Cannabis Laws by Country: A Guide to Marijuana Legality Around the World

Cannabis Laws by Country

There seems to be a consensus that cannabis was first domesticated in Asia about 10,000 years ago (8,000 BCE).1

One of the earliest documented uses of marijuana as medicine goes back to 2,737 BC when Emperor Shen-Nung of China recognized its healing potential for more than 100 different ailments.2 

Between 2,000 and 1,000 BC, Hindu religious texts described cannabis as a “source of happiness” and a “joy giver”.  In 1550 BC, an Egyptian medical papyrus of herbal knowledge noted that medical cannabis could be effective in treating inflammation – among a wide range of other things.2

Although the history of cannabis as medicine, food, and fiber for textiles goes back thousands of years, a little over a hundred years ago cannabis was villainized and made illegal.

Fortunately, we have some brave souls to thank who didn’t worry about the legality of this wonderful plant and helped spread the unique genetics of Asian landrace strains around the world.

One well-known American who is said to have brought hemp seeds home after a trip to Asia was Thomas Jefferson. And he was not the only Founding Father to have an appreciation for hemp/cannabis.

George Washington grew hemp at his Mount Vernon estate. Benjamin Franklin owned one of the first paper mills that processed hemp into parchment. It’s also believed the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.

You see, back then there was no distinction between hemp and cannabis. It wasn’t until around 1753 that the scientific term of cannabis was used to describe the hemp plant in the US.3

Learn more about – Hemp vs Cannabis: What is the Difference?

How the Hippie Trail Helped Spread Premium Cannabis Genetics

Back in the 1960s and 70s, travelers along the “Hippie Trail”, enjoyed various landrace strains that were indigenous to different areas along the trail.

The trail, also known as the “Hashish” trail, started in western Europe and made its way through Turkey, Iran, and the mountainous region that borders Afghanistan, Nepal, China, Pakistan, and India.

As travelers enjoyed strains of cannabis along the way, they collected seeds of their favorite landrace strains and brought them home. Once breeders got a hold of these seeds they went to work creating many of the hybrid strains we enjoy today.

Read: Why Most Strains are Actually Hybrids.

What is a Landrace Strain?

A landrace strain of cannabis is a strain that has thrived in a certain region for centuries. These strains have adapted to the climate and growing conditions to the part of the word they’re indigenous to. As a result, they’ve developed unique genetics, flavors, aromas, appearances, and effects.

Learn about: Landrace Strains of Cannabis.

Marijuana Legalization Around the World

To say the legal status of cannabis around the world is complicated would be an understatement. We only have to look at the United States for an example of this. Although cannabis has been legalized for both medical and recreational use in many states, outdated Federal laws still classify marijuana as Schedule I drug.

So, even if you live in a state where cannabis has been legalized and are traveling to another state where it is also legal, it is still illegal to travel with cannabis on a plane, since air travel in the U.S is regulated by Federal laws and Federal agencies like the TSA. 

This is why it is best to leave your cannabis at home when traveling out of state. This is especially true when traveling abroad.

You only have to look at what happened to Brittney Griner in Russia to understand what can occur when traveling to nations that are not cannabis friendly.

Instead of risking arrest, why not travel to a cannabis friendly state or country where you can leave your stash at home and just pick up a new supply once you arrive? 

Cannabis Friendly Nations

Although many countries still prohibit the use and possession of cannabis, there are many countries around the world that have either decriminalized or legalized it. And in some countries, even though it has not been made legal – society has kind of accepted its use to the point where it is tolerated.

But before you adventure to light up abroad, you must be sure it is okay to do so.

To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of countries where it might be safe to do so. 

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Often, when people think of being free to enjoy their cannabis abroad, one of the first places that comes to mind is Amsterdam. 

Cannabis has been enjoyed at coffee shops in Amsterdam since 1972. That’s when the first coffee shop, the Mellow Yellow, opened up. 

That is also when the Dutch government reclassified drugs into categories of “Less Dangerous” and “More Dangerous.” Cannabis was placed in the Less Dangerous category and possession of up to 5 grams for personal use was made a misdemeanor.

Then, in 1976, the recreational use of cannabis was decriminalized in Amsterdam. That means that technically, the use and possession of small amounts of weed are not legal but tolerated.  

In order for a coffee shop to sell cannabis it must first register with the government. It is important to note that although the sale and personal use of marijuana is tolerated, the production, transportation, and possession of large quantities remains illegal in Amsterdam.


Did you know that in 2013, the South American country of Uruguay became the first country to legalize the recreational use of cannabis? That’s right. And unlike many recreational use states in the U.S. which require recreational users to be 21 years of age, in Uruguay anyone 18 years of age or older can enjoy marijuana recreationally.

