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Cannabis Legalisation Around the World Leave a comment

Cannabis legalisation is slowly making an appearance around the globe, however in most countries around the world, it is still very much illegal.

Every country has different laws around cannabis legalisation, decriminalisation, possession, distribution, and cultivation. Many countries have now made it legal to consume cannabis in a variety of forms, for medical purposes. The laws for medicinal cannabis in each country also differ, from the type of conditions you can get medicinal cannabis for, to the method of consumption (such as in pill format). Certain countries may also specify the pharmaceutical companies that must be used, for example Marinol, Sativex, or Epidiolex.

Cannabis legalisation is still a debatable subject and cannabis is still an illegal drug in many countries. There are three United Nations treaties in which the majority of countries will use with regards to cannabis use. These are the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), and the Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988).

The 1961 Single Convention treaty states that cannabis is categorised as a Schedule I drug, which means it may be allowed for medical use but other than that, it is stated as an addictive drug with a significant risk of abuse.

In some Asian and Middle Eastern countries, there are serious fines for the use of cannabis and other drugs, even in small personal amounts. For example, in Singapore, the use of cannabis can occur long prison sentences, or even the death penalty in some extreme circumstances.

Some countries are legalising cannabis for personal use, and up to a certain amount, whilst others are decriminalising it. This is not the same as cannabis legalisation. If a drug has been decriminalised, it is still an illegal drug, you just will not occur a criminal offence for it. For example, speeding is against the law but will usually result in a fine, as opposed to a criminal conviction.

In the Unites States for example, they have decriminalised the use of cannabis in 13 states (as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands), and legalised cannabis in a further 17 states (as well as Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia). Cannabis is still illegal at the federal level in the US, just to add to the confusion!

The commercial production and sale of cannabis is legal countrywide in both Canada and Uruguay, as well as the US states which have legalised cannabis for recreational use (apart from Washington, DC).

Some countries, in particular, The Netherlands, cannabis is still technically illegal but the sale of it is tolerated by police in licenced ‘coffee shops’ and as long as no one is causing disturbances, etc. Whilst illegal, there is more relaxed approach to penalties, although they do still happen.

close up of weed crystals on plant

Cannabis legalisation for recreational use (and up to a certain amount) is now legal in these countries:

  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • South Africa
  • Uruguay
  • ACT, Australia
  • 17 states in the US: New York, New Mexico, California, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Vermont Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Massachusetts, Maine, Washington, Alaska, as well as DC, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.

Cannabis legalisation for medicinal use has been legalised in the following countries:

  • 36 US states (as well as 4 territories, and the District of Columbia)
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malawi
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • San Marino
  • Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

For more detailed information about each country, and the use of cannabis legalisation, decriminalisation, and medical use, please check the table below.

CountryRecreationalMedicinal 
AfghanistanIllegalIllegal 
AlbaniaIllegal  
(although law often unenforced).
Illegal 
AlgeriaIllegalIllegal 
AndorraIllegalIllegal 
AngolaIllegalIllegal 
Antigua and BarbudaDecriminalisedIllegal 
ArgentinaDecriminalised
(for small amounts and private consumption, since 2009).
Legal
Since September 2017.
 
ArmeniaIllegalIllegal 
AustraliaDecriminalised
(in Northern Territory and South Australia).

Legal
(in Australian Capital Territory for recreational use, since September 2019, and possession of up to 50g and to grow 2 plants, since January 2020).
Legal
In all states, although some requirements may differ.
 
AustriaDecriminalised
(possession for personal use, since January 2016).
Legal
Only synthetic cannabis medicines.
 
AzerbaijanIllegalIllegal 
BahamasIllegalIllegal 
BahrainIllegalIllegal 
BangladeshIllegal
(punishments often unenforced, and cannabis is sold throughout the country).
Illegal 
BarbadosLegal
(for religious use by registered Rastafarians).
Legal 
BelarusIllegalIllegal 
BelgiumDecriminalised
(possession up to 3 grams or cultivation of one plant, since 2003).
Legal
Legal under specific circumstances.
 
