Which countries and states have legalized recreational marijuana, and which are the most likely to do so in the near future? Find out here.
World Map of Cannabis Legal Status
Recreational cannabis use is legal and regulated in Uruguay (2013) and Canada (2018). There are also many countries where cannabis use has been decriminalized such as Jamaica, South Africa, Georgia and the Netherlands.
In the United States, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level — but many individual states have passed recreational marijuana laws.
Last update: Nov 5th, 2020
Cannabis laws are rapidly changing, though I aim to keep this page updated regularly, for the latest information, please check in with me on twitter @thcaffiliates
United States of America
Nov 4, 2020 Update: New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota have become the latest states to pass recreational marijuana legislation. In addition, South Dakota and Mississippi legalized medical-use. Oregon became the first state to legalize access to magic mushrooms.
The medical use of cannabis is legal in 35 states, and weed is legal or decriminalized for recreational use in 31 states. More states are expected to pass recreational legislation in the next few years including New York.
So, where is weed legal in the states?
Recreational Cannabis use is legal in 15 states: Alaska, Arizona*, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana*, New Jersey*, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota*, Vermont, and Washington), plus DC, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.
Decriminalized in 16 states including: Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, Ohio, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Mississippi, New York, and New Hampshire.
CBD and hemp are legal on national level with the 2018 Farm Bill. CBD products are widely available.
*Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota – laws will come in affect early 2021
The recreational use of marijuana has been legal in Canada since October 17, 2018, when it was signed into legislation under the Trudeau government.
The Cannabis Act is the national legal framework of Canadian Cannabis regulations for consuming, growing, producing; while the individual Provinces & municipalities control retail and local bylaws.
Canada & CBD products – something important to note about Canada vs US is that CBD products are regulated strictly in Canada (more like medicine) vs in the United States.
In the US, celebrities like Tommy Chong and Martha Stewart have their own CBD brands, and you can buy every form of CBD imaginable from grocery stores, or even 7-11s. While in Canada, CBD products are only available from licensed dispensaries and much rarer overall.
Also, Canada has much stricter cannabis advertising & marketing guidelines: no celebrity endorsements, no logos, no making any cannabis product seem cool. (Canada’s tobacco marketing laws are also very strict).
For more info about Canadian cannabis regulations and how they affect businesses, see our guide on starting a cannabis business in Canada.
Uruguay was the first country to fully legalize recreational cannabis use. President Jose Mujica signed legislation that legalized recreational cannabis in December 2013.
Editors note: I spent time in Uruguay in 2019 and plan on going back. Cannabis is not easy to purchase legally compared to Canada or legal US States. It’s sold at pharmacies, requires registration (easy, but not available to tourists), and the pharmacies are often sold out. However, if available it is cheap. The grey market is still the main source of recreational cannabis.
I was told that the pharmacies, in general have two kinds available sold like “regular” vs “medical”.
Jamaica is commonly associated with marijuana, but the country didn’t decriminalize weed until 2015. Although cannabis is still illegal, possession under 2 ounces for personal use is decriminalized (though small fines might be issued). Medical marijuana is available and Rastafarians are allowed to possess and use marijuana for religious ceremonies.
European countries have varying laws concerning marijuana.
In the Netherlands, people have been selling marijuana in coffee shops since the 1970s. Marijuana use is decriminalized, but citizens must not cause a disturbance while under the influence, and businesses can not sell more than five grams of marijuana to a customer at a time.
Marijuana laws are relaxed in Portugal, and those who are charged with marijuana possession more than once will likely receive rehab instead of jail time.
In Spain, individuals can not use marijuana in public without being fined. Most people in Spain who use marijuana do so privately, and have formed social clubs as a way to avoid using marijuana in public.
France has strict but changing marijuana laws. People who are caught consuming marijuana could receive spot fines, might be required to take a drug awareness class and could spend up to a year in prison (though jail time is rare). However, France is also piloting a medical cannabis program giving patients free marijuana starting in March 2021.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Germany since 2017. Individuals who are unauthorized to possess or use marijuana are not likely to face jail time if they only have a small amount.
Which Countries Will Legalize Marijuana Next?
Rumor has it these countries are the some of the most likely places to legalize next…
Mexico has decriminalized private consumption and possession for small amounts of marijuana (5 grams or less), and medical low-THC / CBD cannabis is has been legal as of 2017.
In late 2018, Mexico’s supreme court ruled the prohibition of unconstitutional. However cannabis in general, is still illegal in Mexico. (sources: WayofLeaf, Wikipedia)
While cannabis is illegal, medical cannabis has had growing support in the UK over the last decade. Medical-use with licensing has been permitted since Nov. 2018.
Where is cannabis legal?
Recreational cannabis use is legal or decriminalized in Uruguay, Canada, South Africa, and Georgia. In the United States, while still illegal on a national-level, recreational marijuana use is legal (or decriminalized) in 29 states and most states allow some form of medicinal use. (hemp, CBD and non-THC marijuana products are legal in the USA since 2018.)
Where is medicinal cannabis legal?
Beyond Uruguay, Canada, South Africa and Georgia — there are a few dozen countries that allow cannabis for medicinal purposes: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Which states have legalized weed?
States that have passed recreational cannabis legislation include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington –plus DC, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam.
Additionally, the following states have passed some cannabis decriminalization reforms; Connecticut, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, Ohio, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Mississippi, New York, and New Hampshire.
It’s important to note that marijuana remains an illegal substance federally.
When will cannabis be federally legal in the USA?
As of November 2020, the Democratic-led House is set to vote for the federal legalization of marijuana. Politicians will vote to implement the MORE Act, which will expunge some marijuana-related cases and remove marijuana from the controlled substances list. The Senate, however, is majority Republican at this time, which means it’s difficult to know whether the act will be passed soon.
Which countries have the strictest cannabis laws?
Malaysia arguably has the strictest cannabis laws. Residents who are found with 200 grams or more of marijuana receive the death penalty.
Singapore has very strict marijuana laws as well. Citizens and visitors are not even allowed to chew gum there! According to Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act, the burden of proof is the responsibility of the defendant. This basically means anyone caught with weed in the country will be penalized.
In the United Arab Emirates, you could face up to four years in prison authorities find even a trace of marijuana on your person or property.
- National Conference of State Legislators – State Medical Marijuana Laws
- Legality of Cannabis on Wikipedia – Maps and links to country-by-country breakdown.
Conclusion and Further Reading
- Cannabis Business Ideas – Dozens of ideas for cannabis-related business opportunities.
- How to Start a Cannabis Business in Canada – step by step guide with special notes on regulations and marketing.
Did I miss something? Has something changed and I haven’t updated yet? Please comment below or get in touch on twitter. Thanks!