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Countries Where Weed Is Illegal 2024

The legality of cannabis—also called weed, pot, marijuana, and many other names—is a controversial subject. Although classed alongside drugs such as LSD by the US DEA, cannabis has proven medical benefits. It is an FDA-approved treatment for some forms of epilepsy, and mounting evidence suggests it can help reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy (pain, nausea) and manage afflictions including glaucoma, MS, Alzheimer's disease, and general pain or anxiety.

Cannabis is also highly valued by recreational users. Many advocates maintain that cannabis is less harmful and addictive than legal drugs such as alcoholic beverages and tobacco products and should therefore be legalized for recreational use. However, opponents believe that cannabis is a gateway drug that can lead to abuse of other drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Globally, government leaders lean toward a conservative stance on cannabis, so it is still illegal in a majority of the world's UN-recognized countries. However, global support for both recreational and (more commonly) medicinal use of cannabis is growing.

Explaining the difference between cannabis, marijuana, and hemp (as well as THC and CBD)

There is considerable confusion regarding the terms cannabis, marijuana, and hemp and how they differ from one another.

  • Cannabis is the botanical name of a genus of plants, which is usually thought of as having three distinct species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. However, the word "cannabis" is also used as a more polite synonym for marijuana. Both "hemp" and "marijuana" are types of cannabis.
  • Marijuana is a general term used to describe cannabis plants (usually strains of C. sativa, but sometimes C. indica) that contain more than 0.3% (usually 10%-25%) of the compound Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by dry weight. Marijuana's recreational appeal stems from THC's psychoactive intoxicating effect when ingested. Use of the word "marijuana" is historically rooted in anti-Mexican racism and is viewed by many people as insensitive. As a result, the genus name, cannabis, has largely—and somewhat confusingly—replaced the term marijuana in most cases.
  • Hemp is a general term used to describe C. sativa strains that have a THC content of less than 0.3% by dry weight. Because of its low THC content, hemp lacks the psychoactive effect of marijuana. However, hemp is high in the non-intoxicating compound Cannabidiol (CBD), which is used to treat ailments including epileptic seizures, anxiety, and depression. Hemp is also used for industrial purposes such as the manufacture of cloth or rope.

Illegal, legal, decriminalized, and industrial: deciphering cannabis laws

Cannabis is available in dozens of forms, from live plants to gummy candies, and its uses range from recreational intoxication to the manufacture of rope and fabric. Because cannabis has so many forms and functions, laws regulating its use can be remarkably complex, convoluted, and misleading, and may not always do what they initially appear to do.

For example, in some countries, cannabis is technically illegal, but has been decriminalized, which means the law carries little to no penalty for those caught breaking it (typically just a monetary fine rather than arrest or prosecution). So, while it may still be advisable to maintain a low profile while purchasing or ingesting cannabis-based products, getting caught in the act is unlikely to result in substantial legal complications.

On the other hand, a few countries that appear to have legalized cannabis have actually legalized only hemp-derived products with minimal THC (but ample CBD), or "industrial" cannabis (hemp again, typically for the manufacture of textiles). In these cases, it is unlikely that any legal form of cannabis will contain enough THC to have the effect recreational uses seek.

Countries with interesting cannabis laws:

The below list is a sample of countries with unusual laws regarding the legalization of cannabis. (For full details, see the table further down this page.)

  • Cambodia — Illegal, but inconsistently enforced. "Happy" restaurants freely offer marijuana cooked into food or used as a garnish.
  • Georgia — Technically legal but logistically impossible. Recreational possession and consumption are legal, but sales are not. Similarly, medical use of cannabis is legal, but no network exists to dispense it.
  • Jamaica — Despite the country's reputation and culture, cannabis is technically illegal in Jamaica. However, it is highly decriminalized, as up to 2oz or cultivation of 5 plants is a petty offense. Also, Rastafarians can use cannabis for spiritual purposes.
  • Netherlands — Illegal but decriminalized. Licensed coffee shops can freely sell up to 5g per customer per day.
  • Slovenia — Possession of personal amounts is a misdemeanor. Medically, cannabis-based drugs were legalized in 2013 ... but cannabis itself was not.
  • Spain — Illegal but decriminalized. Marijuana cannot be used publicly but hundreds of non-profit "cannabis social clubs" exist where members can partake freely.
  • Zambia — Medical cultivation legalized in 2017, but requires a license—which the health minister publicly declared he would never grant.

Countries Where Recreational Marijuana is Legal

Marijuana laws are changing. As of 2022, approximately half of the world's countries have legalized some form of medical marijuana. Moreover, a growing number of countries are establishing legal guidelines for recreational marijuana use. Approximately 30 countries have decriminalized recreational cannabis, and roughly a dozen have specifically legalized it.

