Legality of cannabis
The legality of cannabis for medical and recreational use varies by country, in terms of its possession, distribution, and cultivation, and (in regards to medical) how it can be consumed and what medical conditions it can be used for. These policies in most countries are regulated by the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs that was ratified in 1961, along with the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
The use of cannabis for recreational purposes is prohibited in most countries; however, many have adopted a policy of decriminalization to make simple possession a non-criminal offense (often similar to a minor traffic violation). Others have much more severe penalties such as some Asian and Middle Eastern countries where possession of even small amounts is punished by imprisonment for several years.
Uruguay and Canada are the only sovereign states that have fully legalized the consumption and sale of recreational cannabis nationwide. In the United States, ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of cannabis although it remains federally illegal. Laws vary from state to state when it comes to the commercial sale. Court rulings in Georgia and South Africa have led to the legalization of cannabis consumption, but not legal sales. A policy of limited enforcement has also been adopted in many countries, in particular Spain and the Netherlands where the sale of cannabis is tolerated at licensed establishments.
Countries that have legalized the medical use of cannabis include Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Norway, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, and Thailand. Others have more restrictive laws that only allow the use of certain cannabis-derived pharmaceutical drugs, such as Sativex, Marinol, or Epidiolex. In the United States, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of cannabis, but at the federal level its use remains prohibited for any purpose.
|Antigua and Barbuda||Decriminalized||Illegal|
|Australia||Decriminalized for personal use in the Northern Territory, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory||Legal at federal level and in all states. Qualifying conditions and other details vary by state.|
|Austria||Possession for personal use decriminalized as of January 2016.||Cannabis-derived drugs|
|Bangladesh||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal|
|Belgium||Decriminalized up to 3 g or cultivation of one plant||Cannabis-derived drugs|
|Belize||Decriminalized up to 10 g||Illegal|
|Bermuda||Decriminalized up to 7 g||Legal|
Illegal, but plants grow prolifically and have multiple traditional uses, such as feeding pigs and producing textiles.
|Bolivia||Decriminalized up to 50 g||Illegal|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Illegal||Illegal|
|Brazil||Illegal (educational measures for small amounts and private use)||Sativex||
Possession of any illegal drug entails a warning, community service, and education on the effects of drug use. Sale, transportation, cultivation, and possession of large amounts are considered drug trafficking.
|Cambodia||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal|
Legal for medicinal purposes since 2001 and for recreational purposes since 2018. Age and regulations of consumption vary by province.
|Central African Republic||Illegal||Illegal|
|Chile||Decriminalized for possession and cultivation||Legal||
Private personal use and recreational cultivation decriminalized. Medicinal cultivation legal with the authorization of The Chilean Agriculture Service (SAG) and sale of medication allowed on prescription in pharmacies.
|People’s Republic of China (PRC)||Illegal||Illegal|
|Colombia||Decriminalized up to 22 g or cultivation of 20 plants for personal use||Legal|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||Illegal||Illegal|
|Republic of the Congo||Illegal||Illegal|
Decriminalization de facto implemented since police officers do not detain people carrying enough for only personal consumption, yet no amount has been defined as a minimum for possession. Use of cannabis is widespread throughout the country.
Possession of small amounts considered a misdemeanor which leads to fine. Medicinal cannabis legal for patients with illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, or AIDS.
Class B substance – life imprisonment is possible for use and maximum 8 years for possession (at the maximum 2 years for the first offence for under 25-year-olds).
|Czech Republic||Decriminalized up to 10 g or cultivation of 5 plants||Legal||
Possession of up to 15 g or cultivation of up to 5 plants is a misdemeanor subject to minor fine – mostly not enforced. Popular destination for smokers. Medicinal use legal and regulated since 2013.
As with all drugs, cannabis-related offences are punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years. Freetown Christiania, a self-declared autonomous community in Copenhagen, is known for its cannabis trade.