The only requirement is that residents must first register with the government before they can buy, sell, or grow cannabis.


Canada started a medical marijuana program in 2001. This program allowed residents access to homegrown cannabis or access to purchase cannabis from Health Canada. Then, in 2013 new regulations went into effect that paved the way for more traditional cannabis cultivation and distribution.

Then, on October 17, 2018, Canada legalized recreational cannabis use. This made Canada the second country in the world to officially legalize the recreational use of cannabis.

Today, Canadian residents can purchase cannabis from a licensed dispensary as long as they meet the minimum age requirement – which is between 19 and 21 years of age in most provinces. There is one exception to this. In Alberta, the minimum age is 18.

Also, in most provinces, households are allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants. 


Medical cannabis was made legal in Malta in 2018. Then, in December of 2021 the recreational use of cannabis for personal use was legalized by Malta’s government. By doing so, Malta became the first country in the European Union to do so.


In Thailand, cannabis is known as ganja. Interestingly, cannabis is also referred to as Ganja in India. This has led some to speculate that cannabis was introduced to Thailand from India.

The medicinal use of ganja was legalized in Thailand in 2018. In 2022, cannabis plant parts – like flower – were removed from the Thai Category Five narcotics list. This made the possession, cultivation, distribution, consumption, and sales of various parts of the cannabis plant legal.

It’s important to note that cannabis extracts and products, like edibles, containing more than 0.20 % THC are still considered to be narcotics according to Thai law. There is no limit on THC content for plant parts.

While the possession and recreational use of cannabis plant parts like flower is legal – it is discouraged.

If you plan on lighting up a little bit of that Thai landrace strain while in Thailand, make sure to do it in private. Cannabis smoke is considered a nuisance and is prohibited in public. 


Contrary to what many might believe, cannabis is not legal in Jamaica. Actually, prior to 2015 Jamaica had fairly strict laws prohibiting the use of cannabis – or ganja as it’s called there.

The connection to the term Ganja, which is also used in India and Thailand is due to Indian indentured servants introducing cannabis to the island in the 1850 to 1860s.4

In 2015, Jamaica’s government decided to make changes to its Dangerous Drugs Act. As a result, the possession of cannabis, or ganja, was decriminalized. Under the updated laws, those caught in possession of less than two ounces of cannabis receive a fine that is considered to be similar to receiving a traffic ticket.

Anyone caught with more than two ounces of cannabis still faces the possibility of arrest, prison time, and a criminal record.

The 2015 changes to the Dangerous Drugs Act also allowed for the medicinal use of cannabis for those suffering from cancer, severe chronic illness, and terminal illness.

Just like in the U.S., patients must first receive official certification from a registered medical practitioner. The first medical dispensary in Jamaica opened in 2018. Prior to 2108, medical marijuana patients were allowed to import medical cannabis products.

Medicinal Marijuana patients from other countries can enjoy medicinal cannabis while in Jamaica – but must first apply for a permit before arriving on the island. To obtain a permit you would need to submit proof of your prescription or doctor’s recommendation. 

If you fail to plan ahead, you may still be able to purchase medicinal marijuana at a Jamaican dispensary by presenting valid identification like a driver’s license or passport, along with your medical marijuana card.

It is interesting to note that Jamaica is home to the world’s first resort-based cannabis dispensary in Negril. But, just like in Thailand, cannabis smoke is considered a nuisance and is prohibited in public.

So if you plan on lighting up a little bit of that Lamb’s Bread Landrace Strain while in Jamaica, make sure to do it in private. 

Now that we’ve discussed a few countries that are considered cannabis friendly, let’s look at a few countries on the opposite end of the spectrum. 

Countries with Strict Cannabis Laws

Although the U.S. Federal Government remains behind the times in their stance on cannabis, the U.S is still way ahead of many other countries when it comes to being open minded to the therapeutic potential of cannabis. 

We’ve already mentioned Brittney Griner’s unfortunate situation in Russia. Besides Russia, here are a few countries where you want to make 100% sure you leave your cannabis and cannabis products at home.

Cannabis Laws in the United Arab Emirates (UAB)

The United Arab Emirates is home to the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building. It is also home to some of the strictest cannabis laws in the world.

To say the UAE has a zero-tolerance policy towards marijuana is no understatement.

Passed in 1995, UAE Law No. 14 outlawed the use, possession, purchase, sale, and cultivation of cannabis.

Being caught with even a minimal amount of cannabis there will land you a minimum of 4 years in prison, plus a $36,000 fine. Get caught trafficking any type of drug in the UAE and you could even be sentenced to death. 

