3 Legality of cannabis

Legality of cannabis

Map of the legality of cannabis.

The legality of cannabis has been the subject of debate and controversy for decades. Cannabis is illegal to consume, use, possess, cultivate, transfer or trade in most countries. Since the beginning of widespread cannabis prohibition around the mid 20th century,[1] most countries have not re-legalized it for personal use, although more than 10 countries tolerate (or have decriminalized) its use and/or its cultivation in limited quantities. Medicinal use of cannabis is also legal in a number of countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Israel and 16 states of the United States.



It is generally accepted that small amounts of possession are dealt with in various ways throughout the world, and since police enforcement is always changing according to a country's political leaders, it is very hard to find an accurate reference to the unspoken police attitude of casual decriminalization of cannabis in certain places where there is just not enough police, judges or prisons to enforce the law to the letter. Some countries have laws that are not as vigorously prosecuted as others, but other than the countries that offer access to medical marijuana, the majority of countries have various penalties ranging from lenient to barbaric, and everything in between, some infractions are definitely taken more seriously in some countries than others when it comes to regarding the cultivation, use, possession, or transfer of cannabis for recreational use. A few jurisdictions have lessened the penalties for possession of small quantities of cannabis, so that it is punished by confiscation and a fine, rather than imprisonment. Punishment focuses more on those who traffic and sell the drug on the black market.[citation needed] Some jurisdictions/drug courts use mandatory treatment programs for young or frequent users, with freedom from "narcotic" drugs as the goal. A few jurisdictions permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes. There are also changes in a more restrictive direction as in Canada or the United Kingdom. Drug tests to detect cannabis are increasingly common in many countries, and have resulted in jail sentences and people being fired from their jobs.[2] However, simple possession can carry long jail sentences in some countries, particularly in East Asia, where the sale of cannabis may lead to a sentence of life in prison or even execution.

Under the name cannabis, 19th century medical practitioners sold the drug (usually as a tincture), popularizing the word amongst English-speakers. It was rumored that Queen Victoria's menstrual pains were treated with cannabis; her personal physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds, wrote an article in the first edition of the medical journal The Lancet about the benefits of cannabis.[3] In 1894, the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission commissioned by the UK Secretary of State and the government of India, was instrumental in the decision not to criminalize the drug in those countries.[4] From 1860 different states in the United States started to implement regulations for sales of Cannabis Sativa.[5] In 1925 a change of the International Opium Convention[6] banned exportation of Indian hemp to countries that have prohibited its use. Importing countries were required to issue certificates approving the importation and stating that the shipment was to be used "exclusively for medical or scientific purposes".

In 1937 the F.D. Roosevelt administration crafted the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, the first US national law making cannabis possession illegal via an unpayable tax on the drug.

The name marijuana (Mexican Spanish marihuana, mariguana) is associated almost exclusively with the plant's psychoactive use. The term is now well known in English largely due to the efforts of American drug prohibitionists during the 1920s and 1930s. Mexico itself had passed prohibition in 1925, following the International Opium Convention.[7] The prohibitionists deliberately used a Mexican name for cannabis in order to turn the US populace against the idea that it should be legal by playing to negative attitudes towards that nationality. (See 1937 Marihuana Tax Act). Those who demonized the drug by calling it marihuana omitted the fact that the "deadly marihuana" was identical to Cannabis sativa, which had at the time a reputation for pharmaceutical safety.[8] However, due to variations in the potency of the preparations, Cannabis indica in the 1930s had lost most of its former popularity as a medical drug.[9]

Some advocate legalization of cannabis, believing that it will reduce illegal trade & associated crime and yield a valuable tax-source. Cannabis is now available as a palliative agent, in Canada, with a medical prescription. In 1969, only 16% percent of voters in the USA supported legalization, according to a poll by Gallup. According to the same source, that number had risen to 36% by 2005.[10] More recent polling indicates that the number has risen even further since the financial crisis of 2007-2009: in 2009, between 46% and 56% of US voters would support legalization.[11] In Europe has the development turned in the opposite direction in Netherlands where the last few years certain strains of cannabis with higher concentrations of THC and drug tourism have challenged the former policy with legal sales of cannabis and led to more restrictive approach; e.g. ban of all sales of cannabis to tourists in coffee shops from end of 2011[12][13]

Detection and the law

A chart demonstrating the reflective qualities of cannabis in comparison with other common plants, which may be used for cover.

