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Countries where weed is legal in 2023

Countries where weed is legal in 2023

This year marks the tenth anniversary of a landmark decision that helped to change the international cannabis landscape. In 2013, Uruguay voted to legalize recreational marijuana and in the process opened up the debate around cannabis prohibition on a global level. So ten years later, where is weed legal in 2023?

At the beginning of 2023, personal possession and use of cannabis is decriminalized in 40 jurisdictions around the world (including some which have gone down the full legalization route). However, the list of where weed is legal in 2023 is something of a gray area and cannabis tourists need to be aware of the nuances of the situation of any weed friendly country they may be visiting.

The difference between legalized weed and decriminalized weed

This is because there is a difference between full on cannabis legalization and cannabis decriminalization. Countries where medical and recreational weed use is legal include Uruguay and Canada. Some visitors assume that the whole of the USA has legalized weed, but it still depends on which state you are in (19 states plus Washington DC have legalized marijuana in some form to date).

On the other hand, decriminalization means that certain aspects of cannabis cultivation and possession are tolerated, for example a limited number of home plants and an allowance for personal possession. Examples of countries where the personal possession of weed is decriminalized are Czech Republic (up to 15 grams), Belgium (up to 3 grams) and Colombia (up to 20 grams). However, the legal/decriminalized cannabis policy of many countries does not officially extend to tourists and visitors.

This can cause confusion for cannabis tourists who fail to do their homework regarding the reality of the situation on the ground. In a country where cannabis is decriminalized, there will almost certainly be a local protocol to follow, which means using discretion about where to light up, and being aware that just because you can smoke in a city bar, the rules of engagement are likely to be very different in a more conservative rural region.

Which countries legalized weed in 2022?

While the big news to emerge in late 2021 / early 2022, was the decision of the new German government to work towards legalization of cannabis, the reality was slow progress towards this goal in 2022. Instead, it was a smaller European country, Malta, which took the initiative to be the first European country to legalize recreational cannabis, although regulatory discussions aim to restrict tourist access to legal weed. Meanwhile, Luxembourg also announced plans for legalized weed and Switzerland has further liberalized its cannabis policy with the recent launch of a pilot scheme to allow the purchase of recreational cannabis in pharmacies.

The big news in respect to the question of where weed is legal in 2023, was something of a surprise announcement, and even more of a surprise in terms of  how quickly legalization has forged ahead. When Thailand announced weed decriminalization on a national level there was a cautious welcome (see our own article on the topic) but the pace of change has been so fast that Thailand appears to have become a quasi-legalized cannabis state already.

With a proliferation of dispensaries springing up all over the country (not to mention buds openly available for sale in bars and on street stalls) Thailand is experiencing a canna tourist boom. This is bringing economic benefits after a couple of lean years, but a flourishing recreational market was not the intention of the original bill, which promoted the medical benefits of the plant. While the good times are rolling for now, there is uncertainty about the form that regulation will take and if recreational cannabis will ultimately be removed from the menu. Tourists visiting the country have been spoilt for choice with prime Californian exotics on the menu alongside cheaper Thai stick. Nevertheless, technically there are penalties for ‘smoking in public nuisance’, so an element of discretion is advised in order to avoid a fine.

Another country expected to legalize in 2022, was Mexico, where medical cannabis is legal and up to 5 grams personal use possession is decriminalized. The process stalled, but many commentators believe that Mexico could be one of the major countries to legalize in 2023.

If you are travelling to another country and are curious to know what the legality of cannabis is, then do your research! Although the headlines often suggest countries where weed is legal, it is rarely as straightforward as it’s always worth checking the details of local laws and consulting local knowledge about the do’s and don’ts of purchasing weed.


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