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A Guide to Medical Marijuana Legalization Around the World

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Marijuana legalization is complicated around the globe. Federal law classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug in the United States, but multiple states have legalized the recreational and/or medicinal use of marijuana.

Some countries have fully legalized recreational marijuana, while others have only approved medical use. There are also countries where marijuana has been decriminalized, a legal gray area that means that cannabis is not legal for personal use but won’t result in harsh penalties.

Learn which countries have legalized recreational marijuana, which have medical use programs, and which have decriminalized the plant.

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Views About Cannabis Around the World

In general, Europe is more 420-friendly than Asia and Africa. But there are exceptions, and not every European country has legalized or decriminalized cannabis for medical or recreational use.

Furthermore, penalties for consuming or possessing cannabis also vary widely across continents. Importing marijuana into Indonesia, for example, can result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Meanwhile, cannabis possession in France usually results in a fine rather than incarceration.

But there are always exceptions. Unapproved cannabis use in the United Kingdom can carry long prison terms on par with those in Indonesia. The bottom line? There is no rhyme or reason for global cannabis laws. The best tool you can arm yourself before traveling abroad is knowing where you may legally have cannabis for personal use and where you may not.

Few countries in the world have fully recreationally legal status regarding recreational use. Many people think of the Netherlands as one such place, but as stated above, cannabis is merely “tolerated” rather than legal per sé. Some parts of Denmark also have a “tolerance” policy in place. Spain has decriminalized cannabis for personal use, and cultivation is allowed on private property – only commercial production is illegal.

Technically, there are only two countries where cannabis is legal on a federal level, Canada and Uruguay. Even then, in Uruguay, those who are not citizens are prohibited from buying cannabis. Canada has passed legislation to legalize cannabis federally, with provinces and territories left to decide how to distribute it.

In the country of Georgia, it is legal to possess and consume cannabis, but it’s not legal to sell it. In South Africa, it is legal to possess and cultivate cannabis but not for sale.

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Countries with Medical Marijuana Programs

Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have some cannabinoid-based medications available for prescription. Spain has legalized cannabis consumption in private areas, and there are some cannabinoid-based medications available upon prescription, but cannabis is still illegal in public areas. Outside of Europe, Australia has a medicinal cannabis program.

Within the United States, certain states have medical marijuana/cannabis programs. But at the federal level, cannabis and a variety of cannabinoids (including THC and CBD, although CBD derived from hemp is technically legal in all states) are illegal and classified as a Schedule I controlled substance.

Classification as a Schedule I controlled substance means cannabis is considered to have “no medical value” and, therefore, cannot be “prescribed” in any fashion. Other drugs in this category include heroin, ecstasy, and LSD. The solution for Americans? If you can, get a medical marijuana card and stay informed about the latest laws in your home state.

Countries That Have Decriminalized Marijuana

There are countries where cannabis is “tolerated” or decriminalized to some extent, depending upon the state, region, local customs, and amount of cannabis the person possesses.

These countries include Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia (Northern Territory and South Australia, plus ACT), Austria, Barbados (if you’re a registered Rastafarian), Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Dominica, Ecuador, Estonia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Slovenia, Switzerland, and Trinidad and Tobago.

In some instances, the law may be poorly enforced or treated as an administrative or health issue rather than a legal issue, but punishment is still an option. As for North Korea, nobody knows too much about how the state treats marijuana use. Some say it’s illegal, while others say nobody in the country even treats the plant as a “drug.”

International Cannabis Legality Guide

The following table provides up-to-date information about the legality of cannabis in over 100 countries around the globe. Click or tap any of the countries’ names to access an in-depth article with more information about the unique laws and provisions of each nation.