As cannabis and its cultivation are illegal in most parts of the world, considerable resources and effort are committed to both interdiction and counter-interdiction of cultivation. Thermal imaging helicopters (to detect hot lighting), inspection of trash (to find evidence of cultivation including waste plant matter), examination of credit card purchases (to find purchases from hydroponic equipment vendors), and analysis of energy bills (to detect energy usage patterns of marijuana growers), have been used in prosecutions. In the US, thermal imaging cameras are considered to violate civil liberties embedded in the United States Constitution. This has resulted in significant changes to growing trends and availability.[14]

By country


It is illegal to use, possess, grow or sell cannabis in Australia, but penalties differ for each state or territory. In the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory there are differing degrees of decriminalization for minor offenses. In New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland the possession of cannabis is considered a criminal offense.[15]

In the ACT a civil penalty system for possession of small amounts of cannabis was introduced in 1993. Possession of up to 25g or two non-hydroponic plants attracts a fine of AUD$100 to be paid within 60 days. Offenders can choose to attend the Alcohol and Drug Program.[16] In South Australia possession of small quantities of cannabis is decriminalized attracting fines similar to a parking ticket. However, penalties for cultivation of marijuana have become harsher since the widespread advent of large scale cultivation. There is much confusion on the subject, with many people believing that possession of a certain amount is legal. In Western Australia, possession of up to 30 grams, two non-hydro plants, or smoking equipment attracts a fine of up to AUD$200, with an option to attend a cannabis education session.[15][17] Any amount exceeding this is dealt within the criminal court. The Northern Territory has a similar civil penalty to system to Western Australia.

In New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania first-time offences for possession and use of small amounts of cannabis or cannabis products (e.g. cannabis oil or resin) can be dealt with by diversion programs, which aim to divert offenders into education, assessment and treatment programs.[15] In New South Wales if you are caught with up to 15g of cannabis, at the police's discretion, up to two cautions can be issued.[15] In Tasmania up to three cautions can be issued for possession of up to 50g of cannabis, with a hierarchy of referrals for treatment then intervention for each caution.[15] Similarly in Victoria up to 50g of cannabis will attract a caution and the opportunity to attend an education program;[18] only two cautions will be dealt out. In Queensland possession of cannabis or any schedule 1 or 2 drug specified in the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987[19] carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, however, jail terms for minor possessions are very rare. Possession of smoking utensils or anything used to smoke cannabis is also a criminal offense in Queensland. However, under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 a person who admits to carrying not more than 50 grams (and is not committing any other offence) must be offered a drug diversion program.

With the rapid expansion in hydroponic cannabis cultivation, the Australian Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act (1985) was amended in 2006, reducing the amount of cannabis grown indoors under hydroponic conditions that qualifies as a 'commercial quantity' or as a 'large quantity'.[15]


Cannabis is grown throughout the Bengal region, which is currently split between Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. In both parts of Bengal, cannabis (Bengali: গাঁজা gãja) has been widely used for centuries. Cannabis was banned in Northern Bangladesh in 1984.[20]


Individual or solo use by adults has the lowest priority to police and government instances, if the use doesn't cause any problems to their environment. This basically means only the use in public places, possession of more than 3 grams, or the sale of the drug are pursued in court. However, the use in the presence of minors is strictly forbidden. The cultivation of one female cannabis plant for personal use is decriminalized. Other than cultivating a female cannabis plant, there is no legal way of obtaining cannabis.


Cannabis is currently illegal in Canada, with exceptions only for medical usage. However, the use of cannabis by the general public is broadly tolerated.[21] The marijuana laws in Canada are currently under review as an Ontario court judge deemed the laws unconstitutional thus giving the government 90 days, as of April 13, 2011, to revamp the law. As of June 22nd, 2011, the prosecutor and federal government was granted a stay on the 90 day deadline, extending it by an additional 6 months, pushing the deadline back to November.