CanadaBoth THC and CBD cannabis products are heavily regulated in Canada, including their marketing and advertisements. For example, Canada does not permit celebrity endorsement of CBD products, and marketing cannot make CBD look "cool."
GeorgiaGeorgia was one of the first countries in the world to legalize recreational cannabis. However, while possession and consumption are legal, cannabis sales are still prohibited, so the industry as a whole remains largely underground.
IndiaMost forms of cannabis are illegal, but the edible processed form bhang is legal in many states and is sold in government-owned shops.
MaltaMalta was the first EU country to legalize recreational cannabis (in Dec. 2021). Users may possess up to 7g and cultivate up to 4 plants.
MexicoMexico's Supreme Court ordered the Congress of Mexico to legalize recreational cannabis within 30 days on 31 Oct. 2018. After legislators repeatedly failed to meet its deadlines, the Supreme Court itself officially legalized adult use of cannabis on 28 June 2021. However, lawmakers must still pass new laws to replace the old, unconstitutional ban.
South AfricaLike Georgia, legality here is not what it seems. Possession and consumption are legal, but selling cannabis is still outlawed, so there are no legal ways to purchase recreational or even medical cannabis.
Sri LankaLegal to purchase through traditional Ayurveda herbal shops. Cannabis is part of Sri Lankan culture and is part of many traditional medical treatments.
ThailandUsers may cultivate up to 6 plants for personal use. Oils and tinctures with more than 0.2% THC are still illegal unless prescribed.
United StatesLegality varies by state. Some have robust legal dispensaries and a vast range of cannabis products available, and others have zero-tolerance policies.
UruguayFully legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2013, becoming the first country in the world to do so. Cannabis is reportedly only available at pharmacies and requires registration, which is not available to tourists, but pharmacies still often sell out.

Marijuana laws in the United States

In the United States, marijuana laws differ by state and run the full gamut from fully legal to completely prohibited. In many states, marijuana and cannabis products are legal for medical use but not yet for recreational use.

Medical CBD only:Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Wisconsin
Any medical, mixed recreational:Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia
Any medical or recreational:Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington.
Prohibited:Alabama, Idaho, Nebraska (decriminalized), North Carolina (decriminalized), South Carolina, Tennessee, Wyoming
  • Legality of marijuana/cannabis may change with little notice and may also be regulated at the local/regional level. It is advised to confirm legality with local authorities.

