If you’re fortunate enough to live in a country where personal marijuana use is legal or mostly tolerated, you might never know what it’s like for others living at the opposite end of the spectrum. Even though current cannabis laws are trending towards embracing tolerance throughout the world, there are still places with strict Draconian drug laws where you most certainly do not want to get caught smoking marijuana.
Imagine how cool it would be to travel to a place like China and partake in your favorite herb atop the Great Wall, feasting your eyes on the rolling hills and ancient fortifications that once stood to fend off Mongol invaders - while enjoying the beauty of your own high. Sounds like a good plan, right?
Wrong. If you would have done your homework before heading out on vacation, you would have realized that getting caught with any amount of marijuana in China could result in some serious jail time, deportation, or worse. Though traveling with marijuana is never the upfront suggestion (at least, until it is globally accepted), if you're determined to travel with the green, be sure to do your homework and understand what the local drug laws are prior to booking your vacation abroad.
To help get your research started, here is our list of 6 places you most certainly do not want to get caught smoking marijuana:
Comprised of thousands of tropical islands offering majestic coastline views and world-class snorkeling, this might seem like the perfect location to spark up and get your vacation started off right. Unfortunately, getting caught here with any amount of the sweet leaf could result in a minimum of four years behind bars. In addition, if you try (unsuccessfully) to import any amount of marijuana into the country, be prepared to face 5-15 years in prison!
In general, getting caught with weed in Indonesia could really ruin a vacation. Even talking about it in public could get you into some hot water with the locals, who will threaten to report you because they know they can get a bribe or a few tokes out of you. Be very wary.
#2- South Korea
Things we take for granted in our home countries can land you in hot water elsewhere in the world. In South Korea, pot is illegal in any amount and the worst part is - you don’t even have to have it on you to get charged with possession. Police have been known to raid nightclubs and perform hair and urine tests on-the-spot. If you test positive for THC, you can expect some serious prison time (up to 5 years). Talk about a real party crasher…
Marijuana is completely taboo here and even talking about it to a local will most likely result in a phone call to the police. South Korea’s massive police force openly patrol parks, neighborhoods, and everywhere in between. While visiting South Korea, try to remember that you’re a guest in someone else’s country, so don’t be that guy. #3- Iran
In Iran, drug traffickers are executed as often as the daily news is printed. More than 10,000 people that have been caught using or trafficking have been executed over the past couple of decades. This is one country that you do not want to mess around in if you have cannabis.
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For example, if you're caught with one gram of marijuana - perhaps a joint’s worth, no big deal, right? In Iran, it’s a very big deal; up to 70 lashes big!
Recently, the Islamic regime has relaxed its attitude in prosecuting minor drug offenders. As long as you’re not acting stupid in public with it, police mostly turn a blind-eye to foreigners. If you do get hassled, a few dollars will usually get you off with just a warning, according to those “in-the-know." But after hearing about the possible consequences, even we might not take their word for it.
#4- United Arab Emirates (UAE)
If you get arrested with any amount of cannabis on your person, you can expect a mandatory minimum of four years behind bars. This predominantly-Muslim country has some of the strictest marijuana laws anywhere in the world. Like South Korea, police can drug test you at any given time and if you have any THC in your system, you’re going to have a bad time.
Dubai, the capitol of UAE, is considered a police state and as such, there is a zero-tolerance policy on drug use. It is notoriously difficult (and expensive) to score cannabis here and the repercussions of getting caught are severe. It’s probably best to save the smoke session for when you get back out of the country successfully.
#5- Saudi Arabia
Another one of the strictest countries on the planet, getting busted smoking here is punishable by imprisonment of six months or more. As a foreigner, you’ll likely face deportation as well. Maybe they’ll go easy on you if you quote a famous line from Lawrence of Arabia. It couldn’t hurt, right? (Disclaimer: Do not actually try this.)
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Public floggings for drug users and beheadings for traffickers are not something you want to mess with. Weed is hard to find here (for good reason) so you might not even have a choice in whether or not you’re going to smoke. Unless your idea of a good time involves getting flogged by a big guy in the middle of the desert, you might be better off leaving your stash at home.
The land of incredible sushi and anime does not mess around when it comes to marijuana. Any kind of drug use in Japan is considered taboo and highly frowned upon by the locals. If you get caught smoking, you can say goodbye to the next five years of your life. On top of a lengthy sentence, your muscles will ache from the hard manual labor you’ll be slapped with as well.
First-time drug offenders in Japan rarely see jail time, but if you get caught you will definitely get yourself deported and asked (read that: TOLD) not to return.
Your best bet when deciding whether to toke abroad is to educate yourself on the local drug laws before you go. Evaluate the risks and make sure you understand what you’re getting into should you get caught. As tempting as it may be to enjoy a good smoke when traveling to the far reaches of this amazing planet, sometimes you just have to find satisfaction in knowing how lucky you are to live somewhere that’s not on this list.