Class B drug to cultivate, sell, or possess.
|Ecuador||Decriminalized up to 10 g||Illegal|
|Egypt||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal|
|Estonia||Decriminalized||With a special permit||
Up to 7.5 g is considered an amount for personal use, and is punished with a fine. Large amounts and distribution are criminal offences punishable with a custodial sentence of up to 5 years.
|Finland||Illegal but sometimes not enforced||Legal under license.||
Personal use is generally not prosecuted in court but subject to summary fine. Medicinal cannabis possible under a special license since 2006; in 2014, 223 licenses were issued.
|France||Illegal||Some cannabis-derived drugs.|
|Georgia||Legal for possession and consumption but not for sale, per a July 2018 ruling by the Constitutional Court of Georgia.||Use is legal, but no system for the dispensing of cannabis exists.|
|Germany||Illegal, but occasionally tolerated. Under federal law, prosecution is optional for possession of “small amounts”.||Legal||
Recreational possession illegal, but criminal charges are sometimes dropped. Consumption itself considered legal self-harm, but driver’s licenses are almost always suspended, regardless of whether a car was used under the influence. Since early 2017, medicinal use is legal for seriously ill patients, who have consulted with a doctor and have absolutely no therapeutic alternative.
|Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat)||Illegal||Illegal|
Possession of 15 g or over can result in charges of drug trafficking.
The possession, sale, transportation, and cultivation of cannabis is illegal in Honduras.
There is no distinction in Hungarian law between illicit drugs according to dangers. Heroin use has the same legal consequences as cannabis use.
|India||Illegal, but exception is made for the use of bhang.||Illegal||
Albeit illegal, usage is prevalent and some government-owned shops sell cannabis in the form of bhang. States have their own laws regarding cannabis, locally known as ganja.
Banned in 1927. Minimum sentence of 4 years in prison (additional fines may apply) if caught in possession. However, if the user is underage, they may instead be sentenced to rehabilitation.
|Iran||Illegal, but not strictly enforced||Illegal|
|Ireland||Illegal||May be licensed.||
The National Drugs Strategy of 2009–2016 did not favour decriminalising cannabis. A new strategy is planned from 2017. Cannabis-derived medicines may be licensed since 2014. A review of policy on medicinal cannabis was announced in November 2016, and a private member’s bill to legalise it passed second stage in the Dáil in December 2016.
As of April 2019, public possession of small amounts is a non-criminal offense punished by escalating fines. A third offense can result in criminal charges, however. Possession in the privacy of one’s home is not punished.
|Italy||Decriminalized; allowed for religious usage, legal below 0.6% THC||Legal||
Possession of small amounts for personal use is a misdemeanor subject to fines and the suspension of documents (passports or driver’s licenses). Sale and cultivation punishable by imprisonment, even if in small amounts and for exclusive personal use. Licensed cultivation for medicinal and industrial use strictly regulated.
|Jamaica||Decriminalized up to 2 oz or cultivation of 5 plants. Legal for Rastafari.||Legal||
Decriminalized since 2015, and in 2018 the first medical cannabis dispensary opened.
|Laos||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal|
Cannabis is illegal. Possession of up to one gram can result in a fine of €280, for second offences within a year period criminal charges are applied. Larger quantities can be punished with up to 15 years in prison.
Hashish banned in 1926; cannabis cultivation banned in 1992. Possession is illegal. However, large amounts are grown within the country and personal use, as long as not in public, is not a major issue.
|Lesotho||Illegal but tolerated||Illegal|
A bill to legalize medical use of cannabis was passed by the Seimas on 11 October 2018.
|Macau, SAR of China||Illegal||Illegal|
Mandatory death penalty for convicted drug traffickers, legally defined as individuals possessing more than 200 g (7 oz) of cannabis.
|Malta||Decriminalized up to 3.5 g||Legal||
As of 2015, simple possession is decriminalized, but remains an arrestable offense for the police purpose of collecting intelligence about drug trafficking. Cultivation for personal use will no longer be punishable by a mandatory prison sentence or suspended sentence.
|Mexico||De facto legal for personal use, regarding both possession and cultivation.||Legal for medical use,
THC content below 1%.