Download Table Data

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North KoreaUnknownUnknown
The legality of cannabis in North Korea is unknown, as conflicting reports have surfaced.
Personal use is illegal, but many states make exceptions for the edible processed form bhang, which ...
United StatesSelectiveSelective
Recreational and medicinal legality vary greatly by state.
Decriminalized for personal recreational use in the Northern Territory and South Australia. Legal to...
Consumption and possession are legal for personal use at home but the sale remains prohibited. Trans...
Legal for Rastafarians' spiritual use.
South AfricaLegal (but obstructed)Legal (but obstructed)
Legal for private use and cultivation, but purchase, sale, and public use are prohibited. Legalized ...
GeorgiaLegal (but obstructed)Legal (but obstructed)
Georgia was among the first countries to legalize cannabis for recreational and medicinal use (30 Ju...
Legalized on 9 June, 2022. Possession, cultivation up to 6 plants, distribution, and private consump...
Medicinally legal since 2001 and recreationally since October 17, 2018. Guidelines for production, p...
Legal for recreational use, but buyers must be registered citizens. Foreigners cannot purchase. Cult...
As of Dec. 2021, possession of up to 7g and cultivation of up to 4 plants is legal. Malta is the fir...
PakistanIllegal (but tolerated)Selective
Although illegal, use tends to be tolerated in many parts of the country (Peshawar and northern Paki...
BangladeshIllegal (but tolerated)Illegal
Banned in 1989, but ban is rarely enforced. Freely available in many areas.
EgyptIllegal (but tolerated)Illegal
Cannabis is illegal and the potential penalties are steep, but the law is rarely enforced and cannab...
IranIllegal (but tolerated)Illegal
Ban is not strictly enforced. Possession of more than 5g of hashish is punishable by death.
United KingdomIllegal (but tolerated)Selective
Possession may result in warning or fine instead of arrest. Legal for medicinal use since Nov. 2018 ...
MyanmarIllegal (but tolerated)Illegal
MoroccoIllegal (but tolerated)Legal
Banned in 1974, but often unofficially tolerated. Morocco led the world in cannabis production in 20...
CambodiaIllegal (but tolerated)Illegal
Prohibition is inconsistently enforced. "Happy" restaurants freely offer marijuana cooked into food ...
LaosIllegal (but tolerated)Illegal
Illegal, but rarely enforced, as many police would rather accept a bribe to release a would-be offen...
FinlandIllegal (but tolerated)Selective
Personal use is generally punished via a simple fine. Medicinal cannabis use requires a special lice...
LesothoIllegal (but tolerated)Illegal
Illegal, but law is widely ignored. Cannabis, known locally as matekoane, is country's largest cash ...
BelizeIllegal (but tolerated)Illegal
Prohibited, but widely tolerated. Laws decriminalizing possession of up to 10g pending.
Illegal for personal and medical use, legal for industrial and manufacturing uses (fabric, rope).
Banned in 1927. Minimum sentence for possession is 4 years in prison for adults.
Nigeria ranks as one of the world's leading producers and consumers of cannabis despite its illegali...
Possession of a small amount is treated with a warning, community service, and education on the effe...
According to Russian law, possession of up to 6g of cannabis (or 2g of hashish) is an administrative...
Possession of cannabis is punishable with up to six months in prison.
Although hemp was an important crop for medieval Japan, the country outlawed its use in 1948.
Medical use of cannabis is possible with a special permit from the Food and Drugs Authority for use ...
DR CongoIllegalIllegal
Legalized for medical use in certain forms (Sativex, etc.) in 2016.
Recreational use is illegal, but not always prosecuted—however, driving privileges are typically for...
Possession typically punished via a 200€ on-the-spot fine. Limited medical use was legalized in 2013...
South KoreaIllegalSelective
Medical use was legalized in November 2018 but is limited to Epidiolex, Marinol and Sativex.
King Zahir Shah prohibited production in 1973.
Though illegal, prosecutors can choose to drop charges for possession of a minimal amount of cannabi...
Legalized for medical use in certain forms (Dronabinol, Nabiximols) in April 2021.
Saudi ArabiaIllegalIllegal
Drug use is punishable by imprisonment (or deportation for foreigners), trafficking can result in de...
Cannabis is known as suruma in Mozambique.
GhanaIllegalLegal (but obstructed)
Technically legal for medical use, but requires license from Secretary of Health, rendering it funct...
Medical use legalized in 2021. Recreational use still illegal. Drug trafficking comes with mandatory...
Although traditionally consumed and offered during Maha Shivaratri, a festival honoring the Hindu go...
Ivory CoastIllegalIllegal
Cannabis has several uses in traditional Cameroonian medicine, including easing labor pains and enha...
Illegal, but rarely enforced since the start of the Syrian civil war except in areas controlled by t...
Burkina FasoIllegalIllegal
Sri LankaIllegalLegal
Although illegal, "ganja" is still widely used and cultivated. Malawian cannabis, particularly "Mala...
ZambiaIllegalLegal (but obstructed)
May be legally cultivated for medicinal use as of 2017, but requires a license and health minister h...
Although cannabis is illegal in Kazakhstan, it is said to grow profusely in the wild.
Cannabis products with less than 0.2% THC legalized for medical use in 2013.
Recent government efforts to legalize cannabis have stalled, though polls indicate possible support ...
Cannabis is called samba in Senegal.
Cannabis is often called mbanje in Zimbabwe.
Legalized for medical use in July 2021.
A 1977 report noted that the ban was rarely enforced.
Dominican RepublicIllegalIllegal
As in most countries, sentencing increases in severity in line with the amount of cannabis possessed...
South SudanIllegalIllegal
Legal for specific medicinal uses but requires license.
Papua New GuineaIllegalIllegal
Illegal for recreational use, but legal for medicinal use since 2017.
United Arab EmiratesIllegalIllegal
As of Jan. 2022, possession of cannabis-related products is no longer a criminal offense, though the...
Sierra LeoneIllegalIllegal