  • A July 13, 2007, decision in Ontario Provincial court has ruled that criminal possession laws for cannabis are unconstitutional (R. v. Long). However, Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said that nothing will change about how the police deal with marijuana possession for the time being.[22]
  • Possession of cannabis is not illegal in Canada according to Justice Edmonson of the Ontario Court of Justice in R. v. Bodnar/Hall/Spasic - "there is no offence known to law which the accused have committed."[23][24]
  • Marijuana was first banned in Canada in 1923 under the Opium and Drug Act. Since 1997 marijuana has been covered by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
  • The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs reviewed Canada's current anti-drug policies and legislation and reported in September 2002 that marijuana is not a gateway drug and should be treated more like tobacco or alcohol than harder drugs.
  • The House of Commons Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs looked at an overall drug strategy for Canada and issued their report in December 2002. The House committee said that while marijuana is unhealthy, the current criminal penalties for possession and use of small amounts of cannabis are disproportionately harsh. They recommended that the Canadian Ministers of Justice and of Health come up with a strategy to decriminalize the possession and cultivation of not more than thirty grams of cannabis for personal use.[25]
  • Various estimates peg this country's cannabis trade at considerably more than $7 billion in annual sales—twice as much as pig farming brings in, and almost three times more than wheat does. Even the cattle industry, at $5.2 billion a year in revenue, lags behind the marijuana business for sheer size. Just as importantly, the report points out, every dollar reaped by government regulation of the pot industry would be a dollar taken away from the criminal gangs that run the industry today. In 2001, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said the federal government was spending close to $500 million a year fighting the drug trade. Roughly 95 per cent of that goes to enforcement and policing, and two-thirds of the country's 50,000 annual drug arrests are for cannabis offences.[26]

In October 2007, Prime Minister Harper announced a new National Anti-Drug Strategy. A proposed Bill would have dealers facing one-year mandatory prison sentences if they’re operating for organized crime purposes, or if violence is involved. Dealers would also face a two-year mandatory jail sentence if they’re selling to youth, or dealing drugs near a school or an area normally frequented by youth. Additionally, people in Canada who run a large marijuana grow operation of at least 500 plants would risk facing a mandatory two-year jail term. Maximum penalties for producing cannabis would increase from 7 to 14 years.[27]

Perhaps the biggest proposed policy change is mandatory six-month sentencing for those growing as little as one marijuana plant for the purposes of trafficking. If the Bill passes, this is certain to be felt by small-time distributors who are not linked to the ring of organized crime, and who usually face no more than a fine if caught.[28]

The Conservative Party now holds a majority government, with the NDP (New Democratic Party) as the official opposition.[29] Previous attempts by past Liberal Governments in the late 1990s and early 2000s to decriminalize marijuana for personal use have failed to become law.[30]

Costa Rica

Cannabis is used in Costa Rica, in spite of it being illegal, police officers might not arrest someone unless the amount carried is seemingly for distribution or selling. Much of it is grown in the Rain Forest reserves as no person can be prosecuted for that, but more potent strains are grown hydroponically in small grow-ops in San José. There is a little percentage coming from Jamaica, but the most used kind is grown locally. Laura Chinchilla, the president of Costa Rica (2010–2014) stated -"It must be approached very rigorously based on empiric evidence and the experiences other countries have had when boarding widely the concept of legalization [...]" after a meeting with José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States, regarding the fight against hard drug smuggling from Colombia to the USA.[31]

Czech Republic

In 1938 production and possession (but not the consumption) of drugs became a punishable crime in Czechoslovakia. The law did not distinguish between different types of drugs. Until the Velvet Revolution (1989) narcotics were only a minor problem in Czech society. A law from 1992 stopped criminalization of drug possession for personal use. This changed in 1998, "possession of more than a small amount of drugs" (the amount was not defined) became a criminal offence again. The limits were defined later through internal research by Czech law enforcers making the possession of under 15 grams not a crime. The owner could be fined. Consumption was not punishable. Enforcement of the law was spotty and sometimes inconsistent.