BelizeDecriminalised
(possession not legal but they are considering making up to 10 grams legal).
Illegal 
BeninIllegalIllegal 
BermudaDecriminalised
(up to 7 grams in possession).
Legal
Since 2016, although as of July 2018, only 2 doctors have been given medical cannabis licence.
 
BhutanIllegal
(plants widely grown for traditional purposes such as textiles and feeding animals).
Illegal 
BoliviaDecriminalised
(up to 50 grams in possession).
Illegal 
Bosnia and HerzegovinaIllegalIllegal
Proposed cannabis legalisation in 2016.
 
BotswanaIllegalIllegal 
BrazilIllegal
(possession can lead to a warning, community service or an education rehab program. Larger amounts will be deemed as trafficking).
Legal
For those who are terminally ill patients or as a last treatment option.
 
BruneiIllegalIllegal 
BulgariaIllegal
(cannabis is classified as a class A drug.)
Illegal 
Burkina FasoIllegalIllegal 
BurundiIllegalIllegal 
CambodiaIllegal
(laws often unenforced and cafes openly sell ‘happy’ food).
Illegal 
CameroonIllegalIllegal 
 CanadaLegal
(legal since October 2018. Must be 19 or over, or 21 in Quebec and 18 in Alberta).  
Legal
Since 2001.
 
 Cape VerdeIllegalIllegal 
 Central African RepublicIllegalIllegal 
 ChadIllegalIllegal 
 ChileDecriminalised
(for possession and cultivation).
Legal 
 People’s Republic of China (PRC)Illegal
(up to 10 to 15 days detention if found with cannabis, and a fine).
Illegal 
 ColombiaDecriminalised
(up to 22 grams for personal use or growing 20 plants for personal use).
Legal 
 ComorosIllegalIllegal 
 Democratic Republic of the CongoIllegalIllegal 
 Republic of the CongoIllegalIllegal 
 Costa RicaDecriminalised
(amount for personal use has not been specified).
Illegal 
 CroatiaDecriminalised
(fine if found with small amount for personal use).
Legal 
 CubaIllegalIllegal 
 CyprusIllegal
(cannabis classified as a class B drug. Prison sentence of 2 years for first offenders under the age of 25. Up to 8 years for possession or even life imprisonment for use of cannabis).
Legal 
 Czech RepublicDecriminalised
(for up to 10 grams in possession or growing of 5 plants can lead to minor fine, but sometime not enforced).
Legal
Since 2013.
 
 DenmarkIllegal
(can occur a fine or up to 2 years in prison for cannabis offences).
Legal 
 DjiboutiIllegalIllegal 
 DominicaDecriminalised
(up to 1 oz of cannabis).
Illegal 
 Dominican RepublicIllegalIllegal 
 East TimorIllegalIllegal 
 EcuadorDecriminalised
(up to 10 grams of cannabis for personal use will not be punished).
Legal 
 EgyptIllegal
(laws often unenforced).
Illegal 
 El SalvadorIllegalIllegal 
 Equatorial GuineaIllegalIllegal 
 EritreaIllegalIllegal 
 EstoniaDecriminalised
(for up to 7.5 grams for personal use will occur a fine. Larger amounts, and selling, or distribution could lead to up to 5 years in prison).
Legal
Special permit needed.
 
 Eswatini (Swaziland)IllegalIllegal 
 EthiopiaIllegalIllegal 
 FijiIllegalIllegal 
 FinlandIllegal
(not always enforced but could get a fine).
Legal
With a license, since 2006.
 
 FranceIllegal
(on-the-spot fine sometimes used instead of prosecution. Possession can occur a €200 fine for up to 100 grams).
A two year experiment in progress.
Some medicinal drugs legalised since 2013.
 
