In recent years, the legal status of cannabis has undergone significant changes around the world. While some countries have fully legalized cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use, others have decriminalized its possession or only permitted its use for medical purposes. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the countries and states where cannabis is legal, as well as those that are likely to legalize it in the near future.
Where is Cannabis Legal Around the World?
Canada: In 2018, Canada became the second country in the world, after Uruguay, to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. The Cannabis Act allows adults to possess and consume cannabis, with limits on personal possession and cultivation.
United States: While cannabis remains illegal at the federal level in the United States, several states have passed laws allowing for its recreational use. As of now, 23 states, including California, have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. Additionally, medical use of cannabis is legal in many more states.
Malta: In December 2021, Malta became the first European Union member country to legalize recreational cannabis. Adults are allowed to possess a limited amount of cannabis for personal use and grow a small number of plants at home.
Luxembourg: Luxembourg has proposed legislation to allow the cultivation of up to four cannabis plants at home and decriminalize public possession and consumption of cannabis. Instead of facing criminal charges, users would receive on-the-spot fines.
Netherlands: The Netherlands has long tolerated the sale and use of cannabis in coffee shops. However, the cultivation of cannabis remains illegal.
Spain: While private cultivation of cannabis is allowed in Spain, selling and smoking cannabis in public is prohibited.
Portugal: Portugal took a progressive step in 2001 by decriminalizing the consumption and possession of all drugs, including cannabis. Users may still face fines, but the focus is on addiction treatment rather than criminalization.
Uruguay: Uruguay was the first country in the world to fully legalize the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis in 2013. Residents have multiple options to access cannabis, including purchasing it from pharmacies, growing it themselves, or joining cannabis clubs.
Mexico: In June 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis. However, the establishment of a legal market is still in progress.
South Africa: In 2018, South Africa’s highest court ruled that the private, personal use of cannabis by adults is legal. However, the sale and distribution of cannabis remain prohibited.
Cannabis Legalization in the United States
In the United States, the legal status of cannabis varies from state to state. While cannabis is illegal at the federal level, many states have passed laws allowing for its medicinal and/or recreational use. As of now, 23 states, along with the District of Columbia, have legalized the recreational use of cannabis.
Recreational Cannabis Legalization by State
Here is a timeline of when each state legalized recreational cannabis:
- Colorado: Legalized in 2012.
- Washington: Legalized in 2012.
- Alaska: Legalized in 2014.
- Oregon: Legalized in 2014.
- Washington, D.C.: Legalized in 2014.
- California: Legalized in 2016.
- Maine: Legalized in 2016.
- Massachusetts: Legalized in 2016.
- Nevada: Legalized in 2016.
- Michigan: Legalized in 2018.
- Vermont: Legalized in 2018.
- Illinois: Legalized in 2019.
- Arizona: Legalized in 2020.
- Montana: Legalized in 2020.
- New Jersey: Legalized in 2020.
- New Mexico: Legalized in 2021.
- New York: Legalized in 2021.
- Virginia: Legalized in 2021.
- Rhode Island: Legalized in 2022.
- Maryland: Legalized in 2022.
- Missouri: Legalized in 2022.
- Delaware: Legalized in 2023.
- Minnesota: Legalized in 2023.
In addition to these states, several others have decriminalized cannabis or legalized its medical use. However, it’s important to note that cannabis remains illegal at the federal level.
Cannabis Legalization in Canada
Canada made history in 2018 by becoming the second country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. The Cannabis Act allows adults to possess and consume cannabis, with limitations on personal possession and cultivation. The legislation also regulates the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis.
The Future of Cannabis Legalization
While many countries and states have already legalized cannabis, several others are considering or in the process of implementing similar measures. Here are some countries that are likely to legalize cannabis in the near future:
Switzerland has taken significant steps towards cannabis legalization. In 2021, the country launched a trial version of a legal recreational cannabis market, making it the first European country to allow a legal adult-use cannabis supply chain.
Mexico decriminalized private consumption and possession of small amounts of cannabis in 2021. There are ongoing discussions and efforts to establish a legal market for recreational cannabis.
Although cannabis is classified as a Class B drug in the United Kingdom, there has been growing support for the medical use of cannabis. Since November 2018, medical use with licensing has been permitted. CBD products are also legal for use and sale without a prescription.
Israel took a significant step in 2019 by allowing adults aged 18 and above to use cannabis in private without facing criminal charges. However, public possession and smoking of cannabis are still prohibited.
The legal status of cannabis is evolving worldwide. While some countries have fully legalized cannabis for recreational use, others have decriminalized its possession or only permitted its use for medical purposes. In the United States, several states have legalized recreational cannabis, despite its federal illegality. Canada was the second country to legalize recreational cannabis, following Uruguay.
As more countries and states consider cannabis legalization, the landscape of cannabis laws continues to change. It’s important to stay informed about the legal status of cannabis in your jurisdiction and respect local laws.