Where in the World is Marijuana Legal?
The question “Where can I smoke weed?” is a topic that’s been whispered about since marijuana’s prohibition began, and it seems we have finally come to a time where that conversation can be held in the open. It has been a long wait for the mainstream to come to terms with marijuana use once again. Marijuana was used for centuries for medicinal benefits, and in the early 19th century Americans and Europeans could easily buy cannabis extracts in pharmacies and doctors’ offices for various ailments. By the 20th century, marijuana had been made illegal throughout most of the world; and it pretty much stayed that way until recently. With current scientific research, drug laws as a whole are being reformed, particularly marijuana laws. Based on emerging studies it can no longer be denied that marijuana has medical and therapeutic benefits. With increased research exposing the fallacies of marijuana prohibition, the legitimacy of the laws banning cannabis are deteriorating.
Legality remains a gray area in many regions of the world, and in some, the herb is still strictly forbidden. In the past twenty years, there have been more changes in marijuana laws than ever before, and they are constantly evolving. So roll that joint, and let’s determine where you can light up without worry.
In which countries is marijuana completely legal for recreational use?
Oh, Canada! In October 2018, Canada completely legalized recreational marijuana use and the sale of marijuana with the Cannabis Act. Anyone above 18 years old is legally allowed to possess and share up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. You are also allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants per residence for personal use, and can purchase weed in dispensaries.
Uruguay was the first country to legalize cannabis use and sales, with signed legislation to legalize recreational use in December 2013. In fact, Uruguay has never criminalized personal possession of drugs in its history. Here you can legally grow up to six plants at home, and purchase weed at dispensaries across the country.
Weed is legalized for possession and cultivation for recreational use in private, but cannot be sold and has regulations against purchases. Unfortunately, despite use being legal, there is no system in place for the dispensing of medicinal cannabis.
In July 2018, the country of Georgia passed legislation legalizing marijuana for personal use and consumption, but not for sale. Marijuana is legal both recreationally and medically.
Countries where marijuana legality is in the ‘gray area’
United States of America
The United States is a strange case. Federally, marijuana technically remains illegal, but each of the fifty U.S. states has its own set of laws pertaining to the subject. In some states weed is completely legal recreationally and medically, in some it is legal medically, in others it is illegal but decriminalized, and in a few it is just straight illegal. The state laws are constantly changing, and have been trending progressively toward legalization. Hopefully, this will lead to federal legalization in the near future. Here is the specific breakdown state-by-state:
States (including one district) where marijuana is recreationally legal:
Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Washington D.C.
States where marijuana is medically legal (including three U.S. territories):
Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, West Virginia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands
States where only CBD is legal:
Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
States where marijuana is completely illegal:
Idaho, Nebraska (decriminalized), South Dakota
Long known for its leniency on cannabis use (with cannabis tourism to prove it), the Netherlands remains a hot spot for getting baked. On paper it still remains illegal, but recreationally it is tolerated, decriminalized, and is available to purchase and use in many “coffeeshops.” For medical purposes it is completely legal.
Now called the “New Amsterdam,” Spain offers hundreds of ganja clubs country-wide. Medical marijuana is legal, and recreational marijuana is decriminalized and can be used and cultivated in privately-owned spaces. It remains illegal to smoke in public places or to sell.
Mexico declared the illegal status of cannabis unconstitutional in October 2018, but did not completely legalize use. Personal possession of small amounts are decriminalized and medical use is permitted if it has THC content less than 1%.
Marijuana recreational use is still illegal, but use is widely tolerated and was decriminalized in 2010. Medical marijuana is completely legal.
Weed culture and Jamaica have long been intertwined. Although weed has only been decriminalized since 2015, it is socially mainstreamed enough to feel comfortable using marijuana. For Rastafarians, marijuana use is completely legal and not limited by the government.
Argentina has an interesting approach to marijuana reform. Marijuana use is decriminalized for personal use in small amounts and in private locations. Interestingly, medical marijuana is not only legal, but is provided for free for the country’s medical marijuana patients.
Possession of small amounts (if you consider 22 grams to be small) of cannabis was decriminalized in 2009; and in more recent years Colombia has deregulated cultivation including up to twenty plants for personal use. Medical use is legal.
In 2001, while suffering a massive opioid epidemic, Portugal not only decriminalized marijuana use, but all recreational drugs to try to help with harm reduction and expansion of drug treatment programs. Marijuana is decriminalized for possession of up to 25 grams of herb and medical usage is legal.
Where else is marijuana decriminalized?
Antigua and Barbuda, Australia (in certain regions), Austria, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Estonia, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Paraguay, Peru, Slovenia, Switzerland
Where else is medical marijuana legal?
Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Finland, New Zealand, Macedonia, Norway, Romania, San Marino, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Sweden, Poland, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Zimbabwe
Where is weed illegal, but not really enforced?
Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, India (exception for use of “bhang”), Iran, Laos, Lesotho, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Vietnam
Important Note: This is a constantly evolving document. If you believe we’re missing something important, please let us know.
- Baron, E. P. (2015). Comprehensive Review of Medicinal Marijuana, Cannabinoids, and Therapeutic Implications in Medicine and Headache: What a Long Strange Trip Its Been …. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain,55(6), 885-916. doi:10.1111/head.12570
- Vaporizers, A. W. (2018, December 01). Where is Marijuana Legal, Tolerated or Decriminalized? (in Europe). Retrieved from https://www.herbonaut.com/where-is-marijuana-legal/
- Georgian Court Abolishes Fines For Marijuana Consumption. (2018, July 31). Retrieved from https://www.rferl.org/a/georgian-constitutional-court-abolishes-fines-for-marijuana-consumption/29399496.html
- Map of Marijuana Legality by State. (2019, March 19). Retrieved from https://disa.com/map-of-marijuana-legality-by-state
James Scott says
Nice piece. The dream of freely consuming cannabis for its medical benefits has been a nightmare for years. The gateway is to create awareness to the entire world on the importance of this great plant. I wonder why cigarette is legal and marijuana is not. What an irony
Elena Schmidt says
Great point James. Fortunately, more states are voting on cannabis legalization, and the plant could be rescheduled federally soon! 🤞