The Czech cabinet approved a Justice Ministry proposal in early 2010 that sets personal use quantity limits for illicit drugs under a penal code revision that decriminalizes drug possession in the Czech Republic. Under the new law, possession of more than the following amounts of illicit drugs is a misdemeanor:

Possession of “larger than a small amount” of marijuana can result in a jail sentence of up to one year. For other illicit drugs, the sentence is two years. Trafficking offenses carry stiffer sentences. The Czech Republic now joins Portugal as a European country that has decriminalized drug possession

Young people are the most frequent users of marijuana: a poll from 2007 estimated that almost 30% of Czechs under 24 had tried it. In 2007 the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic ruled that mere cultivation of hemp should not be punishable unless production of the drug is proven; an officer from the Czech anti-drug unit was quoted saying that "this decision is irrelevant to our work." As of 2007 several initiatives towards either decriminalization of marijuana or creating a more tolerated category of soft drugs."[32]


In Denmark, despite a general public tolerance towards cannabis for private consumption, cannabis remains illegal. Possession of less than 10 grams (.35 oz) cannabis is punishable by a fine of 2000DKK (370USD) for a first-time offender, 3000DKK for a second-time offender, and 4000DKK for a third-time offender.However, possession of small quantiites of cannabies , or public use, often is tolerated by the police and people involved in it go away with an oral warning.

Denmark's capital, Copenhagen is home to a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood called Christiania, where cannabis and hashish are both sold openly. In a display of Denmark’s tolerance, this sale, which has fueled an alternative, freewheeling, culture in Christiania, was allowed largely unhindered until 2004, when sanctions were imposed to moderate it. [33] Since 2004, a number of raids led by Danish authorities have led to unrest and tension between Christiania's residents and the Danish government.[34][35]

In recent years, Copenhagen Municipality has been in favor of legalizing cannabis via state-run coffee-shops, in order to take over the control of the substance which is currently mostly supplied by criminal gangs.[36] The proposal could make the city the first to fully legalise marijuana consumption, but it still has to be approved by the Folketing.


It is illegal to grow, possess or trade cannabis in Estonia. Consumption and possession in small amounts will lead to a fine. Larger amounts than 10 grams is considered trafficing and can lead to a maximum jail sentence of 5 years. Growing is illegal and can lead to a jail sentence, which can also be up to 5 years. Possession of seeds is legal, import and export is illegal.


Possession, manufacture and use of cannabis products were prohibited by law in Finland in 1972. The parliamentary discussion and the following vote resulted in a stalemate, so the issue was resolved by drawing lots - which resulted in cannabinoid products becoming illegal. In practice, possession or manufacture of cannabis products is considered to be a minor misdemeanor punishable by a minor fine (normally in the range of 60-500 euros). A supreme court decision of 2004 set up a "half a dozen" precedent: Cultivation of up to 6 plants for personal use is subject to the same penalties as personal use. The same applies to distribution and use within a "closed circle of users". However, open distribution is generally punished very severely. Aside from criminal penalties, users are often persecuted by welfare authorities on the pretext of child welfare (if the user has offspring); withdrawal of driving license is also commonplace.

In 2010 police first time used the law passed in 2006, which makes selling equipment for creating or growing drugs illegal. This resulted in closing of a gardening store Viherpeukku and 200 home searches through the customer register. The owners of Viherpeukku were charged for selling gardening equipment with knowledge, that they could be used in home growing of Cannabis. Some controversy rose from the home searches due many of them being done into legal chili farmers houses. Those charges were later dropped by the supreme court. The court saw that although the owners might have known that some of the fertilizers may have been used for cultivation of cannabis, they are not directly aiming at that market.[37]


In France the law prohibits "any presentation in a favorable light" of narcotic substances. Because of this law, organizations seeking to promote the decriminalization (as the collective information and research cannabis) are often put off-the-law and therefore risk severe penalties for incitement to drug use. In addition, a public body, MILDT (Interministerial Mission for the fight against drugs and addiction) informs extensively (website, brochures, etc..) On the hard drugs, placing cannabis in the midst of them, the compared to drugs such as cocaine or LSD.

