Points were awarded on a graded scale. Those countries where the death penalty and/or life imprisonment were potential punishments for any form of marijuana ownership were given full points.
These four scores were combined to create the overall index and subsequent grade.
Where Is Marijuana Legal in the World?
Out of the top 100 most-visited countries, 61 of them have some form of law legalizing or decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Travels can often include finding and using weed, but any attempt to cross borders with it tends to be a bad idea worldwide. Weed can even land you a life sentence or, in cases of large amounts of trafficking, the death penalty in some countries. While traveling, it’s extremely important to understand the local culture, and tourists should probably stick to smoking in countries where weed is legal.
Where Is Recreational Weed Legal in the World?
The list of countries where drugs are legal is pretty small. These are the four countries where pot is legal for recreational use. (We’ve also included Guam, which is technically a territory.)
- Canada: In 2018, marijuana became legal for recreational purposes. The legal smoking age is 19, and public smoking laws depend on your province/territory.
- Uruguay: Uruguay was the first country to legalize marijuana in 2013, but only registered residents can buy it legally, so it might not be a great place for visitors traveling for weed. The country has learned a lot about implementing legal weed.
- Georgia: As of 2018, weed is legal for possession and consumption but not for sale. As of now, there’s no legal system for dispensaries. So far, it’s the only European country where pot is legal for recreational use.
- South Africa: Like Georgia, use and possession is legal here but there’s no legal system for sale.
- Guam: A U.S. territory and one of the top places where weed is legal, Guam has been home to legal weed since 2019.
States and territories of the United States as well as Australia have also legalized recreational weed. Also, weed is in a strange legal state in Mexico due to a Supreme Court ruling, and legislators have been working on rolling out a bill to finally approve it. Lastly, New Zealand will vote in a general election on legalizing weed in 2020.
Where Is Recreational Weed Technically Illegal but Decriminalized or Commonly Used?
One might be surprised that Jamaica, one of the hot spots for marijuana tourism, isn’t one of the answers to the question, “Where is recreational marijuana legal?” Jamaican weed laws actually don’t ever state that it’s legal for the general public; it’s legal for Rastafarian practitioners, and it has been decriminalized in small amounts, but weed is technically illegal for foreigners to use. Another famous pothead hot spot is Amsterdam, but the Netherlands only allows for use in its licensed coffee shops. Some of the other countries that decriminalized drugs include Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Israel.
Where Is Medical Marijuana Legal Around the World?
Here are some countries where medical marijuana is legal, though you may want to check the specific marijuana laws by country to see what counts as “medical”:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- United Kingdom
What Are the Most Dangerous Countries for Cannabis?
If you’re a big fan of weed, you may want to entirely avoid some of these countries. These are the countries with the harshest punishments for weed:
- Cambodia: Trafficking may result in jail time or even life in prison.
- Cyprus: Life imprisonment is possible for use.
- Egypt: Large-scale smuggling is punishable by death.
- Hong Kong: Trafficking or cultivating could lead to life in prison.
- Iran: Possession of more than 5 kilograms of hashish may result in the death penalty.
- Laos: Public possession may result in the death penalty.
- Malaysia: Trafficking more than 200 grams leads to a mandatory death penalty.
- Myanmar: Large-scale possession and trafficking is punishable by death.
- Philippines: Possession or trafficking may result in life imprisonment and a fine.
- Saudi Arabia: Possession may result in jail time, and large-scale trafficking may result in the death penalty.
- Singapore: Weed laws in Singapore are quite harsh; possession of 500 grams or more may result in the death penalty.
- United Arab Emirates (UAE): Trafficking may result in the death penalty.
- Vietnam: Trafficking may result in the death penalty.
There are plenty of other countries you might want to avoid considering finding weed in, too. For instance, China is extremely opposed to legalization, considering it a cultural menace. France has historically had a very harsh stance on the drug, loosening its legislation only recently. And Japan has strict laws as well, along with some of the most expensive weed in the world.
Before you travel with weed abroad, do your research, and definitely default to being safe!