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 countries 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 sales and consumption although it remains federally illegal. Court rulings in Georgia and South Africa have led to the legalization of consumption of cannabis, 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, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, 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||Decriminalized|
|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.||Legal for medical purposes.|
|Austria||Possession for personal use decriminalized as of January 2016.||Cannabis-derived drugs||Allowed for medical purposes.|
|Bangladesh||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal||Illegal|
|Belgium||Decriminalized up to 3 g||Cannabis-derived drugs||Decriminalized for cultivation of one plant|
|Belize||Decriminalized up to 10 g||Illegal||Illegal|
|Bermuda||Decriminalized up to 7 g||Legal||Illegal|
Illegal, but plants grow prolifically and have multiple traditional uses, such as feeding pigs and producing textiles.
|Bolivia||Decriminalized up to 50 g||Illegal||Illegal|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal|
|Brazil||Illegal (educational measures for small amounts and private use)||Sativex||Illegal (educational measures for small amounts and private use)||
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||Illegal but often unenforced|
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||Illegal|
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||Illegal|
|Colombia||Decriminalized up to 22 g for personal use||Legal for medical use.||Legal up to twenty plants for personal consumption. No limit for medicinal use and if licensed by the “National Anti-narcotics Council”|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal|
|Republic of the Congo||Illegal||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.
|Cyprus||Illegal||Legal for cancer patients||Illegal (decriminalized for some farms to grow hemp)||
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 since 2014. Initially decriminalized in 2010 for up to 15 g.||Legal||Decriminalized for cultivation of up to five plants. Cultivation for medicinal purposes subject to license 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.
|Denmark||Illegal for recreational use, however, the law is often unenforced by police. (Declared legal in Freetown but this is unrecognized by Danish authorities)||Legal||Legal with government license. Licenses issued for medical production only.||
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||Illegal|
|Egypt||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal||Illegal|
|Estonia||Decriminalized||With a special permit||Illegal||
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.||Legal for medicinal use only||
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.||Illegal|
|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.||Decriminalized for personal use |
|Germany||Illegal but often tolerated. Under federal law, prosecution is optional for possession of “small amounts”.||Legal to those with a prescription||Legal if permission is given by “Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices”||
Recreational possession illegal, but charges almost always dropped. Consumption itself considered self-harm, which is not a crime. Since early 2017, medicinal use is legal for seriously ill patients who have consulted with a doctor and “have no therapeutic alternative”.
|Greece||Illegal||Legal||Legal for medicinal use only|
|Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat)||Illegal||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.
Banned in 1969. Consumption is illegal even in small amounts. Possession, sale, transportation, and cultivation could result in jail time, with heavy fines given. But possession prohibition is often not enforced.
|India||Illegal at the federal level.
Legal or tolerated in several states such as Bihar, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, and the North-Eastern states.
Decriminalized in Gujarat.
|Illegal||Illegal at the federal level.
Industrial hemp legal at the state level in Uttarakhand.
Legal or tolerated in several states such as Bihar, Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, and the North-Eastern states.
Albeit illegal, usage is prevalent and some government-owned shops sell cannabis in the form of bhang. Prohibition is rarely enforced and treated as low priority across India. Legalized in Uttarakhand in November 2015. Decriminalized in Gujarat since 2017. Other states have their own laws allowing 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||Illegal|
|Ireland||Illegal||May be licensed.||Illegal||
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.
|Israel||Currently illegal; decriminalization to take effect in April 2019||Legal||Licensed medicinal providers only||
Personal possession decriminalized, with offenders going through a 4-stage process should they admit to their crime.
|Italy||Decriminalized; allowed for religious usage||Legal||Illegal||
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; legal for Rastafari||Legal||Legal|
|Laos||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal||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||Medicinal cultivation with Ministry of Health authorisation|
|Macau, SAR of China||Illegal||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 3.5g||Legal||Illegal||
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.||Legal for medical use,
THC content below 1%.
|Legal for medical purposes.