Harm reduction is recognized by French law since 2004.

The law allows the movement of hemp (cannabis seeds) and their trade between the Member States of the European Free Trade Area (EU + Norway, Switzerland and Iceland).

Individuals can use hemp legal (with a certificate of compliance) for personal use only; their production, use and cultivation for commercial or professional activity is subject to authorization. These varieties are in fact non-psychoactive hemp. Individuals are required to retain certificates of conformity provided for sale of hemp or, failing that, the package that lists the references, in order to prove that the variety planted or owned is allowed.[38] These varieties of cannabis on the list issued by the European Union, must be a decree that requires their permission.

All imports from countries not members of the European zone of free exchange can be performed by an importer licensed by the European Union.

The specificity of the French law led to a formal speech that can seem quite confusing to most other European nationals.

Besides the debate, French law bans the production, possession, sale, purchase and use of drugs, with penalties more or less severe depending on the act.

Traffic, that is to say, the possession, transport, supply, transfer or acquisition of narcotic, is punished with imprisonment for a term exceeding ten years or a fine up to 7.5 million euros[39]

The simple use is normally punished by a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment or a fine of up to 3 750 euros.[40] However, it should be noted that the consumer can simply be treated as a trafficker and therefore be liable to the same penalties. Indeed, cannabis necessarily implies to hold, and thus to buy or to produce, leaving free the judge to penalize the user on the basis of the Code of Public Health (use ) or the Penal Code (possession / trafficking / production). Specifically, the judge's decision will depend mainly seizures, history of the accused, etc..

As for production, even for personal use, it is punishable by a maximum sentence of twenty years'imprisonment or a fine of up to 7.5 million euros.[41]


While illegal, possession is generally not fined as long as a certain maximum amount (so called "geringe Menge" = English "small amount") is not exceeded. This maximum amount varies between 6 and 30 grams depending on which particular federal state the person is in and the potential amount of THC. The person caught will have the cannabis confiscated. Until 2002 one could have one's driver's license taken away because of cannabis possession, even if driving a car was not involved. This still happens today.[42] Use of cannabis is not illegal in Germany.

Law enforcement in the city of Berlin and many other major cities currently places a very low priority on enforcement of cannabis laws; many people smoke openly in parks and bars throughout the central city.


In Honduras it is illegal to grow, plant, harvest, or collect cannabis. Violators can face 9 to 12 years in prison and a fine of 5,000 Lps. (US$265) to 25,000 Lps. (US$1,323). It is also illegal to own cannabis seeds. Traffickers can face 15 to 20 years in prison and a fine of 1,000,000 Lps. to 5,000,000 Lps.

Hong Kong

The possession, cultivation and trafficking of cannabis are illegal in Hong Kong, and is punishable under The Dangerous Drug Ordinance[43] (Chapter 134 of the Law of Hong Kong), which contains the following key points:

  • Any person who traffics in a dangerous drug shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of HK$ 5,000,000 and imprisonment for life, where trafficking includes selling or giving away any amount of a dangerous drug.[43]
  • Any person who manufactures a dangerous drug, shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of HK$ 5,000,000 and imprisonment for life.[43]
  • Any person who has in his possession; or smokes, inhales, ingest or injects a dangerous drug, shall be liable upon conviction to a fine HK$ 1,000,000 and imprisonment for 7 years.[43]
  • Any person who has in his possession any pipe, equipment or apparatus fit and intended for the smoking, inhalation, ingestion or injection of a dangerous drug, shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of HK$10,000 and imprisonment for 3 years.[43]
  • Any person who cultivates any plant of the genus cannabis or opium poppy, shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of HK$ 100,000 and imprisonment for 15 years.[43]

It should be noted that mainland China has a different legal system from Hong Kong. In mainland China, the use of cannabis is punishable by death. In Hong Kong, the death penalty has been abolished for all crimes.[43]