Hong KongIllegalIllegal
A previously existing "personal dose" allowance was eliminated in 2004
El SalvadorIllegalIllegal
Republic of the CongoIllegalIllegal
Known locally as mbanga.
Offenders carrying 500g or more are assumed to be dealers and may be sentenced to death. Epilepsy pa...
Possession is punishable by a fine (small amounts) and/or imprisonment (large amounts). 4-year pilot...
Central African RepublicIllegalIllegal
As of 2022, Slovakia is the only country in the European Union that still considers CBD a dangerous ...
Decriminalization bill failed in 2021, but efforts are ongoing. Current penalties for possession and...
New ZealandIllegalLegal
Offenders caught in possession of more than 28g are tried as drug traffickers. Legalized for medical...
Cultivation for medical purposes was legalized in April 2020, as was cultivation of a non-psychoacti...
Efforts to legalize cannabis are increasing. Medicinal use is currently legal as a last resort via a...
Ban is often unenforced and use often accepted. Medical use legalized in 2021, making Panama the fir...
Personal cannabis use or the possession of small quantities of the drug usually results in a fine. M...
Bosnia and HerzegovinaIllegalIllegal
The Ministry of Civil Affairs formed a task force in 2016 to consider legalizing cannabis for medica...
Cannabis is often referred to as yamba or tie in the Gambia.
Prohibited, but rarely enforced. Plants are readily available. On 21 July 2023 the Albanian Parliame...
Cannabis is alternately called motokwane or dagga in Botswana.
Medical use was legalized on 11 October 2018. Cultivation of industrial hemp is also legal.
Illegal, though it played a role in Nambian traditional medicine.
Guinea BissauIllegalIllegal
North MacedoniaIllegalLegal
In 2020, prime minister announced plans to legalize recreational use. Legalized for medical use on F...
Illegal for recreational and medicinal use, but hemp may still be cultivated for industrial uses.
Equatorial GuineaIllegalIllegal
Enforcment may be infrequent.
Cannabis is called gandia in Mauritius.
Legalized for medical use in Jan 2017, expanded in Feb. 2019. Recreational use carries penalties of ...
The Swazi name for cannabis is "insangu."
Cannabis use in Djibouti is low, due largely to poor growing conditions and a preference for the leg...
Cannabis was legal from January 1975 to May 1978, thanks to then-president Ali Soilih.
Offenders possessing 15g or more of cannabis may be charged with drug trafficking.
Cannabis plants grow naturally and have traditionally been fed to pigs or woven into textiles.
Solomon IslandsIllegalillegal
Cape VerdeIllegalIllegal
Cannabis is sometimes mixed with cocaine to create the blended drug cochamba.
Cannabis is strictly outlawed, with punishments ranging from prison terms and cane whippings to the ...
Possession typically results in a fine, but sale and cultivation are punished more severely.
Legalized for medical use in 2018.
Sao Tome and PrincipeIllegalIllegal
Marshall IslandsIllegalIllegal
Although maximum penalties are steep, police and courts often let offenders off with a warning.
San MarinoIllegalLegal
Legalized for medical use in 2016.
Vatican CityIllegalIllegal
Private recreational use legalized by Supreme Court in June 2021, though legislature has yet to repl...
Personal use is a misdemeanor, though fines and loss of passport or driver's license can still apply...
Cultivation, consumption, and possession of up to 22g for personal use is decriminalized. Carrying m...
All personal use activities are a fine-able misdemeanor only. Legal "cannabis social clubs" exist. L...
Supreme court decriminalized small amounts and private consumption in 2009. Legal for medical needs ...
Possession of up to 8g is not punished. Production and sale are still prohibited and can lead to 8–1...
Cannabis use is quite common even in public. Possession and cultivation for private recreational use...
Possession of under 10g is considered personal use and not punished. Legalized for medical uses in S...
Heavily decriminalized. Sales allowed in licensed coffee shops, personal consumption and possession ...
Recreationally, up to 3g decriminalized since 2003. Medically legal in certain forms (Sativex).
Czech RepublicDecriminalizedLegal
Recreational possession of up to 10g or cultivation of up to 5 plants is usually tolerated, but can ...
Portugal decriminalized all drug use in 2001 (the first country to do so). Up to 25g of plant materi...
Possession of up to 15g is rarely prosecuted. Public use can be punishable via fines. A 2017 survey ...
Recreationally, decriminalized since Jan. 2016. Medically legal in certain forms (Dronabinol, Nabilo...
Decriminalized in 2012 such that possession of 10g or less is punishable by fine only.
Possession of up to 10g is not punished. Paraguay is one of world's leading producers of cannabis.
Costa RicaDecriminalizedLegal
Medically legal as of March 2022. Decriminalized for personal use, as the crime has no criminal pena...
Drug use is an adminstrative offense rather than a crime. Personal possession and/or use may be puni...
Decriminalized since 2015. Up to 2oz or cultivation of 5 plants is a petty offense. Rastafari can us...
Possession of personal use amounts is a misdemeanor only. Medically, cannabis-based drugs were legal...
Trinidad and TobagoDecriminalizedIllegal
Decriminalized in Dec 2019 for possession of up to 30g and cultivation of up to 4 plants.
Marginally decriminalized, as up to 7.5g is punished with only a fine. Possession of larger amounts ...
Saint LuciaDecriminalizedIllegal
Decriminalized for amounts up to 30g on 14 Sept. 2021 .
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesDecriminalizedIllegal
Decriminalized for amounts up to 56g (2oz) in 2019.
Antigua and BarbudaDecriminalizedIllegal
Decriminalized in Oct. 2020 for possession of up to 28g and cultivation of up to 3 plants.
Recreationally, up to 7g decriminalized since 2017. Medical use allowed since Nov. 2016, but supplie...
showing: 196 rows

In which countries is weed 100% legal?

Recreational and medical marijuana are both 100% legal in Thailand, Malta, Canada, and Uruguay. Other countries either tolerate or decriminalize recreational weed or put restrictions on medicinal use.

Frequently Asked Questions