The United Nations is a powerful political union. By being a member, nations are required to abide by the 'conventions' or rules set down by the UN.

The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 required all member nations to adopt a similar drug enforcement stance. This stance was laid out in great part by the United States. There are some conditions that allow a nation to adopt a different stance than the one propagated by the United States in the failed War on Drugs.

The five primary conditions for regulated legalization are:

  1. This must be in the interest of the protection of human rights.

  2. The state must demonstrate that the regulated legalization of the cultivation and trade of cannabis will result in the more effective protection of human rights.

  3. The decision regarding such regulation must have public support and must be decided through the nationwide democratic process.

  4. There must be a closed system so that foreign countries are not disadvantaged in any way by this measure.

  5. The state is required to actively discourage cannabis use.

If a state can meet these conditions, under current international law, it is permissible to give priority to human rights obligations over the obligations of the U.N. drug conventions.

Not all nations have decided to listen to scientific research on drug enforcement. Some have draconian laws that harshly penalize even small infractions while other nations have fully legalized all drugs. Most sit somewhere in the middle with a few surprises mixed in. Here is a list of some of the most progressive and repressive countries today and how they treat cannabis. If you are looking for a specific country, the list is in alphabetical order.


Cannabis is classified as a controlled substance in Argentina. In August 2009, the Argentinean Supreme Court declared the prosecution of the private use of cannabis unconstitutional. While they have not made cannabis legal, this is effectively decriminalization, just don't get caught selling it.


Cannabis laws in Australia differ by territory. Overall, marijuana in Australia is still considered illegal although the penalties vary by territory.

In the Australian capital territory possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis or two plants carries a fine of 100 Australian Dollars. This is treated as a citation instead of a crime so it doesn't go on a person's record.

In South Australia fines range from 150 to 300 Australian dollars for possession and/or cultivation. It is a criminal offense to possess or cultivate marijuana here.

Western Australia feels that possession of more than two plants for private use is too much. having more than two plants can result in fines of 150 Australian dollars or more.

In New South Wales & Tasmania cannabis use is outright illegal.

Queensland has taken a harsh stance compared to the rest of the territories. Here Cannabis possession and use is illegal. A maximum prison sentence of 15 years can be levied against smokers. Possession of marijuana paraphernalia is also a criminal offense so mind your P's and Q's.


Prosecuting cannabis is a low priority for Belgium police. Public intoxication is still frowned about so don't plan on ripping bongs down the street. Possessing 3 grams or more can see you in court. You can also get in trouble for selling weed here. The Belgian government is supportive of research into medical marijuana. The Belgians are also open to decriminalization in the future.


Brazil has some tricky language around cannabis criminalization. Cannabis sativa is considered a controlled substance. It is illegal to possess, distribute or cultivate any of the cannabis sativa plant. Interestingly, THC appears as a separate entity, making hemp a legal crop. Even so, cannabis prohibition is not heavily enforced.


According to the Standard Times in February of 2016, Bulgaria is one of the top hemp producers in Europe. However cannabis containing more than 0.2% THC is illegal to grow, possess or sell.


The use of weed is widespread among the Khmer people of Cambodia. Natives and foreigners alike can indulge in places designated as “Happy Restaurants”. These restaurants are mainly found in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. One of the highlights is the publicly offered food cooked with marijuana.


Marijuana Medical Access Regulations were declared unconstitutional by the Canadian government because they do not allow seriously ill Canadians to use marijuana. Basically, although the MMAR gives patients the rights to use medical cannabis, it does not set up the legal apparatus for legally obtaining the medicine.


Marijuana was decriminalized in Columbia in 1994. Up to 22 grams and 20 plants is the legal limit here. If you get caught with over 20 plants for whatever reason, the punishment can be brutally severe.

Costa Rica

While no limits have been set, marijuana has been decriminalized. If you are chill, they don't really care. You start making waves and you might find out what happens in legal grey zones. Best advice is to be cool.


Conviction of cultivation or sale of cannabis will result in a prison sentence of three or more years. Croatia takes DUI's seriously and will administer drug tests if they suspect you are under the influence. They can suspend a person's license and compel them to attend rehab.