Often seen as the country where the plant originates from, throughout India it is illegal to grow, consume, or traffic cannabis, although there is a variation in penalties and enforcement according to the region. The law is rarely enforced and usage of cannabis, also locally known as gaanja (Sanskrit ganjika) or bhang (when made into a drink) is common throughout India. Sadhus openly smoke ganja and there are government licensed bhang shops in some regions. Furthermore, on the festival of Holi, cannabis is widely consumed in the open in its numerous forms. Hashish is by far the most common form of the drug in India; it is widely available and relatively inexpensive. In Hinduism there are many elaborate spiritual practices that involve cannabis.[44]


The most recent Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order (S.I. No. 69/1998) lists cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabis and its derivatives as Schedule 1 drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Acts of 1977 and 1984. As a consequence manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession of cannabis is unlawful for any purpose, except under license from the Minister for Health. The gardaí (Irish police) have a level of discretion when dealing with recreational cannabis users. To procure a conviction any cannabis seized has to be sent for analysis to the Garda Forensic Science Laboratory. This, along with the time needed to process the arrest, means that individual gardaí may decide not to arrest for small amounts, Gardaí cannot arrest for simple possession if they are satisfied with the name and address of the offender. If there are enough drugs for sale or supply then Gardaí can arrest but the drug will be seized and the name and address of the individual will be taken. Possession of cannabis is an arrestable offense and, in 2003, 53 per cent of all drug confiscations and 70 per cent of all drug-related prosecutions were for cannabis. Trafficking or possession with intent to supply are serious offenses under Irish law.

Upon being brought to court, the penalties for possession are outlined as follows:

  • First offense: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €381, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €635.
  • Second offense: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €508, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €1,269.
  • Third or subsequent offense: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €1,269 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine of such amount as the court considers appropriate or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both the fine and the imprisonment.

There is no law against possession or sale of cannabis seeds. However, the growing of cannabis, even for medicinal benefits by genuine sufferers, is often treated harshly by the courts. Various movements have been founded to legalize the drug[citation needed], including an attempt at starting a cannabis legalization political party.[citation needed] Current Dáil member Luke Flanagan the former mayor of Roscommon is known for his long running campaign to legalise cannabis.


Israel considers cannabis illegal; however, punishment is not severe for "personal use". The amount defined by the law as "for personal use" is 15g of marijuana and hashish.[45] Due to the popularity of nargila in Israel, smoking using paraphernalia is a common sight at popular street cafes. Consequently, the social stigma of smoking using marijuana paraphernalia is accepted by main stream society.

A medical marijuana program is existent; however patients must meet certain prerequisites. The categories include patients suffering from nausea induced by chemotherapy or those in the later stages of HIV.[46] Trials have been conducted by the IDF for soldiers experiencing Posttraumatic stress disorder.[46]


Cannabis is illegal in Italy. Current legislation establishes quantitative limits of active ingredient: within those limits it is considered an administrative offense, over them it is regarded as pushing, punished with 1–6 years of imprisonment for small amounts and 6–20 years for big amounts or cultivation. However, jurisprudence is contradictory concerning growing for personal use. Medical use of substances prepared with marijuana are legal, if provided by medical prescription.

In July 2008, however, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that Rastafari may be allowed to possess greater amounts of cannabis legally, owing to its use by them as a sacrament.[47][48]


Penalties for possession or use of marijuana in Japan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and fines.[49] Possession of any amount, as little as 0.1 g, is punishable by jail sentence for up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to 30,000,000 yen (USD 344 790).[50] Moreover, the defendant has to stay in police custody for at least a few weeks until a court decision is made.


On April 29, 2006, the Congress of Mexico passed a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs intended for recreational use (up to 5g for marijuana).[51] The new bill was hoped to relieve cartel-related crime as well as reduce drug-related arrests. A possibly unintended consequence would have been increased tourism. The move caused many in the US government to question Mexico's commitment to the "War on Drugs". However, President Fox sent the legislation back, asking that the decriminalization be removed. This action showed the U.S. government's influence over the Mexican Government's decisions,[52] sparking broad controversy over the bill.[53][54][55] On October 14, 2008 a bill was proposed in Mexico City's Congress to legalize the consumption, possession and commerce of Marijuana. The bill states that only a person over 18 can have access to the drug, the places where marijuana is sold cannot also sell alcoholic drinks, and must be at least 1000 meters away from schools[citation needed]. The Government would issue special licenses for the distribution of marijuana in special places, similar to the legislation in the Netherlands.

