Changing Attitudes: Countries Legalizing, Decriminalizing, Prescribing Marijuana

Attitudes regarding marijuana have shifted in a dramatic way over the past 10 years, with more countries moving to either legalize the plant, decriminalize the possession of a small amount of cannabis, or legalizing it for medicinal purposes. Other countries rarely enforce their laws that criminalize the plant, making it "effectively legal" in the eyes of international agencies and travelers. Before heading abroad, consider this roundup of marijuana information pulled from Konoptikum.  

Legalized Marijuana: A Global Rarity

Currently, only one country has fully legalized marijuana. In early December, Uruguay's legislature voted 16-13 to legalize the cultivation, sale, purchase, and possession of marijuana. The plant is also effectively legal in at least two other countries. North Korea reportedly has no firm laws, and virtually no firm enforcement, concerning marijuana use or sale. The Netherlands has also famously failed to enforce its own statutes on the drug for locals and visitors. In the United States, two states, Washington and Colorado, have effectively legalized the possession, sale, and purchase of marijuana even while sweeping federal laws prevent such activities.

Medicinal Use is a Popular Choice

Scores of countries permit the medicinal use of marijuana, including a large number of American states. The Czech Republic has very liberal medicinal marijuana laws that have been central to the treatment of cancer and other terminal illnesses in the country. Canada has similar laws, making it a destination of choice for those who need cannabis to treat what ails them. More countries permit this kind of use than ever before, including 10 European Union countries and several in South America.

Illegality is Sweeping, However

Virtually the entire Middle East and much of Asia prohibits marijuana sale and possession, with some of these countries even enforcing capital punishment for those found guilty of such crimes. The United States, furthermore, reserves the right to arrest and imprison those found using, selling, or buying the drug in states where it has not been decriminalized. Even so, marijuana views and laws continue to liberalize. With increasing movements toward legalization and regulation, the future of marijuana is one worth watching closely for changes, developments, and improvements around the world.

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