Where is cannabis legal? Countries that have decriminalised marijuana for recreational or medical use

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Germany - Europe’s largest economy - is expected to pass a bill to legalise the recreational use of cannabis in the coming weeks

Germany could be the latest country to introduce a bill to legalise cannabis, as the country's cabinet is set to approve a plan to liberalise the country's rules on cannabis. The new plan could see adults allowed to possess up to 25 grams of the drug, and grow a maximum of three plants for personal use and pharmacies would be able to sell cannabis products.

The legalisation of cannabis for both medical and recreational use varies from country to country but on the whole, the drug is still mostly prohibited for recreational use around the world. 

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The policies for cannabis are regulated by three United Nations (UN) treaties: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), the Convention on Psychotropic Substances (1971), and the Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988). 

Some countries have decriminalised cannabis to make possession a non-criminal offence, but others have much more severe penalties where possession is punishable by imprisonment for up to several years. 

Recreational use

Countries that have legalised the recreational use of cannabis are: 

Canada: The federal Cannabis Act legalised Cannabis on 17 October 2018 and was the second country to legalise cannabis after Uruguay. 

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Georgia: Georgia was one of the first countries in the world to legalise cannabis for both medical and recreational use, by a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Georgia on 30 July 2018. 

Malta: Malta was the first EU country to legalise cannabis for those 18 and older, on 14 December 2021 after decriminalisation was adopted in 2015. Medical use was announced as legal in 2018. 

Mexico: Recreationally, cannabis became legal on 29 June 2021, after the Supreme court of Mexico decriminalised it and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signed a bill allowing adults aged 18 and older to possess up to 28 grams and to grow up to six plants on their property. 

South Africa: Cannabis rulings in South Africa mean it can only be consumed by adults in private - under the country's Constitutional court. There are still laws against consuming cannabis outside personal property, and buying and selling. 

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Thailand: The commercial sale of cannabis was legalised on 9 June 2022. Medical use has been legal since 2018 - where patients were required to have a prescription. 

Uruguay: The commercial sale was legalised in July 2017. President José Mujica signed legislation to legalise recreational cannabis in December 2013, and in 2014, legalised growing up to six plants at home, as well as the formation of Cannabis Social Clubs, a state-controlled marijuana dispensary regime. 

United States: The recreational use of cannabis has been made legal in 21 states, and the medical use of cannabis is legal in 37 states - with a doctor’s recommendation. As of 2022, 10 states have also decriminalised cannabis, with an additional 16 states which initially decriminalised and then later legalised. 

Australian Capital Territory in Australia: Since 31 January 2020, possession and growth of small amounts of cannabis for personal use is legal after the Australian Capital Territory passed a bill to allow it in late 2019. 

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The Netherlands: Contrary to popular belief, cannabis in the Netherlands is illegal, but recreational use is tolerated and decriminalised for personal use. 

Germany - Europe’s largest economy - is expected to pass a bill to legalise the recreational use of cannabis in the coming weeksGermany - Europe’s largest economy - is expected to pass a bill to legalise the recreational use of cannabis in the coming weeks
Germany - Europe’s largest economy - is expected to pass a bill to legalise the recreational use of cannabis in the coming weeks | NWLD/MH

Medical use

Countries that have legalised the medical use of cannabis: 

Argentina: Cannabis is decriminalised in small amounts and private locations - as ruled by the Supreme court in 2009. In Chubut, medical cannabis has been legal since 23 September 2016, and in Sante Fe, since 30 November 2016. 

Australia: Amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act saw cannabis be legally grown for medical and scientific purposes in Australia in 2016.  

Barbados: Medical use of cannabis was legalised in November 2019 through the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Bill but is still illegal for recreational use. To allow for the spiritual use of cannabis, the Sacramental Cannabis Bill was passed to be used by registered Rastafarians. 

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Brazil: Possession for personal amounts for private use was decriminalised in 2006 but recreational cannabis remains illegal in Brazil. 

Canada: Medical cannabis was first legalised in Canada and regulated under the “Marihuana Medical Access Regulations” (MMAR), which came into force on 30 July 2001. 

