International Cannabis: A List of Countries Where Weed Is Legal
Published on 4/7/22
Legal weed is a hot-button issue in America's society today, and whether you are on the side of change and progress or not, there are valid arguments one can make for each side. Even though cannabis legalization news constantly swirls around the US, what about other legal weed countries? What is the rest of the world up to when it comes to this issue? Below, we'll highlight countries where weed is legal and will set the record straight on the first country to legalize weed.
Who Did it First?
This may be a good time to bring up the fact that you can't believe everything you read from a quick Google search. Upon researching who was first to legalize recreational cannabis on a federal level, every article will point to the South American country of Uruguay.
However, upon further digging, we are here to say that is incorrect. The first country to legalize cannabis was, in fact, Myanmar, which was formerly Burma. It is a country in southeastern Asia and a nation with more than 100 ethnic groups, bordering India, China, Bangladesh, Laos, and Thailand. Myanmar (then Burma) legalized the herb back in 1939, as it was previously banned under British rule. Unfortunately, it was eventually made illegal again in 1993 under the Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substance Law and today, it is punished more severely than opium or methamphetamine offenses.
A Brief Look at Countries That Legalized Weed or Have Turned a Blind Eye
As we touched on above, this country is often cited as the first to legalize cannabis - which isn't entirely wrong. Uruguay has been ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, low perception of corruption, and e-government and legalized cannabis on a federal level back in 2013. Like any major decision, especially one involving cannabis, this was a controversial one. The government wanted to examine an alternative to the "War on Drugs," which is something that the US should take notes on. The goal with legalization was to make the medicinal herb affordable while also pushing drug traffickers out. Since legalization, Uruguay has seen a 5% increase in marijuana use.
When one thinks of Jamaica, one may think of an island nation with gorgeous beaches, lush mountains, and rainforests inland. Something else that may come to mind is that this must be a country with legal weed. The culture is rich in reggae music and Rastafari, which are tied heavily to marijuana use, so cannabis must be as free-flowing as the Pina Coladas, right? You may be surprised to hear this, but marijuana is technically still illegal on this island. However, small amounts of cannabis possession are considered a petty offense, citizens can cultivate plants, and it is legal for medicinal use and religious purposes. Overall, there is a very laxed outlook on the substance - but that doesn't mean you should be walking on the beach while consuming. Jamaica is looking towards the future with education, as the government has recently released a campaign to educate/debunk myths around the substance called "Good Ganja Sense."
When pondering the question of - in what countries is weed legal? - this rainforest-centric Central American country falls somewhere in between legal and illegal. The laws in this country are vague, but personal consumption in private is widely accepted as there is no criminal penalty outlined, and it is essentially decriminalized. On a medicinal level, as of October 2021, the Costa Rican Congress approved cannabis for medicinal purposes, but President Carlos Alvarado still needs to put his stamp of approval on the substance.
Our neighbor to the North seems to have everything going for them. Canadians generally seem happier, have free healthcare, and have legal cannabis on a federal level - as of 2018. Canada is the first G7 and G20 nation to do so and have topped $2 billion in sales in 2020. While this doesn't compare to the $17.5 billion in the US, where it is still illegal at a federal level, it will be exciting to see where the country takes cannabis.
We've touched on several countries that are North and South of us, but what about our neighbors to the East? Where is weed legal in Europe? Without getting too in-depth into Europe, Malta made waves throughout the entire EU by legalizing recreational cannabis on a federal level in December of 2021. It is the first in the EU to do so and happens to be the smallest member. Many predict that others will likely follow suit, as Malta allows up to 7 grams or 4 plants per household for possession.
Number of Countries with Legal Weed
While several countries have either decriminalized cannabis or legalized it on a medical level, you will be surprised to see that the number of countries worldwide with legal recreational cannabis is staggeringly low. Perhaps 2022 will usher in a new year of growth, change, and progress. The countries, states, and territories that have legalized marijuana are as follows.
- South Africa
- 18 States in the United States (and counting!)
- 2 Territories
- The District of Columbia
- The Australian Capital Territory
What do you think about the countries with legal weed? Are you surprised by how small the list is? Predict who will legalize next in the comments below.