On August 21, 2009, Mexico decriminalized "personal use" possession of up to 5 grams of marijuana, half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams of LSD.[56]


Marijuana was made illegal in Nepal in mid 70's but it was never really enforced. It is widely tolerated, in some parts of the country mostly in rural areas it is a way of life. Law against marijuana is rarely enforced although selling and transporting of hashish could be taken seriously. It has been a very popular destination for teenagers from countries like Israel for the same reason.


The possession/purchase of Cannabis is tolerated in small amounts. One can purchase cannabis in special shops (called "coffeeshops") if one is aged eighteen and over. Sale and purchase of cannabis anywhere else is illegal. Cultivation and wholesale of cannabis is likewise "tolerated" in small amounts (guidelines here are no more than five plants at home or the possession of 5 grams per adult max.). The tolerance guidelines appear in appendix of the Opium Act. The Opium Act states very clearly that every part of the hemp plant is banned except for the seeds – this is in accordance with many of the international treaties which the Netherlands have signed. It is for this reason Cannabis cannot be legalised in the Netherlands. Thus, it remains illegal but it is "tolerated." A recent court decision allowed a medical cannabis to avoid legal prosecution for possession of a small number of cannabis plants; however, the state is appealing the decision.[57]

By 2009, 27 coffee shops selling cannabis in Rotterdam, Netherlands, all within 250 meters from schools must close down. This is nearly half of the coffeeshops that currently operate within its municipality. This is due to a new policy of city mayor Ivo Opstelten and the town council as a result of increased use of soft drugs among pupils.[58][59]

Although outdoor use is prohibited this is also "tolerated" in most places. Since January 2006 certain areas in the district "De Baarsjes" in Amsterdam have been declared official cannabis-free zones because of nuisance to inhabitants of the areas. A special road sign was chosen out of 3 designs by Hans Bos to designate the areas.[60] This sign is not a recognized traffic sign however as it is not used outside of Amsterdam. For a while the municipality of Amsterdam sold the signs [61] in an effort to curtail theft of traffic sign.

Higher concentrations of THC and drug tourism have challenged the current policy and led to a re-examination of the current approach; e.g. ban of all sales of cannabis to tourists in coffee shops from end of 2011 was proposed but currently only the border city of Maastricht has adopted the measure in order to test out its feasibility. [62] In May 2011 decided the government that, starting in 2012, each coffee shop must operate like a private club with some 1,000 to 1,500 members. In order to qualify for a membership card, applicants have to be adult Dutch resident, membership will only to be allowed in one club. [13][63]

New Zealand

Possession of cannabis is illegal in New Zealand and can result in a fine of up to $500 or even a 3-month prison sentence (though the latter is rarely used). Anyone caught in possession of more than 28 grams of cannabis or 100 cannabis joints is classed as a dealer unless s/he can prove they are not. Cannabis is a class C drug in New Zealand, of which the penalty for dealing can result in a maximum prison sentence of 8 years under the New Zealand Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. There have been many public campaigns to decriminalise cannabis but so far none have succeeded.


Any consumption, possession, buying or selling of cannabis is prohibited by law in Norway. Possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis will be punished by fines and anything above 15 grams can be punished by jail. Jail penalties may vary due to the amount of cannabis involved but they range from 6 months to 21 years.

The law is widely enforced and the chances that you get away with even small amounts (<1 gr) are extremely low.

There have recently been some political discussion whether or not to decriminalize marijuana, but so far (as of September 2011), only two political parties, the youth rally of the party Venstre (a liberal party) (the party itself states decriminalization) and The Greens state legalization or decriminalization as a goal. The political parties themselves are often internally splitted on this matter.