Chile: Medical use of cannabis was made legal in 2015 after Chile began clinical trials in 2014. Although still illegal for production and public consumption, it can be grown and sold for medical use. 

Colombia: Cannabis has been partially decriminalised for recreational purposes since 1994, but since 2016 has been legal for medical purposes. 

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Costa Rica: Medical use was approved in March 2022 after Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado signed the bill for therapeutic and medicinal use but recreational use is still illegal. 

Croatia: The Croatian Ministry of Health officially legalised cannabis-based drugs in 2015, for patients with illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, or AIDS.

Cyprus: Cannabis is certified as a Class B drug in Cyprus, which is punishable by up to eight years in prison. However, the medical use of cannabis oil was passed in January 2017, for use by advanced-stage cancer patients. However, in February 2019 a more expansive law was passed to include different qualifying medical conditions. 

Czech Republic: Since 1 January 2010, cannabis has been decriminalised in the Czech Republic, and medical use was made legal since 1 April 2013. The law allows for 180g of dry cannabis per month, prescribed by specialised physicians. 

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Denmark: The Danish Medicines Agency approved three types of cannabis derivatives for medical use in 2011 - but all three require a prescription. They are mainly prescribed to cancer patients or those with multiple sclerosis. From January 2018, medical use of whole-plant cannabis is allowed through a four-year pilot programme. 

Ecuador: Personal consumption of cannabis is legal in quantities of up to 10 grams, but the sale of marijuana is illegal. 

Finland: Although illegal in Finland, cannabis can be used by an extremely limited group of people in the form of Sativex or Bedrocan, Bediol or Bedica brand herbal cannabis from one of 27 apothecaries. 

Georgia: Georgia was one of the first countries in the world to legalise cannabis for both medical and recreational use, by a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Georgia on 30 July 2018. 

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Germany: In 2016, the Cabinet of Germany approved legislation allowing the use of cannabis for seriously ill patients who have consulted with a doctor and by 2017, cannabis can be taken with a doctor's prescription, paid for by health insurance.

Greece: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced a joint ministerial decision that led to the legalisation of the medical use of cannabis in June 2017. Patients need a doctor's prescription. A year later, the Greek Parliament approved a law to cultivate and produce medical cannabis in Greece. 

Ireland: Case-by-case approval is needed by the Minister of Health for the use of medical cannabis in Ireland, but cannabis is still illegal for recreational purposes.  

Israel: Medical marijuana has been permitted since the early 1990s for cancer patients and those with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, other chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. It remains illegal for recreational use but is partially decriminalised for home use and if people have 15 grams or less prosecution is not generally enforced by the authorities.

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Where is cannabis legal?Where is cannabis legal?
Where is cannabis legal? | NWLD

Italy: Doctors have been able to prescribe cannabis for therapeutic use since 1998 in Italy. The cost of medical cannabis is covered by the healthcare system for six medical conditions, but for other conditions cannabis can be purchased from pharmacies. In June 2017, the Ministry of Health established a maximum price for medical cannabis between €8.50 and €9.00 per gram, to standardise the expenses sustained by patients. 

Jamaica: In February 2015, Jamaica amended cannabis laws to allow up to two ounces of cannabis in possession and practitioners of the Rastafari faith may use cannabis for religious purposes.Tourists with a prescription for medical marijuana can apply for permits to purchase small amounts. 

Lebanon: The Lebanese parliament passed a law in April 2020 to legalise cannabis cultivation for medical use, and became the first Arab country to do so. However, medical recommendations must be given by a doctor, and provided by a certified entity.

Luxembourg: Luxembourg's Ministry of Health passed a two-year pilot programme in 2017 to allow citizens to obtain cannabis extracts for medical purposes. A year later, lawmakers unanimously approved a bill for its medical legalisation. 

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Malawi: Malawi's parliament legalised the cultivation and processing of cannabis for industrial and medicinal uses in 2020 but did not allow for recreational use. Malawi is one of the largest producers of cannabis in Southern Africa and grows one of the most potent sativas.

