Photo by splifr
Update: Due to the changing nature of marijuana laws and your comments, we will be adding regular posts about the practice of smoking pot around the world and related international laws. If interested, please view the first in the series: Marijuana Laws in Southeast Asia.
DESPITE THE POPULARITY OF weed and hash, most governments in the world have deemed it harmful to the individual and society as a whole.
There are only 11 nations in the world where weed and hash have been decriminalized. A handful of countries impose mandatory prison sentences and other harsh punishments for the possession or sale of any form of weed and hash. Another handful look the other way when dealing with cannabis.
Some places that are easy on weed heads can be broken up by region:
In Latin America, cannabis is tolerated and/or decriminalized in most countries, with the exception of Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala. Marijuana grows well in Central and South America and is a large part of the economy.
Governments tend to have more to worry about than whether someone is smoking a joint. For travelers, this means that smoking in South America is probably okay, but caution should be used.
Only Peru considers cannabis to be a legal drug, provided you are not in possession of another drug. I get the impression that throughout Latin America, the tolerance doesn’t typically extend to tourists, especially if the police can get a bribe out of it, but you should never travel with pot and risk being searched.
I would highly recommend caution throughout Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and even Costa Rica. Although weed is sold to tourists all the time in quantities up to 1/4 pound, those buyers in turn, are often set up for the policia.
In this particular region, weed may be tolerated, decriminalized or even legal up to small amounts (usually about 20 grams), but as always, keep a low profile.
Here’s a quick break down:
- ARGENTINA: Decriminalized for personal use in small amounts and for consumption only in private locations. Public consumption is generally accepted among the young adults and overlooked by police in the suburbs.
- BOLIVIA: Possession illegal. No move to decriminalize.
- BRAZIL: Possession illegal.
- CHILE: Personal use of marijuana in small quantities on a private place is not against the law. More than one person using it at the same place is considered as a group and thus is considered illegal.
- COLOMBIA: Possession of small quantities of all drugs legal; permitted “personal dose” for marijuana is 20 grams.
- ECUADOR: Possession illegal. No move to decriminalize.
- PARAGUAY: Possession illegal. No move to decriminalize.
- PERU: Possession of up to 8 grams (0.28 oz) of marijuana is legal as long as one isn’t in possession of another drug. However, I’ve read some first hand accounts about the police being fairly strict. Caution is urged.
- URUGUAY: Possession for personal use not penalized; law does not specify quantity for “personal” amount.
- VENEZUELA: Possession of up to 20 grams not punished.
- BELIZE: Illegal, but use by locals is slightly tolerated.
- GUATEMALA: Highly illegal. Possession by Guatemalans in not normally prosecuted for personal use, but tourists are commonly arrested and jailed for several days before being released.
- HONDURAS: Illegal, but use by locals is slightly tolerated.
- PANAMA: Illegal
- COSTA RICA: Illegal, but tolerated. Watch out for being set up.
Europe is another region where cannabis is generally tolerated, decriminalized or even legal.
We all know about the Netherlands. It is legal to buy and smoke herb in the Netherlands, in amounts up to five grams per person per day. People regularly smoke in public parks and anywhere else they can find a bench and a view.
In the Netherlands, one notices that tourists (especially American tourists) go a little overboard and smoke their way into oblivion. The only caution I would take here is making sure you don’t get duped at the coffee shops or robbed by opportunistic thugs.
- GERMANY and BELGIUM: decriminalized. This means that possessing a small amount is ok, but puffing in public and selling weed is not.
- SPAIN and FRANCE: smoking at home and the possession of a few grams will get you searched and checked out at worst.
- ITALY: possession of more than a gram could result in a search and seizure.
- GREECE: illegal. Really tough on weed.
- DENMARK: illegal. Very uncool towards cannabis ever since authorities bulldozed the Christiana district in Copenhagen.
- MACEDONIA: decriminalized.
- SERBIA: looks away if it looks at all.
- SLOVENIA: has no police (just kidding, but it is a relaxed place).
- BOSNIA: illegal but tolerated.
- CROATIA: illegal and not tolerated.
- SCANDINVIAN COUNTRIES: laws are quite strict concerning weed and it is not advisable to get caught smoking
The other region where weed is ok is North Africa. In Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, locals smoke hash, a fine alternative to alcohol and accepted in society. However, this societal norm does not necessarily apply to tourists.
In other words, locals may be puffing, but if the laws still consider what you are doing as illegal, a cop can still make money off you. I recommend smoking with friends only in this region.
- EGYPT: Illegal, but not strictly enforced, just don’t smoke in public. Also, don’t carry large quantities unless you’d like to see the inside of an Egyptian jail.
- MOROCCO: Illegal. Not recommended to smoke in public or to carry more than a few grams at a time–whatever you can quickly swallow or throw away. Tourists are usually let off with fines, but technically can be jailed for 4-10 years. Even more if you’re suspected of smuggling.
Having said all that, these are the nations in which cannabis is legal for consumption and where you should be able to smoke in peace:
- BELGIUM: Up to 5 grams.
- CZECH REPUBLIC: Personal use.
- GERMANY: Up to 5 grams.
- INDIA: All good.
- MACEDONIA: Up to 5 grams.
- NETHERLANDS: Coffee shops and parks, personal use.
- PAKISTAN: Ummm… All good, but as a tourist I would watch my back and smoke with Pakistani friends in their homes.
- PERU: Personal use, up to 5 grams.
- RUSSIA: Personal use, up to 5 grams If you are caught, you will have to pay low fines as possession of small amounts is still illegal
- VENEZUELA: Personal use, up to 5 grams.
- AUSTRALIA: Up to 50grams! (Certain states of Australia have decriminalized marijuana possession. In Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland one can be simply ticketed for up to 50 grams. If found in possession with intent to supply, convictions apply)
I use “up to five grams” because I like to err on the side of caution. I have smoked publicly with fishermen in Thailand, tea merchants in Egypt, farmers in SW China and all my homies throughout Europe and the US. I will continue to do so.
People all over the planet understand the need to just relax and do your thing after a long day. Some do it with alcohol, some with tea, some with weed, and some with a book.
Stick to the nations numbered above and if you need to puff elsewhere, be careful.
Headed to Amsterdam? Check out 7 Coffee Shops in Amsterdam that are Good to Go – and, while you’re at it, 10 Things to do in Amsterdam Besides Smoking Pot. Also be sure to give a read to Tim Patterson’s Tripping Out On The Road: Drugs, Alcohol and Travel.
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Sascha Matuszak is a freelance writer living in and out of Asia for the past 8 years. He has written about peasants, Tibetans, artists, revolutionaries, big bosses and various other personalities throughout the years. Check out his candid blog.
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