Possession of 5 g decriminalized since 2009. In 2015 the Supreme Court voted 4-1 that prohibiting people from growing the drug for consumption was unconstitutional as it violated the human right to the free development of one’s personality. In 2018 the Supreme Court reaffirmed the ruling, effectively making the law prohibiting cannabis unenforceable and requiring the legislature to act to formally legalize.
|Morocco||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal||
All drugs banned since 1974, but cannabis is partially tolerated. Morocco is still among the world’s top producers of hashish.
|Myanmar||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal|
Cannabis is illegal; in 2007 the government proposed but declined a 20-year jail sentence for any drug possession.
|Nepal||Illegal (legal during Maha Shivaratri)||Illegal|
|Netherlands||Illegal – but use and sale is tolerated in licensed coffeeshops. Possession of up to 5 g is decriminalized. Cultivation of up to 5 plants is unenforced for non-commercial use (unless grown in a professional setup).||Legal||
Personal possession decriminalized and sale allowed only in certain licensed coffeeshops in the continental Netherlands. Cultivation often tolerated but growers can still have their plants and equipment confiscated and face eviction or cancellation of their mortgage for one single plant. Zero tolerance policy in the Caribbean Netherlands.
|New Zealand||Illegal (Legalization referendum to be held in 2020)||Legal|
|North Korea (DPRK)||Unknown||Unknown||
There are conflicting reports on the legal status of cannabis in North Korea. Multiple reports from defectors and tourists claim there is no law regarding the possession of cannabis (as a result, it is not classified as a drug) in North Korea or if there is, it is mostly unenforced. However, other reports claim that cannabis is illegal.
|Norway||Currently illegal (in process of decriminalization)||Legal||
Personal use of up to 15 g punished with a fine and a criminal record in the case of first-time offenders; possessing more and second offences is punished more harshly. Minors are routinely compelled to consent to regular supervised drug testing under threat of prosecution. In March 2018, the government created a working group tasked with decriminalizing drug use and mandating police to impose forced medical treatment of addicts instead of fines and imprisonment.
|Pakistan||Illegal, but often unenforced (particularly in some tribal regions)||Illegal||
Prohibited, but the smoking of hashish in Peshawar and the northern parts of Pakistan tends to be tolerated. One may be sent to jail for up to six months if found with charas in other parts of the country.
|Papua New Guinea||Illegal||Illegal|
|Paraguay||Decriminalized up to 10 g||Illegal|
|Philippines||Illegal||Illegal under law but special permit may be for cannabis-derived drugs for treatment of “serious or terminal illness”||
Illegal for both recreational and medical use though application for a special permit with the country’s Food and Drugs Authority for use of individuals serious or terminal illness to use unregistered drugs including those containing cannabis is possible
|Poland||Illegal, but sometimes not enforced for small amounts, legal below 0.2% THC||Legal||
Since 2011, prosecutors can choose not to prosecute possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use, if it is a first offence, or if the person is drug dependent. Possession of large quantities of drugs can result in up to 10 years in prison.
|Portugal||Decriminalized up to 25 g of herb or 5 g of hashish||Legal||
In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize the use of all drugs.
|Romania||Illegal||Cannabis-derived drugs, less than 0.2% THC, all CBD based products are legal||
Small quantities punishable by a large fine for first offenders or 6 months to 2 years in prison if the person has been convicted before. Possession of large amounts or trafficking is punishable by 2–7 years of jail time. Decriminalization proposed. Limited medical use approved in 2013.
Possession up to 6 g of cannabis (or 2 g of hashish) leads to an administrative fine up to RUB 5,000 or detention up to 15 days. Foreign nationals and stateless individuals who violate the law are subject to deportation regardless of the amount.
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Illegal||Illegal|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Illegal||Illegal|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||Illegal||Illegal|
Use and possession for personal use of any kind of recreational drugs is punishable by imprisonment if caught. Imprisonment for personal use could go up to six months jail time or more. Dealing and smuggling of high amounts of drugs usually result in harsher prison time or even execution, although recently executions are rare. Foreigners who use drugs might be deported.
Possession punishable by fine or imprisonment of up to 3 years. Sale and transportation punishable by 3–12 years imprisonment. Cultivation punishable by imprisonment from 6 months to 5 years. Higher penalties for organized crime.
