Cannabis Laws Around the World

April 6, 2021

What Countries Have Legalized Medical Cannabis?

Although several countries have grown more lenient with their marijuana laws, only some have fully legalized medical cannabis.Learn which ones!

Cannabis has a long history of medicinal use, perhaps as long as 2500 years. As far as we can tell, cannabis was first grown and used as a medicine.

However, there's more to this plant than just medical benefits, and it didn't take long for people to realize that. They used the plant to make ropes and clothes as well as paper and other materials, This caused the plant to become quite popular around the world.

While cannabis was outlawed in the 20th century, it's becoming more acceptable than it was back then.

For instance, a lot of companies have legalized medical marijuana. We'll talk about some of them in this article.

1. Canada

Not only is medical cannabis legal in Canada, but recreational use is too. However, you shouldn't have much trouble getting a medical prescription, because there's a long list of qualifying conditions.

Of course, this is all moot unless you have documents authorizing you to use medical marijuana. The requirements for authorization vary depending on province. In most cases, documents will only be given to individuals over the age of 19.

This doesn't mean that minors can't qualify, but they need to have a parent or guardian to approve it. Otherwise, doctors aren't allowed to prescribe to them.

The exception is if you happen to live in Alberta or Quebec, where the minimum age is 18.

2. Uruguay

Much Like Canada, marijuana is legal both for medical and recreational reasons in Uruguay. However, this does come with a few stipulations.

The first is that you have to register with the government and the second is that you have to be a citizen or legal resident for it to be legal.

For those who are eligible, cannabis, both medical and recreational, is often sold in pharmacies in Uruguay, and for very low prices.An unfortunate consequence of this is that the pharmacies tend to run out quickly, leaving many patients with few other options but to turn to more dubious means.

Uruguay is known to have a gray market, which often deals in marijuana, among other things. The difference between a gray market and a black market is that a gray market is more legally blurry.

Black markets almost always trade in illegal goods, such as stolen items, counterfeits, narcotics, and other illegal items. The gray market often doesn't. In many cases, it follows the letter of the law, if not the spirit of it.

The goods may be legitimate, and under most circumstances wouldn't be illegal. However, the goods are often imported to the dealers who then sell them without the authorization of the company that made the goods, and under circumstances that they would not approve of.

3. United States

Cannabis in the United States is confusing, to say the least. So far, 15 states and counting have legalized recreational cannabis. The first to legalize were Washington and Colorado, which did so in 2013.

Most of the remaining states have some sort of medical marijuana laws on the books or have decriminalized it.

The states where you could still get arrested for marijuana include Wyoming, Idaho, South Carolina, Kansas, Alabama, andTennessee. There's also Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa, where CBD is legal, but cannabis is illegal and criminalized.

To make matters even more confusing, states with medical marijuana set their own qualifying conditions, meaning that no two states have the same rules. However, those are far from the only qualifying conditions, so you'll need to look up the laws of the state you're in to know for sure.

The good news is that the country appears to be in a sort of transition period. As time goes by, it's likely that more states will push for medical laws, decriminalization, and legalization. 

4. Jamaica

It may come as no surprise that cannabis use is widely accepted in Jamaica. However, it isn't technically legal, just decriminalized. The use of cannabis, known locally as 'ganja,'  is recognized as a ritualistic practice of Rastafarianism.

Rastafarianism is a religion that was founded in Jamaica in the early 20th century.This religion has many beliefs, but some of the most common include vegetarianism, an emphasis on peace, a belief that authority is often corrupt and therefore bad, and many others.

Rastafarianism emphasizes individuality, and since it rejects organized religion, there are many different iterations of it all over the world, each with slightly differing beliefs.

It may also come as a surprise that Rastafarianism isn't that common, even in Jamaica.  Only about 1% of the population practices it. The most popular religion in the island nation is actually Protestantism.

While recreational use of cannabis is still illegal in Jamaica, medical use isn't. It's recognized as a natural substance that's been used as medicine for thousands of years. 

5. Mexico

Mexico is among the more interesting countries in regards to cannabis laws. It's illegal, but decriminalized for recreational use, so long as you have no more than 5 grams.

Medical marijuana is a bit more complicated. It's legal, but the strain you're using must contain less than 1% THC content. There may be a push towards full legalization, but that hasn't occurred as of yet.

Mexico is also in flux with medical marijuana. While medical marijuana has been approved by the Mexican government, the specifics are up in the air. There's still no official word as to what conditions will qualify for medical marijuana.