 GabonIllegalIllegal 
 GambiaIllegalIllegal 
 GeorgiaLegal
(for possession and consumption but not for sale).
Legal
Currently no system for the dispensing of medical cannabis.
 
 GermanyIllegal
(prosecution may be avoided for small amounts in possession for personal use).
Legal
For seriously ill patients with no other medical treatment options.
 
 GhanaIllegalLegal
Only for THC less than 0.3 percent.
 
 GreeceIllegalLegal 
 Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat)IllegalIllegal 
 GrenadaIllegalIllegal 
 GuatemalaIllegalIllegal 
 GuineaIllegalIllegal 
 Guinea-BissauIllegalIllegal 
 GuyanaIllegal
(over 15 grams in possession can lead to drug trafficking charge).
Illegal 
 HaitiIllegalIllegal 
 HondurasIllegalIllegal 
 Hong KongIllegalIllegal 
 HungaryIllegal
(same punishments apply for all drugs).
Illegal 
 IcelandIllegal
(may be fined or arrested for possession but unlikely to occur prison sentence).
Illegal 
 IndiaIllegal
(exception for the use of bhang, an edible preparation of cannabis, in which many shops sell).
Illegal 
 IndonesiaIllegal
(rehabilitation or maximum sentence of 4 years if caught in possession. Minimum of 4 years prison time for trafficking).
Illegal 
 IranIllegal
(laws not strictly enforced).
Illegal 
 IraqIllegalIllegal 
 IrelandIllegalLegal
Part of 5 year test program from June 2019.
 
 IsraelDecriminalised
(fines for possession in public, but third offense could lead to a criminal charge. Use at home is not punished).
Legal 
 ItalyDecriminalised
(for possession of small amounts of cannabis). Legal (for home growing in small amounts for personal use).
Legal 
 Ivory CoastIllegalIllegal 
 JamaicaDecriminalised
(for up to 2 oz or cultivation of 5 plants. Legal for Rastafari religious purposes).
Legal
Since 2018.
 
 JapanIllegal
(up to 5 years in prison and a fine for possession, and up to 10 years for sale and cultivation).
Illegal 
 JordanIllegalIllegal 
 KazakhstanIllegalIllegal 
 KenyaIllegalIllegal 
 KiribatiIllegalIllegal 
 Korea, North (DPRK)Un­known
(some reports from defectors say there are no cannabis laws, but some say it is illegal in the country).
Un­known 
 Korea, SouthIllegalLegal Only Epidiolex, Marinol and Sativex are allowed. Legal since November 2018. 
 KosovoIllegalIllegal 
 KuwaitIllegalIllegal 
 KyrgyzstanIllegalIllegal 
 LaosIllegal
(laws often unenforced).
Illegal 
 LatviaIllegal
(up to 1 gram could lead to a fine of €280, and a criminal charge if a second offence occurs within a year). Large amounts can lead to a up to 15 years in prison.
Illegal 
 LebanonIllegal
(illegal cannabis is growing throughout the country, often in large quantities).
Legal
Since April 2020.
 
 LesothoIllegal
(generally tolerated, and often illegally grown in the country).
Illegal 
 LiberiaIllegalIllegal 
 LibyaIllegalIllegal 
 LiechtensteinIllegalIllegal 
 LithuaniaIllegalLegal
Since October 2018.
 
 LuxembourgDecriminalised
(since 2001, fines of from €250 to €2,500 now issued instead of a prison sentence). 
Legal 
 Macau, SAR of ChinaIllegalIllegal 
 MadagascarIllegalIllegal 
 MalawiIllegal
(cultivated and used illegally throughout the country).
Legal 
 MalaysiaIllegal
(death penalty for trafficking/ possessing over 200 grams of cannabis).
Illegal 
 MaldivesIllegalIllegal 
 MaliIllegalIllegal 
 MaltaDecriminalised
(up to 3.5 grams in possession. A bill was proposed in March 2021 to legalise possession of up to 7 grams and the cultivation of up to 4 plants).
Legal 
 Marshall IslandsIllegalIllegal 
 MauritaniaIllegalIllegal 
 MauritiusIllegalIllegal 
 MexicoDecriminalised
(up to 5 grams decriminalised since 2009).
Legal
For THC content below 1 percent.
 
