The legal status of marijuana as a psychoactive substance has been a subject of debate in countries around the world over the last few decades. Many of these countries have regulations regarding the cultivation, possession, sale and use of cannabis. Non-psychoactive derivatives such as fibres and seeds are legal in most of these countries and licences for targeted cultivation can be obtained.

In general, marijuana is a controlled substance in almost all parts of the world, although there are some exceptions on medical grounds. The unsuccessful prohibitionist policies against marijuana use and trafficking have led many people and associations to call for these policies to be changed.

There are laws against trafficking, cultivation and even possession of marijuana. The severity of the penalties varies depending on the country in question. The Netherlands is the only European country where the legal sale of marijuana is allowed on authorised premises known worldwide as coffee shops. In countries where cultivation is criminalised, the authorities intervene and confiscate illegal shipments of contraband, including small quantities that could be for personal consumption.

Countries like Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Uruguay, and some U.S. jurisdictions have less restrictive cannabis laws, while China, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam have stricter cannabis laws.

Where medical marijuana is legal

Despite the difficulty of conducting research in the area, many studies have revealed the therapeutic power of marijuana. This has led some countries to take further steps towards regulation and legislate for the use of medical marijuana. These include:

New Zealand

Since 2018, it has been legal to prescribe medical marijuana to patients suffering chronic pain. In addition, this year a referendum is scheduled to be held to legalise its recreational use with the drafting of a law on its consumption for people over 20 years of age, which establishes the maximum permitted quantities and the conditions for self-cultivation.


In 2016, the Australian parliament amended the 1967 Narcotics Act to allow access to medical marijuana, albeit under State control.

Czech Republic

Medical marijuana has been legal by prescription since 2013 for patients with diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. The State is responsible for managing its cultivation, purchase and distribution.


Here the matter is somewhat complicated because Federal Law prevents any use of marijuana, but on the other hand, about 30 states have already authorised its consumption for medicinal purposes.


In Germany, the use of marijuana under medical prescription has been legal since 2017. However, the production and distribution process is carried out by a State-owned enterprise. Germany is now a pioneer and the largest medical marijuana market in Europe.


The preparation and sale of medicines based on marijuana and its derivatives has been legal in Chile since 2015. As a result, pharmaceutical products containing cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabis extracts and dyes can be sold in pharmacies or laboratories by prescription.


The Central American country has legislation that provides for the use of medical marijuana. Only the State, through the Ministry of Health, is authorised to prepare and distribute it.


In this country, the State Cannabis Authority was created as early as 2013. Its medical use was legalised for patients with a prescription or authorisation. The Italian army is responsible for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.


Israel has the honour of being the country with the most research programmes regarding medical marijuana. Things here began to take shape from the beginning of the century. In 2008, the first medical tests with soldiers began and since then the evolution has been positive with medical cannabis currently distributed in pharmacies country wide.


In 2018, the Thai parliament confirmed the regularisation of the import, export and production of therapeutic marijuana. With its policies regulating medical marijuana Thailand is leading the way in Asia and serves as a model for the countries around it.

Countries where recreational marijuana is legal

Although it is the subject of open debate around the world, there are very few countries where the use of marijuana for medicinal recreational purposes is completely legal:


In 2013, the government of Uruguay gave the green light to Law 19.172 which legalises the sale and production of marijuana as well as the production of industrial hemp. Uruguay became the first country to legalise the production and sale of marijuana.
Its regulation allows for self-cultivation, the creation of growers’ clubs and the legal sale of cannabis.


This is a pioneering country and has one of the most developed judicial systems in terms of marijuana regulation. In 2001, the medicinal use of the substance was approved for patients with serious illnesses. And in June 2018, the senate approved the legalisation of cannabis. As of 17 October, production and consumption are allowed in the country. Thus, Canada became the first G20 country to legalise the consumption and production of marijuana.


On 6 November 2012, the states of Colorado and Washington approved the legalisation of marijuana for recreational use. On 1 January 2017, the legal sale of marijuana for recreational purposes began in the state of Colorado, which became the first public market for marijuana in the United States. By 2020, the consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes had been legalised in 11 states: Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont, in addition to Washington, D.C. In the general election of 3 November 2020, four more states approved the legalisation of recreational marijuana by popular vote: New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana and Arizona.