Czech Republic

In 2013 medical marijuana was legalized and is now a regulated market. Possession limits of up to 15 grams for personal use were enacted and they haven't looked back.


Don't get caught selling, cultivating or transporting cannabis here. Ten grams is the legal limit in Ecuador. Punishment can be pretty harsh so try to avoid having it come up in enforcement encounters if you can.


You can have up to 7.5 grams of cannabis here and not have any problems. Go over that limit and you can get sentenced to 5 years in prison. Not a great way to end a vacation.


There is a strictly regulated marijuana market in Italy. Recreational use is not tolerated though. There is a misdemeanor attached to possession while selling cannabis-based products is punishable by prison time.


You can expect to have the law look the other way for less than 5 grams of flower or concentrates. Northern states tend to be more lenient than southern ones but they just want you to be able to keep your cool. Be Deutsch, be nice.


You're probably not shocked to see that Jamaica has decriminalized marijuana. I bet you would be surprised that they did it within the last few years. Possession of up to two ounces on the island is equivalent to a slap on the wrist. Citizens can now also grow up to five plants for use of religious use.


Mexico decriminalized weed in 2009. It hasn't gone as far as full legalization in part due to the continued War on Drugs by their northern neighbor. Corruption is so common at the local level that some areas are enforced and controlled by drug cartels. Try not to sell, cultivate transport large quantities lest you step on a cartels toes.


The Nepalese have used cannabis for centuries. Use has mostly been in religious rituals that involve either drinking an infused beverage, smoking the buds, or harvesting and smoking concentrates. It is legal to consume and cultivate cannabis here.


It has been fully legalized in designated smoking areas (like coffee shops) throughout the Netherlands. Weed is almost legal across the board, but selling and transporting it will result in legal problems.

North Korea

The famously hermetic country has a wonderfully liberal stance on marijuana in stark contrast to the ultra conservative politics it is known for. Cannabis is sold in stores across the country and people can openly consume to their hearts content. Despite being a totalitarian regime, they seem to feel the sedating effects of cannabis are not a problem for their stressed population. Or they just hate America enough to change their laws to spite the 'Imperialist aggressors" as Kim Jong-un once called them.


It is illegal to possess cannabis in Pakistan. However, it’s widely tolerated by both the population and the police. Cultivating marijuana has been decriminalized and many farmers get to choose between cannabis or poppy crops. Cannabis cultivation is one of the longest standing human traditions and the peoples of ancient Pakistan were some of the first to start.


Peru has no problem with cannabis but they hate drug dealers.. It is legal to possess, cultivate, manufacture and consume weed here. It is not legal to sell weed here though. There are stiff penalties for getting caught selling so try not to do that.


Portugal became the first nation in the world to legalize all drugs in 2001. We are talking every single one. The results have been inspiring and many countries have had to reassess how they treat drug use as a result. People are allowed to carry 25 grams at a time. Going over that limit results in drug counseling instead of prison time making Portugal arguably the most progressive country in the world on drug policy.


The Kremlin is ok with the population having up to 6 grams of cannabis at a time. Going over that amount will result in prison time. Russian prisons are known throughout the world as notoriously bad places to end up. Best to stay under the limits here if you have plans in the next ever.


Referred to as the new Amsterdam, Spain boasts about 500 cannabis clubs throughout the country. Spain has made it fully legal to grow and smoke weed in the comfort of your home or while out catching some football.


The Swiss allow cultivation of up to four marijuana plants per person. Due to their mountainous topography and northern location, indoor cultivation is the only way to go. Because personal limits are based on plant count and not weight, people can have pounds of cannabis and not run into issues until they try to make a profit off the stash.


People can have up to 5 grams of cannabis on them or cultivate up to ten plants without getting into any trouble. There are harsh penalties for selling cannabis though and getting caught doing so should be avoided at all costs.

United States

America has a split personality when it comes to cannabis. Currently, both recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in the states of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. The cities of Portland and South Portland in Maine; as well as Keego Harbor, Michigan, have also legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use. In the rest of the country, cannabis remains a crime with punishment ranging from fines to prison time.


The Uruguayan president Jose Mujica fully legalized pot recently. There haven't been any limits or penalties set for selling or transporting yet but Mujica has set a minimum age of 18 to purchase and consume. It will be interesting how they move forward.