Marijuana laws around the world: What you should know

Uruguay has become the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell and consume marijuana, but that doesn’t mean there will be cannabis cafes popping up on the streets of the capital or in the popular holiday resorts on the Atlantic coast.

Confusion over the country’s historic marijuana bill, which was passed on Tuesday, has already prompted a Montevideo-based comedy to set up a spoof pharmacy, which claimed to be the first officially licensed vendor.

“We want to be the pharmacy of choice for pot heads,” the pharmacist says conspiratorially to unsuspecting customers, caught on hidden cameras. He then proceeds to push a tray of government-branded brownies, before a stooge cop comes in and tries to arrest a couple of highly confused students. The video has already gone viral in Uruguay and you can watch it above with English subtitles.

Only pharmacies will be allowed to sell the drug and certainly not as loosely as in the video. The rules state that consumers have to be over 18, on a government register and Uruguayan citizens. Sales are also to be limited to 40g (1.4oz) per month. Registered users will also be able to grow up to six plants at home, but for personal use only.

President Jose Mujica has made it clear drug tourism is not a road he is looking to go down. So think twice before booking that flight (unless you’re going for its other assets – its chilled-out beach towns, chic resorts, and unspoiled interior.

Drug laws around the world can be complicated. Here is a look at four places around the world and where you stand if you plan to light up.

Colorado state

The law: It is legal to possess, use, distribute and cultivate cannabis.

The reality: Over 21s can legally possess up to an ounce of cannabis and once the pot shops begin to open for business on January 1 2014, locals and tourists will be able to by one quarter of an ounce in a single transaction. For those under 21, cannabis possession, use and sale is still illegal, although if caught only for possession, they are likely to be dealt with in the same way as underage drinkers. Under 21s can take advantage of cannabis’ medical benefits, as long as they have parental consent as a patient.

Washington state

The law: It is legal to possess up to one ounce of cannabis, but it remains an offence to possess larger amounts, or to grow it.

The reality: Over 21s can legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis, but unlike in Colorado it won’t be possible to grow your own without a licence. Under 21s will face penalties if caught in possession of the drug, however it is likely to be a misdemeanour charge. And smokers are expected to puff in private; it’s still illegal to spark up in public. This January retail stores will open and are expected to attract tourists.


The law: Cannabis is tolerated, though it is still illegal. Possession of small amounts has been decriminalized and the drug can be bought from licensed “coffee shops.”

The reality: As the two million tourists who flock to Amsterdam each year for a smoke will tell you, cannabis is as good as legal in the Netherlands. You will need to be over 18 and required to show ID to buy it in one of the country’s many coffee shops, and purchases should be limited to five grams a day. However, it is illegal to buy cannabis on the street. As for consumption, smoking cannabis is tolerated in most public places, as long as it’s not near a school, or near children. Don’t assume you can smoke it in a pub, however, and remember that the ban on smoking tobacco exists even for coffee shops, so you either have to smoke your spliff pure, with a herbal mix, or make your way into a separate tobacco smoking room if you wish to get high on the premises.


The law: All drugs, including cannabis, cocaine and heroin, have been decriminalized since 2001.

The reality: Although lots of countries in Europe have been experimenting with various degrees of decriminalisation, Portugal was the first country to go all the way. This does not mean drugs are legal, but personal use (under certain restrictions) will not lead to prosecution. There are no legal cannabis cafes in Portugal.

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