De facto legal for personal use.
Possession of 5 g decriminalized since 2009.
Possession of small amounts is not a crime, but sale, cultivation, and transport are illegal and penalized. Non-commercial possession and consumption without prescription are sanctioned with a fine or with community service.
|Morocco||Illegal but often unenforced||Illegal||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||Illegal but often unenforced|
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||Illegal|
|Netherlands||Illegal – but use and sale is tolerated in licensed coffeeshops. Possession of up to 5 g is decriminalized.||Legal||Unenforced up to 5 plants for non-commercial use unless they are grown in a professional setup.||
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||Illegal|
|North Korea (DPRK)||Unknown||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||Illegal (in process of decriminalization)||Legal||Illegal||
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 mandate police to impose forced medical treatment of addicts instead of fines and imprisonment.
|Pakistan||Illegal, but often unenforced (particularly in some tribal regions)||Illegal||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||Illegal|
|Paraguay||Decriminalized up to 10 g||Illegal||Illegal|
|Poland||Illegal, but sometimes not enforced for small amounts||Legal||Illegal||
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||Decriminalized||
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||Illegal, however, cannabis seeds can be purchased legally online||
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.
|Russia||Possession up to 6 g decriminalized (for Russian citizens only)||Illegal||Cultivation up to 20 plants (with flowers weighing less than 6 g) decriminalized||
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||Illegal|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal|
|São Tomé and Príncipe||Illegal||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.
|Slovenia||Decriminalized||Cannabis-based drugs||Legal for quantities with ≤ 0.2 % THC on a ≤ 0.1 ha surface, or ≥ 0.1 ha surface with a governmental permit for cannabis cultivation.|
|South Africa||Legal for possession and consumption but not for sale.||Use is legal, but no system for the dispensing of medicinal cannabis exists.||Legal for personal consumption.|
|South Korea||Illegal||Epidiolex, Marinol, Sativex||Illegal||
Medical use of cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals legalized in November 2018.
|Spain||Use and possession in private areas allowed. Public consumption can result in a fine from 601 to 30000 €. Possession of larger amounts is considered trafficking.||Limited cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals||Allowed in private areas in amounts for personal use (e.g. Cannabis Social Clubs).||
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.||Cultivation allowed on the island under purveyor of the Government|
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||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||Illegal||
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. Medicinal cannabis was made legal in 2018 by the Government of Thailand.
|Trinidad and Tobago||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||
Banned in 1925.
|Turkey||Illegal||Cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals||Legal for medical purposes.||
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.
|Ukraine||Decriminalized for possession of up to 5 g||Illegal||Decriminalized up to ten plants|
|United Arab Emirates||Illegal||Illegal||Illegal||
Even the smallest amounts of the drug can lead to a mandatory 4-year prison sentence.
|United Kingdom||Illegal||Legal for the few cases of severe epilepsy, vomiting, or nausea caused by chemotherapy or multiple sclerosis ||Legal with Home Office cannabis cultivation license|
|United States||Legal in 10 states and some other internal jurisdictions, but illegal at federal level. Decriminalized in other 13 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.||Legal in 33 states and other internal jurisdictions, but illegal at federal level.||Illegal at federal level, permitted locally in some states allowing recreational or medical use.||
Laws vary by state, territory, Indian Reservation, and the District of Columbia. Prohibited by federal law, but individuals acting in accordance with state medical cannabis laws are protected from federal prosecution by the Rohrabacher–Farr amendment. Recognized Indian Reservations are allowed to regulate cannabis for both recreational and medical use under a policy announced by the Justice Department in 2014.
|Uruguay||Legal; buying prohibited for foreigners||Legal for all uses.||Legal for up to six plants|
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||Illegal|
|Zambia||Illegal||Illegal||Legal if licensed by the Minister of Health; however, no licenses are currently issued|
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