Which Countries Have Legalized Cannabis?

As global society’s understanding of cannabis evolves and its medicinal and research values are increasingly explored, an increasing number of countries and regions are reevaluating their legal stance on marijuana, gradually easing or even fully lifting prohibitions.

From medical applications to recreational use, the legalization of cannabis appears to be an unstoppable trend.

Around the globe, some nations have thrown open the green gates, embracing cannabis into public view, while others remain cautious observers. This is not only a legal battle but also a tide that influences culture, economics, and healthcare.

From Canada’s full legalization to the varying approaches across U.S. states, from the coffee shop culture in the Netherlands to Thailand’s embrace of medical marijuana, each nation’s choice tells a fascinating tale.

Which countries have taken this significant step? How do they navigate the societal, economic, and legal aspects?

This post takes you on a worldwide tour to explore this exhilarating global green wave and delve into the current state and trajectory of cannabis legalization. Let’s dive in.

Legalization of Medical Marijuana

Many countries have recognized the potential of cannabis and its derivatives in treating specific ailments, leading them to legislate for medical marijuana use. Here is a list of nations that have legalized medical cannabis.

Argentina: Patients are allowed to use cannabis oil for medicinal purposes, and home cultivation is permitted for individual medical needs.

Australia: Each state and territory has enacted its regulations governing medical cannabis, providing eligible patients with legal access channels.

Canada: Cannabis has been fully legalized, encompassing both medical and recreational uses, under a stringent regulatory framework.

Germany: Physicians can prescribe cannabinoid-based medications, such as Sativex and Epidiolex, for the treatment of certain conditions.

Greece: Legislation permits the production and importation of medical cannabis to meet domestic patient requirements.

Israel: Operating under strict medical oversight, the country extensively conducts medical cannabis research and grants legal usage rights to qualifying patients.

Italy: Authorizes the use of specific cannabis-based medicines and allows certain patient groups to cultivate for themselves.

The Netherlands: Although not formally legalizing medical marijuana, it tacitly condones its informal use through the “coffee shop” system and permits pharmacies to sell cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals.

New Zealand: Permits medical professionals to prescribe medical cannabis products to eligible patients.

Portugal: Within its drug decriminalization policy framework, allows the use of medical marijuana.

Switzerland: While not fully legalized at the national level, some cantons have approved medical cannabis programs.

United States: Despite federal prohibition, over 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation allowing medical marijuana use.

South Korea: Permits patients to use cannabis extracts under strict conditions for the treatment of rare diseases and certain side effects associated with cancer therapy.

Thailand: Became the first Asian country to legalize medical marijuana in 2018, marking a significant shift in traditional drug policies.

Recreational/Leisure Cannabis Legalization

Building upon the foundation of medical marijuana legalization, several countries and jurisdictions have gone further to establish legal markets for adult-use cannabis (i.e., recreational purposes). The following nations and territories have made this transition:

Canada: Following medical marijuana legalization, became the first G7 nation to legalize recreational cannabis nationwide in October 2018.

Uruguay: In December 2013, became the world’s first country to comprehensively legalize cannabis, encompassing personal cultivation, consumption, and sales.

United States: Despite no change at the federal level, as of the time of writing, multiple states, including but not limited to California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, have passed legislation allowing adults to use cannabis for recreational purposes.

Jamaica: In 2015, the country legalized possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, allowing individuals to cultivate up to five marijuana plants. Consumption of ganja (the local slang term for cannabis) is legal within licensed clinics and private residences.

Georgia: In 2018, the country legalized the recreational use of cannabis, abolishing criminal penalties for its use and proposing legislation to permit cannabis exports.

South Africa: In September 2018, became the first African nation to decriminalize personal use and cultivation of cannabis.

Developments and Trends in Other States

Other countries around the world are actively advancing cannabis legalization efforts or have adopted more lenient regulatory measures. For example:

Thailand: In June 2022, Thailand announced the removal of cannabis from its list of controlled narcotics, enabling citizens to legally grow and possess cannabis, becoming the first country in East Asia to legalize cannabis cultivation and consumption.

Germany: As of April 1, 2024, German adults will be allowed to carry up to 25 grams of dried cannabis and cultivate up to three cannabis plants at home.

The legalization of marijuana is not just a legal issue, but also a cultural and economic one. As more countries consider taking this step, potential changes to the global economic and social landscape become foreseeable.

It is worth noting that even in countries where marijuana is legalized, relevant laws and regulations typically stipulate rigorous control measures, such as age restrictions, purchase limits, bans on public consumption, product labeling requirements, advertising restrictions, etc.

Moreover, definitions of legal marijuana in different countries may encompass whole-plant cannabis, high-CBD low-THC products, or specific cannabis extracts, depending on the interpretation of local regulations.

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