Cannabis banned in 1920.
Banned in 1870. Cannabis is a Class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act, making it illegal to cultivate, sell, or possess. Those who are caught with 500g of cannabis or more, are presumed as drug traffickers, and are punished with a possible death penalty.
Possession of small amounts punishable by up to 8 years in prison. In April 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported that Robert Fico, the incoming Slovak prime minister, might push for partial legalisation of cannabis possession, and has argued for the legalisation of possession of up to three doses of cannabis for personal use.
|South Africa||Legal for possession and cultivation but not for sale.||Use is legal, but no system for the dispensing of medicinal cannabis exists.|
|South Korea||Illegal||Legal, but access limited to Epidiolex, Marinol and Sativex as of now due to the policy implemented by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety|
|Spain||Use and possession in private areas allowed. Public consumption can result in a fine from 601 to 30000 €. Cultivation for personal use allowed in private areas including Cannabis Social Clubs.||Limited cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals||
Sale and importation punishable by jail time. All actions related to cannabis apart from sale or trade aren’t considered criminal offenses, but misdemeanors punishable by a fine. Legalized in Catalonia in 2017, but that law was challenged by the state and declared unconstitutional. Cultivation allowed in private areas if the plants cannot be seen from the street or other public spaces.
|Sri Lanka||Illegal||Legalized by amendment made in colonial law by 1980s and through the Ayurveda Act.|
Cannabis was banned in Suriname in the early 20th century, having been popularized there by Asian immigrants.
Since 2012, possession of 10 g or less is decriminalized to a fine.
Reportedly punished by life imprisonment under Bashar al-Assad‘s government policies. As a result of civil war, people living in areas controlled by Kurdish separatists have begun growing cannabis as a way of making money to fight poverty.
|Taiwan (Republic of China, ROC)||Illegal||Illegal||
Cannabis is a schedule 2 narcotic in the ROC, and possession can result in up to 3 years imprisonment.
|Thailand||Illegal but often unenforced||Legal||
Criminalized in 1935. Possession, cultivation, and transport (import/export) of up to 10 kg of cannabis may result in a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison or a fine. Medical use was made legal in 2018.
|Trinidad and Tobago||Illegal||Illegal||
Banned in 1925.
Medical cultivation legal in nineteen provinces. With permission, this can also be conducted in other provinces as well. Consuming any drug is illegal and requires juridical process. Possessing, purchasing, or receiving any illegal drug is punishable by 1–2 years of prison, treatment, or probation. Sale and supply is punishable by a prison term of 5–10 years, and production or trafficking by a minimum term of 10 years.
Possession of up to 5 g or cultivation of 10 plants is an administrative (rather than a criminal) offense, but detention of up to 15 days is still possible.
|United Arab Emirates||Illegal||Illegal||
Even the smallest amounts of the drug can lead to a mandatory 4-year prison sentence.
|United Kingdom||Illegal||Legal for cases of severe epilepsy, vomiting, or nausea caused by chemotherapy or multiple sclerosis|
|United States||Legal in 10 states, 2 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia – but illegal at federal level. Decriminalized in another 14 states and 1 U.S. territory.||Legal in 33 states, 4 U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia – but illegal at federal level.||
Cannabis remains a Schedule I drug at federal level, prohibiting even its medical use. The Rohrabacher–Farr amendment prevents federal enforcement in states that have legalized medical, however. No such protections exist regarding recreational, but the federal government has so far generally not intervened. Recognized Indian reservations are allowed to legalize for either use under a policy announced in 2014.
|Uruguay||Legal, but buying prohibited for foreigners. Cultivation allowed up to six plants.||Legal for all uses.|
Opiates, cannabis and other plants containing psychotropic substances are illegal.
Possession of up to 20 g of marijuana or 5 g of genetically modified marijuana for commercial purposes is punishable by 1–2 years in prison at judge’s discretion. If deemed to be for personal consumption, the user is subject to security measures involving rehabilitation and detoxification procedures.
|Vietnam||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal|
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