Countries With Legal Cannabis: An International Overview
There is increased interest in decriminalizing cannabis in the United States and beyond. In fact, the recreational use of cannabis—both CBD and THC products—is on the rise. However, we often forget about the countries already leading the charge.
In the U.S., we often think we rank well among countries with legal cannabis, but that's not necessarily the case. There are five countries—Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay—that have legalized cannabis both recreational marijuana and medical marijuana. Compare that to the U.S., where cannabis is illegal at the federal level (save one CBD-containing prescription medication).
On top of that, 45 countries have legalized medical marijuana, and 30 have enacted laws decriminalizing cannabis in some way. Of course, decriminalization means different things for different countries. For example, a country may decriminalize the possession of cannabis products while maintaining the cultivation is illegal. We'll give you a complete list of these countries further down.
Yes, the U.S. has a handful of states and territories with different levels of cannabis legality—a step in the right direction. However, it's vital that the federal government ensures safe, comprehensive, and inclusive cannabis laws for future generations. This plant isn't going anywhere. It's time to start acting like it. Let's take a look at other countries already shaping their cannabis-infused futures!
Countries With Legal Cannabis (Recreational & Medical)
You may already know that recreational cannabis is legal in 18 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories. And while this is great progress towards progressive, comprehensive cannabis laws, more work is needed.
Marijuana is considered a banned substance at the federal level. As such, it is difficult to obtain funding for research on the medical benefits of compounds like CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids. Furthermore, current U.S. cannabis laws do NOT reflect public opinion—According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 60% of Americans support both recreational AND medical marijuana initiatives. 91% say that the plant should at least be legalized medicinally.
There are five countries with legal cannabis worldwide: Canada, Georgia, Mexico, South Africa, and Uruguay. What do cannabis laws in these five countries specifically state?
- Canada: recreational and medical cannabis are both legal and available.
- Georgia: the consumption and possession of cannabis are legal, but not the sale of cannabis; as for medical marijuana, a dispensary system has yet to be put in place.
- Mexico: recently legalized the consumption, cultivation (with a permit), sale, and possession of cannabis; as for medical marijuana, a dispensary system has yet to be put in place.
- South Africa: the cultivation and possession of cannabis are legal, but not the sale of recreational marijuana; as for medical marijuana, a dispensary system has yet to be put in place.
- Uruguay: recreational and medical cannabis are both legal and available; the recreational use of cannabis is banned for foreigners.
Of the five countries with legal medical AND recreational cannabis, only two—Canada and Uruguay—have a dispensary system in place that allows residents to purchase cannabis legally. In contrast, the sale of cannabis is illegal in both Georgia and South Africa, so take the term "legal" here with a grain of salt. We have faith that Mexico will swiftly enact a dispensary system so residents can take full advantage of the new laws.
Countries With Legal Medical Marijuana (But Not Recreational)
These are the countries with legal medical marijuana. If a medical-legal country has also decriminalized recreational marijuana in some way, we've made a note of it here.
- Argentina (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Australia (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized in select territories)
- Barbados (recreational marijuana is also legal for Rastafari)
- Bermuda (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Chile (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Colombia (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Croatia (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Czech Republic (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Ecuador (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Finland (recreational marijuana is illegal but sometimes unenforced)
- Israel (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Italy (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Jamaica (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized and legal for Rastafari)
- Luxembourg (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Morocco (recreational marijuana is illegal but often unenforced)
- Netherlands (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- Peru (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Poland (recreational marijuana is illegal but sometimes unenforced)
- Portugal (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (recreational marijuana is also decriminalized)
- San Marino
- Sri Lanka
- Thailand (recreational marijuana is illegal but often unenforced)
- United Kingdom
Interesting Facts About Medical-Legal Cannabis Countries
Technically speaking, Brazil, Ghana, and South Korea also hold medical cannabis laws. Brazil allows terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana, as well as those who have exhausted other treatment options. In Ghana, cannabis formulations containing less than 0.3% THC are the only legal medical cannabis products. Lastly, South Korea's medical marijuana laws limit access only to prescription medications containing CBD or THC. Recreational marijuana is completely illegal in all three of these countries.
The Netherlands has a reputation among countries with legal cannabis and is often seen as the country with the most pro-cannabis laws. However, as you can see from the list above, the recreational use of cannabis is not strictly "legal" within the Dutch-speaking country. In the Netherlands, coffee shops can obtain a license to sell recreational cannabis, meaning consumption and sale are tolerated, not allowed by law.
In the U.K., the recreational use of cannabis is illegal, but recent laws have allowed for warnings or on-the-spot fines to be handed down by police instead of prosecution.
In the U.S., even medical marijuana is considered illegal at the federal level, meaning the United States would not make the above list. However, 36 states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories have legalized medical cannabis.
Countries With Decriminalization
There are many countries without "legal" cannabis that still allow for the sale, consumption, or possession of cannabis. This is often referred to as decriminalization: the act of "de-criminalizing" a substance like cannabis. For example, if your country were to stop prosecuting the possession of cannabis (without specifically stating that possession is "legal"), this would be considered a form of decriminalization. Countries with some form of cannabis decriminalization are:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United States
Other Forms of "Decriminalization"
Decriminalization can take many, many forms. In the United States, it means that a handful of states and territories have taken cannabis legalization into their own hands, passing laws that make cannabis legal or unpunishable within their borders.
However, in countries like Costa Rica, the police simply do not detain people for the recreational use of cannabis, but no cannabis decriminalization laws have been enacted. What are some other international abnormalities within cannabis laws or culture?
- Bangladesh: Cannabis laws are rarely enforced, and you can even purchase cannabis openly throughout the country.
- Cambodia: Cannabis is illegal, but "happy" restaurants serve cannabis-infused food in certain regions.
- France: Since 2018, the possession of cannabis up to 100 grams entails a 200 euro fine, but a judge can enact a stricter sentence if necessary.
- Lesotho: The licensed cultivation of cannabis is allowed only for export to other countries.
- North Korea: There are conflicting reports that cannabis is either (1) not classified as a drug and therefore allowed in North Korea; or (2) cannabis is completely illegal.
- Pakistan: CBD is legal, and marijuana laws are often unenforced.
- Turkey: the medical cultivation of cannabis is legal in 19 provinces.
The Future of International Cannabis Laws
Cannabis laws can tell us where the world is heading regarding the future of medical and recreational cannabis. As a CBD company, we have a vested interest in ALL cannabis preparations, not just CBD. Yes, CBD is the best! However, we believe in the efficacy of cannabis treatment options in general. With increased legality comes increased research and funding, allowing us to better understand how CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids affect our overall health and wellness.
In the international community, not just the United States, we see more pro-cannabis laws than ever before. Furthermore, increased research is allowing us to better understand what we can do with cannabinoids. And if that wasn't enough, legal cannabis creates jobs, tax revenue, and other income sources that better communities and markets alike.
What do you think about modern cannabis laws? Let us know in the comments!