One of the conditions that will likely qualify is epilepsy, especially epilepsy that hasn't responded to other forms of treatment.

6. Portugal

Portugal is an interesting case for drug law. In 2001,Portugal decriminalized the personal use of all drugs, choosing instead to focus on medical treatment for addicts and users.

Meanwhile, larger amounts were still criminalized, meaning that law enforcement resources can be specifically focused on stopping dealers and traffickers rather than those who use substances and may even have a dependence on them.

The result has been a resounding success. Drug use has decreased in Portugal, and other countries are following its lead. 

The more liberal elements of society generally believe this is a step in the right direction, and something Canada and her neighbors should pursue, but others aren't so sure.

What we do know is that it seems to be working for Portugal. Not only are they seeing less addiction, but some believe they have the best medical care in the world. 

7. Argentina

Does Argentina have medical marijuana? The answer is are sounding yes.

Not only is medical cannabis legal in Argentina. You can get it for free, assuming you have one of the qualifying conditions. Among these are epilepsy, MS, HIV, Chronic Pain, Osteoarthritis, and Autism SpectrumDisorder, among others.

Recreational cannabis is still illegal, but you'll only pay a fine if you're caught with it. This has been the law since 2009, whereas medical cannabis was legalized in 2017.

8. Colombia

When we think of Colombia, one of the first things to come to mind is its unfortunate history with drug cartels. However, this history has given the Colombian government a sense of perspective.

Since much of their recent history was spent fighting cocaine distributors and the Medellin Cartel that started it all, cannabis seemed like far less of an issue. They decriminalized the substance and started setting up a medical program.

The use of medical marijuana under certain circumstances has been legal since 2016. Their program is a bit simpler than others, though.In theory, there are no qualifying conditions. Instead, it's a matter of talking to your doctor and seeing if it's right for you.

There's also been a recent move to decriminalize cocaine use while keeping distribution illegal. This way, the country can go after terrorists and traffickers without having to arrest those suffering from addiction.

9. The Netherlands

Amsterdam has had a reputation for being Europe's SinCity for as long as anyone can remember. You can legally buy cannabis in aNetherlands coffee shop, a common name for a marijuana shop. This reputation isn't entirely true about Amsterdam. For instance, it's actually illegal for coffee shops to distribute, even if most of the time nobody stops them.

There have, however, been instances of the cops arresting the dealers that sell to coffee houses, which then makes it impossible for them to operate. They usually shut down afterwards.

Not only that, but even the Red Light District is not all "red," so to speak. A lot of it is museums and historical buildings, as well as a few swanky restaurants.

The medical marijuana laws in the Netherlands live up to the country's relaxed reputation. Technically, there is a list of conditions that qualify you for medical marijuana, but it's more like a set of guidelines than anything else. If your doctor thinks you might benefit from the use of cannabis, nobody's going to question that decision.

10. Belgium

Much like its neighbor to the north, Belgium has a pretty lax attitude towards cannabis. Having a small amount for personal use is decriminalized, so long as you use it in your home or another private residence.

Belgium also takes after the Netherlands when it comes to medical cannabis, at least to an extent. You won't find a medical marijuana dispensary in Belgium. Instead, most doctors are allowed to prescribe and distribute it themselves.

The exception is that the prescription can't contain any THC or similar psychoactive substances. You are allowed to grow a few of your own plants for personal medical use, but you have to follow the same regulations.

11. Spain

We've talked a bit about Portugal's drug laws already, but what about Spain. Spain's laws vary a bit from place to place, but the basic trend is that cannabis is legal so long as nobody sees it.

You're allowed to smoke in the privacy of your own home.You're also allowed to grow a few cannabis plants in the privacy of your own home, but you can't distribute it.

There are also places in the country known as cannabis clubs, where people come together to use cannabis.These clubs differ a bit, with some of them being for recreational users and others revolving around cannabis as a medicine. Most of these clubs even have doctors on staff, just in case.

12. France

France is a lot less tolerant of recreational marijuana, although they're coming around on the idea of medical cannabis. There's a program of free cannabis for medical patients starting on the last day of March this year. The program is expected to last for two years, at which time progress will be evaluated.

If this program proves successful in treating various conditions, it will likely be expanded. If not, they will likely discontinue it.

Medical Cannabis and Where It's Legal

Medical cannabis is gaining acceptance in various countries around the world. We've mentioned a few of the countries that have some sort of medical cannabis program and talked about their attitudes towards recreation. However, there are a lot of countries we didn't have the space to cover.

If you want to know more about our medical program and how it works for patients, please visit our site.

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