While legalization is on an upswing, the fact of the matter is that viewed from a global perspective, marijuana legalization is a mixed bag to say the least. We have curated a list of some of the worst and best places for marijuana use, so you can have an idea of what places are safe and welcoming and where they can be positively dangerous for your weed habit. Knowledge is power, so be sure to make certain you know the local rules before you even think about visiting anywhere with pot in tow.
The Most Dangerous Places
Singapore is known the world over as a place where you can be literally caned over a misplaced piece of chewing gum. As you might imagine, the use and possession of drugs there is….. Frowned upon. Cannabis possession has been banned in Singapore since 1870, giving prohibition there an astonishingly lengthy history. Possession OR consumption of cannabis can lead to up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $20,000, or both. It can also result in- you guessed it- caning. If they catch you with 500 grams or more, or they otherwise impute the intent to traffic your marijuana, they may even give you the death penalty. Under no circumstances should you take marijuana to Singapore. Not only should you not bring it, they may compel you to take a drug test and you may end up imprisoned for drugs you didn’t even take on Singaporan soil. The Canadian government has a travel advisory up about precisely this issue. Consequently, you should make sure that any weed you’ve ingested is completely out of your system before you visit Singapore. This may sound like a draconian precaution to take, but it is worth it to avoid spending time in a Singaporan prison.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Weed aficionados, beware the House of Saud. Mere possession can result in significant prison sentences, ranging from 1-6 months. If you are a repeat offender, or are caught dealing, the terms can be even longer, depending on the magnitude of the offense. More significant than this, up until recently, pot offenses can be coupled with whipping, which is an extremely painful piece of corporal punishment. While flogging has supposedly been abolished as of April of 2020, the reality is that Saudi Arabia is not a society of laws, and corporal punishment is never truly off the table if the House of Saud wishes it to be an option.
Malaysia is particularly noteworthy because the penalty for trafficking in weed is death, making it extremely low on the list of places you should ever bring your stash. A mere 7 ounces is all it takes for the authorities to impute a trafficking charge to you, which means that they don’t need to prove anything other than that you were carrying that tiny amount. Having a much smaller amount can still lead to an extraordinary 10 years in prison, which is probably something that you want to avoid. They aren’t bluffing, either: in 2018 the death penalty was handed down to a 28 year old native. Your status as a foreigner might get you leniency, but when leniency means imprisonment for years rather than death, do you really want to gamble on the embassy getting you out?
Known locally as kaya or wii-wii, cannabis is extremely popular in Nigeria, which is a major source of pot production for all of western Africa. One might assume from this that they have a relatively lenient attitude towards marijuana, but unfortunately in this case one would be incorrect. An alliance with the United States guarantees an attitude towards weed that is nothing short of draconian. If you are caught possessing cannabis, you will be facing a minimum of 12 years in prison. If they decide that you were trafficking the drug, you might be staring down a sentence of life imprisonment. You might ask how to square that with it being such a popular area for consumption or production of the drug, and the only obvious answer is that locals understand better how to navigate the legal system so as to avoid the above penalties, something that a traveler absolutely will not realize how to do. It’s best to avoid the risk entirely and make certain that you are cannabis free before you begin your Nigerian journey.
The republic of Turkey still clings to strict standards of cannabis illegality…. Though considered a European nation, Turkey’s attitude towards weed is much more similar to its closer neighbors in the middle east than its European cousins. Mere possession of the drug is sufficient to guarantee a sentence of 1-2 years in prison. That said, at least some progress is being made, as the drug is cultivated for medical purposes in some of Turkey’s provinces. Light at the end of the tunnel? Don’t get too excited, though: if Turkish authorities determine that you’re trafficking, you face a minimum of 10 years in a Turkish prison!
Moderately Dangerous Places
Although South Korea has proven itself very friendly towards medical marijuana, cannabis is still completely outlawed for recreational purposes. Possession of the drug can result in a steep fine, up to around $40,000 or, in the case of trafficking, as many as 5 years in prison. While you may want to consult the US Embassy to see if your medical prescription can be sufficient for South Korea, in general you want to minimize weed use on the Korean peninsula. Oddly, some people believe that cannabis use is effectively legal in North Korea, but other scholars say that this is a misapprehension born out of a lack of understanding of that country’s complicated legal codes.
Given its background connection to Rastafarianism, one would be forgiven to assume that Ethiopia is a liberal paradise for the consumption of pot. Regrettably, one would be incorrect: the Ethiopian authorities want nothing to do with any of that, and possession of weed can lead to as many as 6 months imprisonment. That said, cannabis is not considered a major issue in the country, and if you are discreet you should be able to avoid much in the way of legal trouble.
The republic of Hungary is of split minds on the subject of cannabis use. If a suitably tiny amount (between 12-100 grams) of marijuana is found, the assumption is that the purpose of the drug is for personal use. If caught with such an amount, you can engage in a rehabilitation program and will not deal with any other punishment. More than that, however, and the assumption becomes that you are a dealer, and you may suddenly be staring down a 5-10 year prison sentence! The lesson here is if you must partake within Hungarian borders, make absolutely certain that you possess only a suitably tiny quantity for personal use….otherwise you’re rolling the dice on 10 years of your life!
