Almost half a century ago, the “Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs” of 1961 was held in New York City. The result of the convention was an international treaty that aimed to prohibit the production and sale of certain narcotic drugs. It is where cannabis was on the list of prohibited drugs. Shortly after that, governments all over the world enforced a ban on cannabis in their respective countries. Cannabis legalization is not yet all over the world.
Cannabis has been severely demonized in the past. Fortunately enough, people are slowly starting to realize and see for themselves that cannabis is not as harmful as it was initially made out to be. The ban on cannabis for medical use was broken in the last decade, as many countries have legalized it to treat certain medical conditions. The prohibition of recreational use is also slowly being broken as several states within the US, and a handful of other countries have legalized it for recreation.
Cannabis is still on its way to becoming legal in different parts of the globe. Below we will see an overview of the general status of legalization of any cannabis product in different regions. Check out these countries that agreed to cannabis legalization.
Cannabis is quite common and easy to find in some places in North America. A lot of countries are known to grow and export cannabis to their neighbors. However, this does not mean the same states legalized marijuana.
In some countries such as the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, and Guatemala, cannabis is not difficult to find. However, it is still illegal to possess, cultivate, sell, and produce cannabis products. Severe punishment awaits violators of the law in Haiti and Honduras. Some countries have explored the possibility of decriminalizing it. Countries that include Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Grenada, Panama, and Saint Kitts and Nevis have witnessed talks or moves for cannabis legalization, yet their medical or recreational use does not see any real progress. In the United States, the legality of cannabis and cannabis-related activities vary from state to state. In some other countries, the move to decriminalize and legalize cannabis saw more positive outcomes than most of their North American counterparts.
Canada, for example, made cannabis quite accessible within the last couple of decades. Medical cannabis was made legal in 2001, while recreational cannabis was made legal only last October 17, 2018. Upon cannabis legalization, the government has left it up to the individual provinces to decide how to allow the sale of cannabis. It is only legally available to adults aged 18 and above, while some provinces require customers to be at least 19. Cannabis is available for purchase through online stores and brick and mortar stores. In some provinces, growing cannabis at home is allowed. Despite Canada’s relaxed laws involving cannabis, some criminal penalties are still enforced.
Mexico has a fast-moving federal cannabis reform. In June 2017, a bill was published legalizing the availability of medical marijuana. It was no longer illegal to cultivate cannabis for medicinal and scientific pursuits. In November 2015, laws that criminalized possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana were declared to violate human rights.
Generally, cannabis is legal for medical use for patients if they have a prescription issued by a licensed physician. Chile, for example, has been cultivated for medical use since 2014. However, most of the cannabis available within the country are imports from neighboring countries. December 2015 saw the sale of cannabis-derived medication in pharmacies. In Argentina, it was made legal after 58 senators who were present during the meeting voted in favor of its legalization. Uruguay took it a step further by becoming the first country to sell cannabis over the counter in pharmacies legally.
Possession is generally also decriminalized but is contingent on some factors. Some countries allow possession of cannabis if the amount doesn’t exceed a certain weight. In Ecuador, for example, having a maximum of 10 grams for personal use is decriminalized. In Peru, the maximum amount is 8 grams. In Venezuela, the possession of up to 20 grams was decriminalized back in 2010.
Despite being generally legal in most parts of South America, there are still a handful of countries that don’t allow for the use of cannabis, regardless if it’s for recreational or medical purposes.
Places like Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago still have not been legalized or decriminalized cannabis, and it does not seem likely the laws will change anytime soon.
The majority of countries in Europe still criminalize cannabis. It is still illegal to possess, cultivate, produce, and sell cannabis in states listed below:
- San Marino
- Vatican City
In some countries, cannabis is not entirely illegal, but it is tolerated. In the Netherlands, medical cannabis is allowed, but recreational marijuana is only tolerated as a soft drug. In Portugal, all drugs are decriminalized, including marijuana. In Norway, possession of medical cannabis is illegal unless obtained from a physician. Other countries that tolerate cannabis include Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
There are only two countries in Europe that have legalized cannabis: the Netherlands and Spain. Other countries such as Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Norway, and Poland have made it legal to acquire medical cannabis if the patients have a prescription. However, in some countries like Italy, deals are on a case-to-case basis. Cannabis possession in any kind is still illegal in Italy; however, medical marijuana is legal.
Generally, Asia still criminalizes cannabis.
In Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, any cultivation, production, sale, and possession of medical and recreational marijuana is illegal.
Bahrain, China, Singapore, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen also criminalize cannabis, and these countries deliver harsh punishments such as death penalties to the lawbreakers of their drug policies.
In countries like Cambodia, Iran, and Palau, marijuana use is tolerated.
However, India, Israel, Lebanon, Palau, Philippines, and Thailand have started taking steps to legalize medical marijuana use in their countries.
Despite cannabis being illegal, some countries have special rules due to culture and tradition. The use of marijuana in India is allowed for some of their traditional preparations. Hash oil in the Maldives is widely used. Lastly, in Sri Lanka, the use of cannabis for traditional Ayurvedic medicine is apparent.
Just like Asia, this continent decriminalizes the use of cannabis. However, from all countries, there are two that stand out. Rwanda is the sole country that allows medical marijuana use if patients have prescriptions from a licensed physician. Also, South Africa has decriminalized the possession of cannabis in small amounts and the use and cultivation in one’s home.
The cultivation, production, sale, and possession, in countries such as Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Cote D’Ivoire, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome, and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are illegal and are punishable by jail time and can be harsh.
Meanwhile, in Botswana, Madagascar, and Sierra Leone, cannabis is being tolerated for the local wide use. In Egypt, smoking hash is also generally tolerated.
The countries of Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, and Malawi have also started taking steps in the legalization of the use of marijuana.
The locals of Equatorial Guinea view cannabis as a sacred herb. Tanzania has been known to use cannabis in their food and medicine, but cannabis-related activities are still illegal.
The majority of Oceania’s countries still criminalizes any cannabis-related activity, and out of thirteen states in this continent, there are only two countries that have legalized its use.
Cannabis legalization in Australia has been legal since 2019. To be granted access to medical marijuana, patients must be issued a letter by physicians stating the latter’s support for their need. On top of that, the government also signed new legislations allowing international companies to import cannabis into the country. However, make no mistake that cannabis-related activities intended for recreational purposes are still illegal, and violators are subjected to certain penalties.
New Zealand has also applied cannabis legalization for the use of medical cannabis in 2016. Like Australia, a patient just needs to secure a prescription from a licensed physician for them to buy medical cannabis. However, only medical cannabis product Sativex can be prescribed. Recreational use is still illegal.
Any cultivation, production, sale, and possession in Fiji, Kiribati, Marshal Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga are punishable. Moreover, lawbreakers in Tuvalu and Vanuatu await severe punishment in violating some rules.
So far, in Antarctica, there is no information on the legal status of the use of marijuana in the continent or any drug laws.
Due to cannabis legalization in selected countries, many people were able to purchase cannabis as a treatment for their medical conditions.