 MicronesiaIllegalIllegal 
 MoldovaDecriminalisedIllegal 
 MonacoIllegalIllegal 
 MongoliaIllegalIllegal 
 MontenegroIllegalIllegal 
 MoroccoIllegal
(laws often unenforced).
Illegal 
 MozambiqueIllegalIllegal 
 MyanmarIllegal
(laws often unenforced).
Illegal 
 NamibiaIllegalIllegal 
   NepalIllegal
(allowed during the Hindu festival Maha Shivaratri).
Illegal 
 NetherlandsDecriminalised
(for possession of up to 5 grams). Use and sales are generally tolerated in licenced coffee shops. Growing up to 5 plants, is also generally tolerated but can still occur punishments, such as confiscation and mortgage cancellation.
Legal 
 New ZealandIllegal
(In 2020, a referendum to legalise recreational use lost by 50.7 to 48.4 percent).
Legal
Since 2018.
 
 NicaraguaIllegalIllegal 
 NigerIllegalIllegal 
 NigeriaIllegalIllegal 
 North MacedoniaIllegal
(prison sentences of 3 months to 5 years for large amounts in possession).
Legal
Since 2016.
 
 NorwayIllegal
(government intended decriminalise up to 10 grams of possession, although this bill in April 2021 did not pass).
Legal 
 OmanIllegalIllegal 
 PakistanIllegal
(laws often unenforced, especially in tribal areas in the North).
Legal
For CBD only, since September 2020.
 
 PalauIllegalIllegal 
 PanamaIllegalIllegal 
 Papua New GuineaIllegalIllegal 
 ParaguayDecriminalised
(up to 10 grams in possession is not punished).
Illegal 
 PeruDecriminalised
(possession of up to 8 grams is not punished, Cultivation, production, and selling will occur an 8 to 15 year prison sentence).
Legal 
 PhilippinesIllegalIllegal
Possible with a special permit.
 
 PolandIllegal
(not usually enforced for small quantities and legal below 0.2% THC. Larger amounts can lead to up to 10 years in prison).
Legal 
 PortugalDecriminalised
(for up to 25 grams of herb or 5 grams of hashish. It was also the first country worldwide to decriminalise all drugs in 2001).
Legal 
 QatarIllegalIllegal 
 RomaniaIllegal
(first offenders of small amounts will occur a large fine, and for further offences up to 2 years in prison. Large amounts and trafficking can lead to 7 years in prison).
Legal
Only drugs of 0.2% THC can be prescribed, since 2013.
 
 RussiaIllegal
(possession of up to 6 grams of cannabis or 2 grams of hashish, occurs a fine of RUB 5,000 ($86 AU), or 15 days detention.
Illegal 
 RwandaIllegalIllegal 
 Saint Kitts and NevisDecriminalised
(for up to 15 grams).
Illegal 
 Saint LuciaIllegalIllegal 
 Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesDecriminalised
(for up to 2 oz).
Legal 
 SamoaIllegalIllegal 
 San MarinoIllegalLegal 
 São Tomé and PríncipeIllegalIllegal 
 Saudi ArabiaIllegal
(both possession and use will occur prison sentences from 6 months or longer. Larger amounts have even resulted in execution, although this is uncommon these days).
Illegal 
 SenegalIllegalIllegal 
 SerbiaIllegal
(up to 3 years in prison for possession. Up to 5 years for growing. Sales of cannabis can be up to 12 years in prison).
Illegal 
 SeychellesIllegalIllegal 
 Sierra LeoneIllegalIllegal 
 SingaporeIllegal
(cannabis is a class A drug. If caught with 500 grams or more, a hefty prison sentence or even the death penalty may occur).
Illegal 
 SlovakiaIllegal
(even small amounts in possession can lead to up to 8 years in prison). 
Illegal 
 SloveniaDecriminalisedLegal
Cannabis-based drugs but not cannabis alone.
 
