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Think It’s Legal? Think Again: 6 Places Marijuana is Surprisingly Illegal

Strong cannabis culture doesn't always mean the flower is legal.

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Planning to smoke your favorite herb during your next vacation? Keep in mind that while cannabis culture is huge in places like Amsterdam, Jamaica and Australia, lighting up is still illegal. With cannabis culture on the rise in almost every urban area in the world, the fact that it’s illegal in most countries may slip your mind. Even in places where cannabis use is almost cliché, legalization is still just a budding movement.


Oh, Canada! While our green neighbour to the north is famous for their high quality marijuana (BC Bud ftw), you're actually not allowed to smoke weed recreationally in the great white north. Cannabis has only been legalized for medicinal purposes at a federal level, but that may soon change. Their new male model of a Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has begun the process of legalizing the herb, making Canada the first G7 country to do so. Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are all about to become hotspots for marijuana tourism, so get your passport in order and be ready to sprint for the border as soon as it happens.


Amsterdam has long been the place to be for cannabis enthusiasts. Having green dreams of visiting the holy land of marijuana is quite common, but the herb is still illegal in the country. Police officials are simply known to turn a blind eye to cannabis use and small sales of the herb. Although recently, the government has been creating more restrictive policies that target those who grow for personal use but use professional equipment. This shake up has forced famous coffee shops in Old Amsterdam—where residents have traditionally been able to score quality bud—to get their supplies from illegal sources in order to avoid getting arrested for growing the plant themselves. With new laws, they've been forced into sketchy business practices to match supply with demand.


The Golden State could easily be the cannabis capital of the United States, but the bud isn't even legal here. Still, California doesn’t mess around when it comes to cannabis; in fact, they take it quite seriously. In 1996, the state was the first in the US to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana, making it the leader in marijuana reform in the United States. Unfortunately, it's been surpassed by its two northern neighbour states and then some. 2016 may be the year all of that changes. Almost 20 years after medicinal marijuana was made available to Californians, there could soon be a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana on the table.


Despite its small size, the island made the top 10 for weed-consuming countries in 2014. It also had strict laws towards the herb—until recently. Marijuana is still illegal in Jamaica, but it’s been decriminalized. Possession of two ounces or less results in a fine of roughly $4 USD. Yup, only four bucks. While this is good news for most, Jamaica's marginalized communities are still targeted for possession by police, so "decriminalization" means nothing to them. Not everyone preaches love for the bud on Bob Marley’s home island, but with new legislation, we can only hope that police officials will cut everyone some slack.


With Mexico being so heavily associated with drugs trafficking, you’d think marijuana would be the least of people’s legal worries. That’s not the case. Mexico has strict substance laws that apply to cannabis, but recently the government has taken a progressive approach to the matter. While it may still be illegal to grow, buy and sell cannabis, the country’s Supreme Court has actually decided that individuals should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for personal use. Of course, there are miles to go before the country can legalize the herb, but this is a major win for marijuana activists in Mexico. Hopefully in the coming years, we’ll be able to take Mexico off of this list.

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The land down under is home to the most recreational drug users per capita, at least as of 2012. While marijuana is still illegal, the government doesn’t want to give you a criminal record for possessing it. Laws vary from state to state, but for the most part they consist of fines. In stricter states, you have the option of going to Cannabis Intervention Sessions to help ease you out of wanting to use the herb. It’s a Schedule 9 substance in Australia, meaning it can be obtained and used for medicinal and research purposes.

There are many decriminalization and legalization movements happening around the world; even as you read this, laws are shifting and changing. The first few dominos of legalization (or at least, decriminalization) have been knocked over, and there are hundreds of more to go. Still, once this movement begins to take hold on a global scale, you'll be surprised at how quickly the rest of the pieces fall into place.  

Photos: kosmos111 / Shutterstock, na4ev, Peggy_Marco, Frances Gunn

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