Wait, what is Japan doing here, you ask? Isn’t Japan a nation with a similar attitude towards crime and punishment as the various western nations that take a lenient view towards cannabis? Well, that might be true for crime in general, but drug laws in Japan are very different. Mere possession may be enough to land you 5 years in a Japanese jail. Now, in practice, personal use will probably just land you a steep fine, but beware being charged for transport or trafficking, as that can get you 7-10 years imprisonment, with an additional fine to boot. Being an island nation, getting cannabis into Japan without getting arrested is difficult enough, so it’s almost certainly not worth the risk.
Pakistan is likewise split, but for a very different reason to Hungary. In theory, cannabis is outlawed, and subject to penalties up to 7 years imprisonment. In practice, cannabis laws go unenforced, and weed is extremely popular. It’s frequently ingested either through being smoked as charas or as part of a drink, usually called bhang. So you can probably both find and get away with consuming pot in Pakistan, but as a practical matter it may be unwise to carry any particular amount around with you. If you’re caught, hopefully you have a friend to help you find your way through the Pakistani legal system, as a “fine” paid to the right hands may help keep you from 7 years in jail!
Cambodia is yet another example of the letter of the law conflicting greatly with actual practice. While technically illegal, cannabis laws are so unenforced that many restaurants serve dishes with cannabis mixed in. In point of fact, one popular dish, happy pizza, is pizza made with marijuana. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the dish is actually most popular among the tourists!
Relatively Safer Places
After years of attempts, including many failed bills in parliament, Canadians finally became able to purchase recreational cannabis in 2018, becoming the second country to fully (formally) legalize the drug. Canada is well aware of its rarified status, however, and warns its citizens against traveling to much of the world with weed in tow, particularly its southern neighbor, which is rather more close minded on the subject of legalization.
The first country on Earth to fully legalize pot, Uruguay wears the laurels for the single safest destination for smokers and tokers. In practice, sale of the drug is fairly regulated, as it is only permissible through drug stores that are approved by the government, and even then consumers are limited to purchasing 40 grams per month, their purchases being tracked in a national database. There is a broad allowance for raising plants for personal use, however, and Uruguay is unusual in that it has never criminalized possession of drugs for personal use. Therefore, while you may find greater commercial choice elsewhere, Uruguay is nonetheless unique both historically and for how safe the consumption of weed is, due to their national history of a liberal attitude towards pot consumption.
Although technically illegal to consume cannabis, in practice it is widely consumed and available, and indeed has arguably the cheapest prices in the world. India is also unusual in that it has separate legal status for bhang, which is the consumption of marijuana in drink form. Consequently, it is cheap and easy to get pot both of the normal variety and, even safer, the liquid variety in India. Exceptions are Assam and Maharashtra provinces, where bhang is illegal on a provincial basis but nonetheless, India is one of the easiest and safest places to get a hold of quality weed.
While possession of marijuana in Mexico is still technically illegal, the reality of the situation is that the Mexican Supreme Court has stated that the law that forbids recreational use is itself illegal, putting the entire situation in a state of flux. By December 15, 2020 Mexico is supposed to change the laws to comply with the new ruling, although this itself represents an extension of a previous deadline, so it is unclear when the legal changes will actually happen! Regardless, in practice this leaves the system in a funny place. The police can still attempt to arrest you for personal cannabis use, but you can respond by citing the Supreme Court ruling to prevent arrest. Hopefully, this will all be resolved by the end of the year, but until then Mexico is still one of the safest places to use pot recreationally.
Surely marijuana is legal in Jamaica, right? Sadly, no. While small amounts for personal use are effectively decriminalized and will not result in it going on the user’s permanent criminal record, it is still illegal. That said, penalties are extremely minor and as a tourist you are unlikely to run into much trouble. For practitioners of Rastafarianism, small amounts are permitted for religious purposes, and medical marijuana users can secure permission to purchase small amounts of pot for medical purposes while on the island. Still, exercise at least a small amount of caution- don’t brazenly light up in front of the police!
The Netherlands have a reputation for being rather freewheeling as far as cannabis goes, but that goes more towards their place in history than actual modern day reality. While personal consumption of weed is generally ignored and allowed by the authorities, it actually is not technically legal. Now yes, there are indeed some coffee shops that openly sell weed, and no, you are not likely at all to get in any trouble for ingesting it, but if you’re unlucky, particularly at the border, you may end up with your pot confiscated, which is no fun for anyone.
Possession is not legal in Deutschland, but interestingly the usage of narcotics is itself not criminalized, being seen as self harm that is beyond the scope of the law. That said, possession is punished at the discretion of the officer in question, and is therefore not likely to happen if done in private and away from the eyes of minors. Basically, Germany has adopted a hear no evil/see no evil policy towards pot, and therefore creates a certain detente with pot users. If you want to be even more safe, have no more than 6 grams on you at a time, as that is the amount that is the minimum likely amount to be prosecuted.
A Beautiful Place of Danger and Opportunity
The world is still a dangerous place for would be marijuana users. At the end of the day, much of the world is openly hostile to the use of weed for any purpose, although we are slowly seeing the rosy fingers of dawn on the horizon for medical marijuana. Be careful before you go anywhere at all with your stash, as the authorities at your destination may be significantly less tolerant than the regime you are used to. At the end of the day, the single most important thing you can do is to research the local (and federal, if applicable) marijuana laws of your destination. You need to research like your life depends upon it, because in a very real sense, it does!