 Solomon IslandsIllegalIllegal 
 SomaliaIllegalIllegal 
 South AfricaLegal
(for possession and cultivation but not for sales of cannabis).
Legal
Currently no system for the supply of medicinal cannabis.
 
 South SudanIllegalIllegal 
 SpainDecriminalised
(for use and possession in private areas. If using in public, fines from €601 to €30000 can occur. Private Cannabis Social Clubs are also allowed).
Legal
Only specific pharmaceuticals.
 
 Sri LankaIllegal
(decriminalised for traditional medicine suppliers and sold at Ayurveda herbal shops).
Legal
A licence is needed.
 
 SudanIllegalIllegal 
 SurinameIllegalIllegal 
 SwedenIllegalLegal
For specific circumstances and for patients with a license.
 
  SwitzerlandDecriminalised
(10 grams or less will incur a fine, and legal below 1.0% THC).
Legal 
 SyriaIllegalIllegal 
 TaiwanIllegal
(up to 3 years in prison for possession. Cannabis is listed as a schedule 2 narcotic).
Illegal 
 TajikistanIllegalIllegal 
 TanzaniaIllegalIllegal 
 ThailandIllegal
(laws often unenforced, although could get 5 years for possession, transportation, or cultivation of up to 10kg of cannabis).
Legal
Since 2018.
 
 TogoIllegalIllegal 
 TongaIllegalIllegal 
 Trinidad and TobagoDecriminalised
(for up to 30 grams of cannabis or growing of 4 plants per person).
Illegal 
 TunisiaIllegal
(use and possession can lead to 1 to 5 years imprisonment and up to 3000 dinars (around $1400 AU) in fines).
Illegal 
 TurkeyIllegal
(use and possession or buying cannabis can result in 1 to 2 year prison sentence. Sale and supply 5 to 10 years, and trafficking has a minimum 10 year prison sentence).
Legal
Certain cannabis-derived drugs.
 
 TurkmenistanIllegalIllegal 
 TuvaluIllegalIllegal 
 UgandaIllegalIllegal 
 UkraineIllegal
(possession of up to 5 g or the growing of up to 10 plants is an administrative offence).
Legal
Only from Dronabinol and Nabiximols, since 2021.
 
 United Arab EmiratesIllegal
(can occur a 4 year prison sentence if found with even small amounts of cannabis).
Illegal 
 United KingdomIllegal
(warnings or an on-the-spot fines are sometimes issued, rather than prosecution, if found with small amounts). 
Legal
Must be prescribed by a specialist consultant (not a GP), since November 2018.
 
 United StatesLegal (
only in 17 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia)

Illegal
(at federal level and decriminalised in 13 states and 1 territory).
Legal
Only legal in 36 states, 4 territories, and the District of Columbia. Still illegal at federal level.
 
 UruguayLegal
(only for residents of Uruguay, aged over 18, who are registered with authorities. Growing is allowed for up to six plants).
Legal 
 UzbekistanIllegalIllegal 
 VanuatuIllegalLegal 
  Vatican CityIllegalIllegal 
 VenezuelaIllegal
(up to 20 grams in possession or 5 grams of genetically modified cannabis for commercial purposes could result in a 1 to 2 year prison sentence. Rehabilitation if often used for those caught with personal possessions).
Illegal 
 VietnamIllegalIllegal 
 YemenIllegalIllegal 
 ZambiaIllegalLegal 
 ZimbabweIllegalLegal 

Please read our legalisation page for the latest updates on legal cannabis.

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