CountryLegal StatusNotes
AlbaniaSome LegalityThe Albanian Parliament legalized industrial hemp and medical cannabis in 2023. The bill also calls for the creation of the National Cannabis Control Agency as a regulatory body, as well as a Licensing Commission.
AndorraTotally Illegal
AngolaTotally Illegal
AnguillaTotally Illegal
ArmeniaTotally Illegal
AustraliaSome LegalityMedical cannabis is legal in Australia, and some parts — namely the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) — have decriminalized personal recreational use, possession, and small-scale cultivation of the plant.
AzerbaijanTotally Illegal
BangladeshTotally Illegal
BelarusTotally Illegal
BelgiumSome LegalityBelgium has legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized the cultivation and personal possession of cannabis. Personal use is defined as three grams of cannabis by people 18 and older.
Bosnia and HerzegovinaTotally Illegal
BrazilSome LegalityMedical cannabis is legal in Brazil but must be prescribed by a doctor and is highly regulated. Small-scale possession and cultivation for personal use no longer come with criminal penalties, but that is up to law enforcement discretion on a case-by-case basis.
BurundiTotally Illegal
CameroonTotally Illegal
ChadTotally Illegal
ChileSome LegalityIn 2015, Chile was one of the first Latin American countries to pass medical marijuana legislation. Furthermore, it has decriminalized cannabis for personal use in 2005.
ChinaTotally Illegal
ColombiaSome LegalityColombia legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and has decriminalized the possession of a limited amount of all drugs, including cannabis, since 1994.
Côte d’IvoireTotally Illegal
CuraçaoTotally Illegal
CyprusSome LegalityMedical marijuana was legalized in Cyprus in 2019, but cannabis products are still unavailable for purchase.
Czech RepublicSome LegalityThe Czech Republic legalized medical marijuana in 2013 and decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of dried buds and the cultivation of up to five plants for personal use.
EcuadorSome LegalityEcuador legalized medical marijuana and has decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis for personal use.
EgyptTotally Illegal
Equatorial GuineaTotally Illegal
EritreaTotally Illegal
EstoniaSome LegalityWhile Estonia doesn’t have a nationwide medical cannabis program, cannabis prescriptions are issued by local authorities on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, the government decriminalized the possession of fewer than 7.5 grams of cannabis for personal consumption.
EthiopiaTotally Illegal
FinlandTotally Illegal
FranceTotally Illegal
GermanySome LegalityMedical marijuana has been legalized in Germany but is tightly regulated. German authorities do not need to prosecute for small amounts of cannabis intended for personal consumption, but that may be waived in certain circumstances.
GibraltarSome LegalitySome cannabis-based medicines are legal in Gibraltar, but they must be prescribed by a doctor registered in the Gibraltar Health Authority.
GreeceSome LegalityGreece has legalized medical marijuana and permits its medical professionals to prescribe a range of cannabis-derived products for medical purposes.
GrenadaTotally Illegal
Guinea-BissauTotally Illegal
GuineaTotally Illegal
HondurasTotally Illegal
Hong KongTotally Illegal
HungaryTotally Illegal
IcelandSome LegalityIceland doesn’t have an official medical marijuana program, but the medical use of cannabis is prescribed by doctors under limited circumstances. Furthermore, the possession of small amounts of cannabis is prohibited but not criminalized.
IndonesiaTotally Illegal
IranTotally Illegal
IrelandSome LegalityIreland permits the medical use of cannabis with case-by-case approval by the Minister of Health. Approval is reportedly very difficult to obtain.
IsraelSome LegalityThe Israeli government formally legalized medical cannabis in 1999, and Israel is home to one of the world’s largest medical marijuana markets. The plant is partially decriminalized for personal use in possession of 15 or fewer grams.
ItalySome LegalityItaly legalized medical marijuana, but it’s strictly regulated. Small amounts of cannabis (up to 1.5 grams) for personal use, as well as cannabis containing less than 0.5% THC are decriminalized.
KenyaTotally Illegal
KuwaitTotally Illegal
KyrgyzstanTotally Illegal
LesothoSome LegalityIt is legal to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes in Lesotho, but the country does not have an established medical marijuana program or recreational legality.
LiberiaTotally Illegal
LibyaTotally Illegal
LiechtensteinSome LegalityOnly two marijuana-based products are legal in Liechtenstein: Sativex and Epidiolex. They require a prescription to obtain.
MadagascarTotally Illegal
MalawiSome LegalityMedical cannabis is legal in Malawi, but recreational use is not.
MalaysiaTotally Illegal
MaliTotally Illegal
MaltaFully LegalCannabis in Malta is legal, though there are limits regarding possession, consumption, and cultivation.
MauritiusTotally Illegal
MoldovaTotally Illegal
MonacoTotally Illegal
MoroccoSome LegalityMedical cannabis was legalized in Morocco in 2021. The plant is now regulated for medical, industrial, and cosmetic purposes (including cultivation, seed importation, and product exportation).
NamibiaTotally Illegal
NepalTotally Illegal
New ZealandSome LegalityCannabis is medically legal in New Zealand but recreationally illegal. The country’s medical program is very strict, and $500 fines may be issued to people for possessing even small amounts of cannabis.
NigerTotally Illegal
NorwayTotally Illegal
PakistanTotally Illegal
PanamaSome LegalityCannabis for medical purposes is legal in Panama.
