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.
Cannabis legalisation for recreational use (and up to a certain amount) is now legal in these countries:
- South Africa
- 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)
- Czech Republic
- The Netherlands
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- San Marino
- Sri Lanka
- United Kingdom
For more detailed information about each country, and the use of cannabis legalisation, decriminalisation, and medical use, please check the table below.
(although law often unenforced).
|Antigua and Barbuda||Decriminalised||Illegal|
(for small amounts and private consumption, since 2009).
Since September 2017.
(in Northern Territory and South Australia).
(in Australian Capital Territory for recreational use, since September 2019, and possession of up to 50g and to grow 2 plants, since January 2020).
In all states, although some requirements may differ.
(possession for personal use, since January 2016).
Only synthetic cannabis medicines.
(punishments often unenforced, and cannabis is sold throughout the country).
(for religious use by registered Rastafarians).
(possession up to 3 grams or cultivation of one plant, since 2003).
Legal under specific circumstances.
(possession not legal but they are considering making up to 10 grams legal).
(up to 7 grams in possession).
Since 2016, although as of July 2018, only 2 doctors have been given medical cannabis licence.
(plants widely grown for traditional purposes such as textiles and feeding animals).
(up to 50 grams in possession).
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Illegal||Illegal |
Proposed cannabis legalisation in 2016.
(possession can lead to a warning, community service or an education rehab program. Larger amounts will be deemed as trafficking).
For those who are terminally ill patients or as a last treatment option.
(cannabis is classified as a class A drug.)
(laws often unenforced and cafes openly sell ‘happy’ food).
(legal since October 2018. Must be 19 or over, or 21 in Quebec and 18 in Alberta).
|Central African Republic||Illegal||Illegal|
(for possession and cultivation).
|People’s Republic of China (PRC)||Illegal |
(up to 10 to 15 days detention if found with cannabis, and a fine).
(up to 22 grams for personal use or growing 20 plants for personal use).
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||Illegal||Illegal|
|Republic of the Congo||Illegal||Illegal|
|Costa Rica||Decriminalised |
(amount for personal use has not been specified).
(fine if found with small amount for personal use).
(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).
|Czech Republic||Decriminalised |
(for up to 10 grams in possession or growing of 5 plants can lead to minor fine, but sometime not enforced).
(can occur a fine or up to 2 years in prison for cannabis offences).
(up to 1 oz of cannabis).
(up to 10 grams of cannabis for personal use will not be punished).
(laws often unenforced).
(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).
Special permit needed.
(not always enforced but could get a fine).
With a license, since 2006.
(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.
(for possession and consumption but not for sale).
Currently no system for the dispensing of medical cannabis.
(prosecution may be avoided for small amounts in possession for personal use).
For seriously ill patients with no other medical treatment options.
Only for THC less than 0.3 percent.
|Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat)||Illegal||Illegal|
(over 15 grams in possession can lead to drug trafficking charge).
(same punishments apply for all drugs).
(may be fined or arrested for possession but unlikely to occur prison sentence).
(exception for the use of bhang, an edible preparation of cannabis, in which many shops sell).
(rehabilitation or maximum sentence of 4 years if caught in possession. Minimum of 4 years prison time for trafficking).
(laws not strictly enforced).
Part of 5 year test program from June 2019.
(fines for possession in public, but third offense could lead to a criminal charge. Use at home is not punished).
(for possession of small amounts of cannabis). Legal (for home growing in small amounts for personal use).
(for up to 2 oz or cultivation of 5 plants. Legal for Rastafari religious purposes).
(up to 5 years in prison and a fine for possession, and up to 10 years for sale and cultivation).
|Korea, North (DPRK)||Unknown |
(some reports from defectors say there are no cannabis laws, but some say it is illegal in the country).
|Korea, South||Illegal||Legal Only Epidiolex, Marinol and Sativex are allowed. Legal since November 2018.|
(laws often unenforced).
(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 cannabis is growing throughout the country, often in large quantities).
Since April 2020.
(generally tolerated, and often illegally grown in the country).
Since October 2018.
(since 2001, fines of from €250 to €2,500 now issued instead of a prison sentence).
|Macau, SAR of China||Illegal||Illegal|
(cultivated and used illegally throughout the country).
(death penalty for trafficking/ possessing over 200 grams of cannabis).
(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).
(up to 5 grams decriminalised since 2009).
For THC content below 1 percent.
(laws often unenforced).
(laws often unenforced).
(allowed during the Hindu festival Maha Shivaratri).
(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.
(In 2020, a referendum to legalise recreational use lost by 50.7 to 48.4 percent).
|North Macedonia||Illegal |
(prison sentences of 3 months to 5 years for large amounts in possession).
(government intended decriminalise up to 10 grams of possession, although this bill in April 2021 did not pass).
(laws often unenforced, especially in tribal areas in the North).
For CBD only, since September 2020.
|Papua New Guinea||Illegal||Illegal|
(up to 10 grams in possession is not punished).
(possession of up to 8 grams is not punished, Cultivation, production, and selling will occur an 8 to 15 year prison sentence).
Possible with a special permit.
(not usually enforced for small quantities and legal below 0.2% THC. Larger amounts can lead to up to 10 years in prison).
(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).
(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).
Only drugs of 0.2% THC can be prescribed, since 2013.
(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.
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Decriminalised |
(for up to 15 grams).
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Decriminalised |
(for up to 2 oz).
|São Tomé and Príncipe||Illegal||Illegal|
|Saudi Arabia||Illegal |
(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).
(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).
(cannabis is a class A drug. If caught with 500 grams or more, a hefty prison sentence or even the death penalty may occur).
(even small amounts in possession can lead to up to 8 years in prison).
Cannabis-based drugs but not cannabis alone.
|South Africa||Legal |
(for possession and cultivation but not for sales of cannabis).
Currently no system for the supply of medicinal cannabis.
(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).
Only specific pharmaceuticals.
|Sri Lanka||Illegal |
(decriminalised for traditional medicine suppliers and sold at Ayurveda herbal shops).
A licence is needed.
For specific circumstances and for patients with a license.
(10 grams or less will incur a fine, and legal below 1.0% THC).
(up to 3 years in prison for possession. Cannabis is listed as a schedule 2 narcotic).
(laws often unenforced, although could get 5 years for possession, transportation, or cultivation of up to 10kg of cannabis).
|Trinidad and Tobago||Decriminalised |
(for up to 30 grams of cannabis or growing of 4 plants per person).
(use and possession can lead to 1 to 5 years imprisonment and up to 3000 dinars (around $1400 AU) in fines).
(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).
Certain cannabis-derived drugs.
(possession of up to 5 g or the growing of up to 10 plants is an administrative offence).
Only from Dronabinol and Nabiximols, since 2021.
|United Arab Emirates||Illegal |
(can occur a 4 year prison sentence if found with even small amounts of cannabis).
|United Kingdom||Illegal |
(warnings or an on-the-spot fines are sometimes issued, rather than prosecution, if found with small amounts).
Must be prescribed by a specialist consultant (not a GP), since November 2018.
|United States||Legal (|
only in 17 states, 2 territories, and the District of Columbia)
(at federal level and decriminalised in 13 states and 1 territory).
Only legal in 36 states, 4 territories, and the District of Columbia. Still illegal at federal level.
(only for residents of Uruguay, aged over 18, who are registered with authorities. Growing is allowed for up to six plants).
(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).
Please read our legalisation page for the latest updates on legal cannabis.