cannabis laws around the globe

World traveler? A close look at cannabis laws around the globe

We spend a lot of time covering the United States and Canada, but what about cannabis around the globe? What’s going on in Malta, Georgia, and Uruguay? Is it really legal in Jamaica? Let’s go on a trip and see.  

Countries with some form of legal recreational cannabis 

The following countries have legalized recreational cannabis in some capacity. Not decriminalized, not for medical use, but straight-up legal weed for adults to enjoy. Germany is likely to join this list soon. Technical talks about legalization are set to start this summer, followed by a draft bill expected in late 2022. 

Canada 

The Great White North made history as the second country to fully legalize the possession and sale of cannabis through the 2018 Cannabis Act. Most of Canada adheres to a minimum legal age of 19, though Alberta and Quebec let new adults get green at 18. The Cannabis Act also allows adults to cultivate up to four plants per household. With over 30 million potential customers, access to legal banking, and other perks, Canada has cemented its place as an enticing expansion prospect for US companies. 

Georgia 

Sitting pretty between Europe and Asia, Georgia is one of the first countries to legalize medical and recreational cannabis. It’s also the first and only former Soviet country to remove laws against the plant. Possession and consumption became legal in 2018 after a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Georgia, which still prohibits large-scale cultivation and the sale of cannabis. Though there’s nothing commercial about cannabis in Georgia, there have been talks about the country eventually tapping into the market. 

Malta 

The first EU nation to legalize cannabis is the island country of Malta. Is there a better place to smoke weed than smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea? 

Malta moves fast. Medical cannabis use was legalized in 2018 and just three years later, the parliament legalized personal recreational cannabis use. Adults 18 and older can grow up to four plants and possess up to seven grams when out and about. At home, they can store up to 50 grams of their cultivated crop. Though no commercial cannabis businesses are permitted, people can create associations that cultivate and distribute cannabis among its members. Cannabis club? Sign us up. 

South Africa 

Following the trend of legalizing cannabis in 2018 comes South Africa. The country legalized the personal consumption, use, possession, and cultivation of cannabis in private. Anything in the public eye is a no-no. This leaves a lot of South Africans out, though, with some arguing that the bill only legalized cannabis for a small fraction of society with access to private dwellings. Amendments to the bill have been proposed that would allow a commercial cannabis industry to bud in South Africa. If passed, commercialization could add more than 130,000 jobs to the country. 

United States

Though federal legalization is an almost inescapable conversation when discussing cannabis in the United States, we’re just not there yet. However, 19 states have legalized recreational cannabis, with some markets over a decade old, like Colorado, to budding markets like New York that haven’t begun retail yet. 

We don’t have time to list each state’s cannabis laws and intricacies because it varies so greatly. On one hand, you’ve got businesses dedicated to cannabis tourism, and the other, grandmas getting arrested for CBD at Disney World. And although the country hasn’t legalized cannabis on a federal level, the industry continues to boom, with markets expected to reach $28 billion this year. 

Uruguay 

Uruguay led the way for cannabis legalization, becoming the first modern country to legalize the plant in 2013. Implementation wasn’t very smooth, though, and pharmacies didn’t begin to carry cannabis until 2017

The law allows residents 18 and older to register to buy up to 40 grams of cannabis per month at a pharmacy using fingerprint recognition. Tourists cannot purchase cannabis, though the government has indicated plans to allow tourist purchases in the future. Though many still opt for home cultivation or get their weed through cannabis clubs (like Malta’s approach), the country’s regulated market continues to grow, having expanded 27% between 2021 and 2022

Countries with legal-adjacent cannabis laws 

Many countries haven’t legalized weed but don’t care about personal use, within reason. Jamaica often comes to mind when people think about countries with legal weed, as does the Netherlands. That’s not really the case. 

In 2015, Jamaica decriminalized cannabis, dropping the possession of up to two ounces to a petty offense free from criminal charges. Rastafarians can legally use it for religious purposes, and residents can grow up to five personal plants. Though laws are a bit fuzzy, Jamaica does have a medical cannabis industry. The first medical dispensary opened in 2018 after receiving a license through the country’s Cannabis License Authority (CLA). Although it’s yet to offer recreational weed, you’ll find no shortage of ganja in the country. If caught smoking recreational weed, you’ll just have to pay a fine equivalent to about $5 USD. 

Weed is decriminalized, but still illegal in the Netherlands. Cannabis has long been tolerated in the country, with cannabis consumption coffee shops in operation since the ‘70s. The country is also dabbling in legal cannabis, having started a pilot program in 2019 that was – on par with many cannabis-related activities around the world – delayed. 

In Spain, cannabis is decriminalized, but illegal for commercial or other sales. You can grow it, you can smoke it, and if you’re a citizen, you can become a member of a cannabis club and buy some through a legal loophole. Neighboring Portugal has decriminalized all drugs, allowing for personal possession of cannabis. But you can’t grow it, and there aren’t any fun clubs or loopholes to help you get your hands on it. Similarly, Slovenia has decriminalized cannabis, with no upcoming plans to budge on the topic. But in Luxembourg, cannabis is decriminalized for personal possession, and the government has signaled plans to allow adults to cultivate up to four plants

Countries with medical marijuana 

From Argentina to Zimbabwe, there are a lot of countries that have at least some form of legal medical marijuana access. Here are some others:

  • Australia 
  • Barbados 
  • Bermuda
  • Brazil
  • Chile 
  • Colombia 
  • Costa Rica 
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech republic
  • Denmark 
  • Ecuador
  • Finland 
  • Germany
  • Greece 
  • Ireland
  • Israel 
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Malawi
  • Morocco
  • New Zealand
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Poland 
  • Rwanda
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • San Marino
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • UK
  • Vanuatu
  • Zambia 

And there you have it. The world is far from unified on the topic of cannabis (…and most everything else) but at least there are lots of countries we can light up in. Where to?

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