ParaguaySome LegalityMedical marijuana has been legal in Paraguay since 2017, and small amounts of cannabis for personal use (10 grams or fewer) have been decriminalized since 1988.
PeruSome LegalityPeruvian law allows individuals and businesses to possess, cultivate, and sell medical cannabis, and the possession of eight or fewer grams of cannabis is decriminalized and exempt from legal penalties.
PortugalSome LegalityMedical marijuana is legal in Portugal with a prescription, and doctors can technically prescribe medical cannabis for any condition. Furthermore, small-scale use and possession of cannabis have been decriminalized.
QatarTotally Illegal
RomaniaSome LegalityThe growth, import, or sale of cannabis for medical use is allowed, but only under strict supervision by the government. The recreational use of cannabis is illegal.
RussiaTotally Illegal
RwandaSome LegalityThe Republic of Rwanda recently legalized marijuana production, export, import, processing, and use for medical purposes, but patients do not yet have access to the plant. Recreational cannabis remains illegal.
Saint Kitts and NevisSome LegalitySt. Kitts and Nevis approved legislation legalizing medicinal cannabis in the country and decriminalized personal cannabis use for adults over 18.
Saint LuciaPartially DecriminalizedThe Saint Lucian government is planning the rollout of a public education campaign, a medical marijuana program, and legalizing the cultivation of cannabis on the island. However, these initiatives are still being developed. Meanwhile, cannabis has been decriminalized for personal use.
San MarinoSome LegalityRecreational marijuana use is currently illegal in San Marino. However, cannabis, for some medical purposes, is legal.
Sao Tome and PrincipeTotally Illegal
Saudi ArabiaTotally Illegal
Sierra LeoneTotally Illegal
SingaporeTotally Illegal
SlovakiaTotally Illegal
SomaliaTotally Illegal
South AfricaSome LegalityWhile medical marijuana is legal, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has yet to license any cannabis medicines containing THC. Meanwhile, cannabis is decriminalized for private use by consenting adults as long as cultivation and personal consumption occur in private.
SpainSome LegalityUntil recently, medical cannabis was limited to the prescription drugs Sativex and Epidiolex, but the process for accessing medical cannabis in Spain is currently being reformed. Recreational cannabis is decriminalized for personal cultivation and use.
Sri LankaSome LegalityMedical marijuana exists in a strange limbo in Sri Lanka, with regulators allowing for highly limited use due to its status as an indigenous medicine. Sri Lanka passed the Ayurveda Act in the 1980s, which allows Ayurvedic practitioners to sell cannabis-based medicines to their patients as long as they’re legally sourced from the country’s Ayurvedic Drugs Corporation.
SudanTotally Illegal
SurinameTotally Illegal
SwedenSome LegalitySweden has strict medical cannabis laws, and the Medical Products Agency highly regulates the products. Recreational cannabis is illegal in Sweden, which the Swedish government strictly enforces.
SyriaTotally Illegal
TaiwanTotally Illegal
ThailandSome LegalityThailand was the first Asian country to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize adult-use cannabis.
The Caribbean NetherlandsTotally Illegal
The Cayman IslandsSome LegalityCannabis is illegal in the Cayman Islands for recreational use, and violators are subject to the island’s drug laws. However, recent law changes allow doctors to prescribe cannabis oil products, like extracts and tinctures, for medical purposes.
The Central African RepublicTotally Illegal
The Channel IslandsSome LegalityBoth Channel Islands, Guernsey and Jersey, have legalized medical marijuana to some extent. In Jersey, medical cannabis products can be prescribed by doctors and imported. Similarly, medical cannabis can be prescribed in Guernsey, and three products are available.
The Faeroe IslandsSome LegalityMedical cannabis use is legal in the Faeroe Islands but with many limitations. General practitioners in the Faeroe Islands can prescribe 11 different medical cannabis products.
The Isle of ManSome LegalityMedical marijuana is legal in the Isle of Man if you have a private prescription. This prescription can come from a doctor in the U.K. or a British Crown Dependency, like the Isle of Man.
The PhilippinesTotally Illegal
The Republic of BeninTotally Illegal
the Republic of the CongoTotally Illegal
The Solomon IslandsTotally Illegal
The United Arab EmiratesTotally Illegal
TogoTotally Illegal
TunisiaTotally Illegal
TurkeySome LegalityThe Turkish Ministry of Health approved the limited sale of cannabis-based pharmaceuticals for medical purposes in 2016. The approval only applied to sublingual sprays like Sativex, requiring a physician’s prescription.
Turks and CaicosTotally Illegal
UgandaTotally IllegalMarijuana is legal in Uganda for medicinal production and exports but illegal for recreational and medicinal use.
UruguayFully LegalMarijuana is legal in Uruguay for both medical and recreational purposes.
VenezuelaTotally Illegal
VietnamTotally Illegal
YemenTotally Illegal
ZimbabweSome LegalityMarijuana is illegal in Zimbabwe for recreational use but is legal for medical use.

The Bottom Line

Marijuana legalization and decriminalization are constantly evolving around the world. Some countries where cannabis remains illegal impose very strict penalties on people who travel with or consume marijuana within their borders. Stay informed of the most current legal status of cannabis wherever you travel, and always carry your medical marijuana card if you have a valid one.

Consume medical cannabis legally with a medical marijuana card from your home state. Leafwell’s physicians are here to guide you through applying for your MMJ card online.

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