Something else that is important to know is that if police give you a drug test and you test positive for THC – that’s enough for them to charge you with possession.

Cannabis Laws in Indonesia

To put it simply, all forms of cannabis are illegal in Indonesia. And when we say all forms, we mean it. Indonesia has banned all types of cannabis, all parts of the plant, and any type of cannabis derived products. 

That means that CBD, hemp, and hash are all illegal. Getting caught with cannabis for personal use can result in a 4-year prison sentence plus fines. Punishment for other cannabis related crimes like cultivating and supplying cannabis can be as severe as 12 to 20 years in prison plus fines.

Even though cannabis use in Indonesia is believed to go back more than a thousand years, and more than two million people are believed to consume cannabis in Indonesia – in the eyes of Indonesian law enforcement, cannabis is on the same level as heroin and crystal meth. 

Cannabis Laws in Japan

The history of cannabis in Japan can be traced back at least six thousand years. In fact, the cannabis plant is one of Japan’s oldest crops. It was grown for its versatile fiber which was used to make clothes, ropes, and its seeds were used as food. 

It wasn’t until the end of World War II and the passage of the Cannabis Control Law, or Law No. 124 in 1948 that cannabis was outlawed. The Cannabis Control Law outlawed hemp/cannabis flower and products like resins and extracts. The stems and seeds, however, remained legal. 

Some believe this might be due to the fact that hemp seed is an ingredient used to make Shichimi –  a popular spice mixture enjoyed in many popular dishes in Japan, including soups and noodle dishes. 

Besides hemp stems and seeds however, Japan has a zero-tolerance policy towards cannabis. Although many of Japan’s neighbors have made changes to relax their Cannabis laws, the recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Japan.

Not only is it illegal, but Japan has some of the most severe punishment for those who violate its cannabis laws.

For example, those caught possessing cannabis in Japan could face up to five years in prison, plus a fine of up to $18,000 USD. The punishment for cultivating or distributing cannabis is much harsher and could result in up to 10 years of imprisonment and fines of up to $27, 000.

If you think that is harsh, consider this. These types of sentences are for Japanese residents. Tourists face even harsher sentences.

Cannabis Laws in Singapore

So far, we’ve mentioned a few places around the world that have some of the harshest penalties for the possession of cannabis. Singapore may have the harshest penalties.

Although the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes is occasionally allowed for residents facing extraordinary health circumstances, the recreational use of cannabis in Singapore is most definitely illegal

Getting caught possessing or consuming even a small amount of cannabis in Singapore could land you a 10-year prison sentence, plus a fine of up to $20,000.

However, if you are caught with a large amount of cannabis in this country, it could actually result in the death penalty.

This is no exaggeration either. You see, in Singapore, the possession of more than 500 grams (1.10 pounds) of marijuana is considered trafficking and is punishable by death. 

Cannabis Laws in France

Although the recreational use of cannabis is illegal in France, a limited number of products derived from cannabis are allowed for medicinal purposes. A prescription is required and patients will only receive a prescription – once all other medical options have failed to provide effective relief. 

Keep in mind that the medicinal use of cannabis is restricted to residents who have obtained the proper prescription.

For the rest of us, the possession and use of cannabis is illegal. Although not as severe as other countries on our list, France does have some of the strictest cannabis laws in the European Union. 

Even minimal amounts of cannabis can result in a one-year prison sentence and fine of up to $1,000. Possession of larger amounts can result in anywhere from 10 years to life in prison. 

Cannabis Laws in Turkey

The recreational use of cannabis is illegal in Turkey. The use of certain cannabinoid medications is allowed with a doctor’s prescription. It is important to note that the use of whole plant cannabis is illegal. That means no cannabis flower can be smoked in Turkey.

Although legislation passed in 2016 that legalized medical cannabis, many residents in Turkey who may qualify for a prescription might be hesitant to do so because of the county’s well-known history of harsh penalties for drug use. 

Possession of marijuana can result in severe penalties including a two-year sentence for possession and five to ten years in prison for selling or trafficking.

We Want to Help You Live Life in Full Bloom

Fortunately, most of you reading this blog do not face the possibility of jail time for choosing to medicate with cannabis. 

If you live in a state with a Bloom Dispensary – we want to help you get the most from your cannabis. Whether that means helping you select the best method of consumption or helping you identify the strains with the terpene profiles that are best for you – Bloom is here for you!

Our patient specialists are ready to provide you with a free, one-on-one consultation, to help determine what is best for you. Click below to schedule a free consultation at a Bloom dispensary today. 

Consultations are available by phone, in-person, or online.

  4. Is Weed Legal In Jamaica: A Guide To The Legal Status Of Cannabis In The Land Of Ganja – Benzinga