Malta: Malta legalised the medical use of cannabis in 2018, to be approved with a prescription.

Mexico: In June 2017, President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bill into law to allow the medical use of cannabis with products containing less than 1% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

Netherlands: Dutch pharmacies have sold legal prescription drugs since 2003. 

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New Zealand: In 2020, New Zealand introduced the Medical Cannabis Scheme, where CBD products may be prescribed by any doctor registered to practise in New Zealand. 

North Macedonia: On February 9 2016, the Macedonian Parliament Health Committee gave its approval for the legalisation of medical marijuana and patients were allowed to buy oil with 0.2% cannabinoids. Anything stronger would require a prescription. 

Norway: Cannabis in Norway is strictly legalised for medicinal use and all other purposes are illegal. 

Panama: Medical cannabis was legalised in 2021, after a bill was passed in the national assembly by a unanimous vote and was signed into law by President Laurentino Cortizo in October. It is illegal to use recreationally, but the law is often unenforced. 

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Peru: Medical cannabis was legalised in 2017 after a raid in Lima,where police shut down an operation which produced cannabis medicines for 80 people whose children suffered from epilepsy and other ailments. 

Poland: In July 2018, the medical use of cannabis was passed with the law going into effect by November. 

Portugal: Medical use was legalised in 2018 and was dispensed at pharmacies. Possession for personal amounts has been decriminalised. 

Rwanda: In 2021, Rwanda passed an order making cannabis for medicinal purposes legal after the law was proposed in 2010. 

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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: In 2018, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines passed two acts where one established the Medical Cannabis Industry. Marijuana is decriminalised and anyone caught with 56 grams (two ounces) or less of cannabis will not be subject to incarceration but will be fined a maximum of $500 and other measures including being given educational material about cannabis; counselling and rehabilitative care.

San Marino: In 2016, a public initiative was presented to the government to allow for the legalisation of medical cannabis. The measure was passed and Sativex is now issued at no cost in San Marino for patients suffering from pain due to multiple sclerosis or bone-marrow conditions. 

South Africa: Cannabis rulings in South Africa mean it can only be consumed by adults in private - under the country's constitutional court. There are still laws against consuming cannabis outside personal property, and buying and selling. 

Spain: Cannabis is decriminalised for personal cultivation and use, and for other purposes other than sale or trade. However, cannabis clubs across the country create a grey area. These areas are technically private, but are a way for individuals to come together and use cannabis. In private, consumption and possession of reasonable amounts (up to 100 grams) is legal. But in 2005, the autonomous Catalonian government launched a programme for the therapeutic use of Sativex, and in 2017 legalising the cultivation, consumption and distribution of cannabis for members of designated cannabis clubs. 

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Sri Lanka: Cannabis is sold through Ayurveda herbal shops and can be used for medical and scientific purposes if given a licence by the Ministry of Health. It is illegal to take it for recreational purposes. 

Switzerland: In March 2021, the Switzerland Federal Council amended the Swiss Narcotics Act to lift the ban on cannabis for medical purposes only. Only two pharmacies are allowed to dispense cannabis tinctures and cannabis oil concentrates for patients with serious or terminal illnesses. 

Thailand: Medical use has been legal since 2018 and patients were required to have a prescription. 

United Kingdom: Medical use of cannabis was legalised in the UK in 2018, and in July 2018 then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced cannabis products would be made legal for patients with an "exceptional clinical need". However, treatment must be initiated by a specialist consultant and may be continued under shared care by a GP or non-medical prescriber. 

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Vanuatu: In 2018, Vanuatu's national healthcare was considering clinical trials of a cannabis-based drug to treat diabetes. 

Zambia: In 2017, Zambian Home Affairs Minister Steven Kampyongo made it legal to cultivate cannabis for medical use if a licence is obtained from the Minister of Health. 

Zimbabwe: On Friday 27 April 2018, Zimbabwe legalised marijuana for medical and scientific purposes. However, possession - with a medical exception - can be used with up to 12 years in jail. 

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