In Peru usage of marijuana and possession of up to 8 grams is legal if no other drugs are carried. Though police might take different stand on tourists. [64]


Cannabis is a controlled substance in Poland and its possession remains a criminal offence which can be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years, or up to 8 years if the quantity in possession is considered 'large' upon current law. No specific measurements are given to determine if an amount is to be considered 'small' or 'large'. Cultivation is also illegal and is threatened with up to 3 years of imprisonment and up to 8 years if considered 'large'. On 1.April 2011, the Polish parliament passed an amendment to the 2005 'Ustawa o przeciwdziałaniu narkomanii' ("Drug-dependence Counteract Law") to create a possibility of dropping prosecution for possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use. The law introduces the possibility when a person caught possesses negligible amounts of drugs for personal use only and the 'social harmfulness' of the case is considered to be low (i.e.-negligible). Nonetheless the "small amounts" are still undetermined and a temporary detention by the police continues to apply in virtually every case. At the same time the reformed law raised the maximum applicable penalties for possession of large amounts of controlled substances (including cannabis) from 8 to 10 years of imprisonment and from 10 to 12 years for trafficking of large amounts of controlled substances, among other related crimes. This implies hardening the law without eliminating the ambiguous terms 'small amounts'/'large amounts'. These amendments enter into legal force on 8.December 2011.


Personal consumption of cannabis is limited in the range of 2.5 gram marijuana, 0.5 gram hashish and 0.25 of hash oil per day. One may possess no more than 10 daily doses, otherwise it may be categorized as trafficking. The consumption still entails a penalty and fine. Cultivation however, is still completely illegal and even cultivation of a single plant is assumed to indicate involvement with trafficking. Possession of seeds is also illegal and despite there being several "head shops" or "grow shops" in Portugal, they, too, are forbidden to market cannabis seeds. At the same time, the number of grow shops has increased over the past few years, which seems to indicate that cultivation for personal use (in Portuguese: auto-cultivo) is becoming a more common practice. The 2006 Global Marijuana March (Portuguese: Marcha Global da Marijuana) was celebrated for the first time in Lisbon and in 2007 both Lisbon and Porto celebrated it.


Romania is a leader in hemp fiber, second only to China. However, possession of any quantity is punishable by law. Marijuana is considered high risk drug. Law no. 143/2000 on combating illicit drug trafficking and use. Chapter II sanctioning illicit trafficking and other operations with controlled substances national Article 4. Cultivation, production, manufacture, testing, extraction, preparation, processing, purchase or possession of drugs for personal use, without law, shall be punished with imprisonment for 2-5 years. Decriminalization is proposed, but it doesn't have any political support (only 2 politicians are public known to be pro-decriminalization).[65] The media is totally against any kind of pro-marijuana manifestations and therefore has a big impact on the population, as most of the mid-age and elderly people cannot distinguish between soft and hard drugs. The possession of seeds is not banned by law (it is not illegal, but neither legal), but if caught possessing seeds, they are usually confiscated without any other consequence. Hashish is considered a high-risk drug, therefore even the possession of very small quantities is usually punished with jail time.


Possession of up to 6 grams (dry weight) of cannabis or 2 grams of hashish is punishable by fine 4000-5000 roubles or administrative detention of up to 15 days (KoAP 6.9). Possession of more than this amount is punishable by prison term (UK 228). Growing more than 20 plants is punishable by prison term (UK 231).

Consumption is not criminalized, punishable, or technically subject to fining. However, "intoxicated in public" fines (approximately $10) can be and are applied to those visibly under influence in public places. Note that, for intoxication in public fines to be applied, the offending substance does not have to be identified (or illegal, for that matter), and the fine is applied for being in a state of influence that is a potential or actual public nuisance, not for the fact of consumption.

South Africa

Called "dagga", "ganja", "swazi", "aaptwak", "uitkyk-skyf", "giggelgras" or "pappegaai-gwaai" locally, the use and or possession of cannabis remains illegal in South Africa. Rastafari groups, who refer to cannabis as "herb", their holy sacrament, regularly receive media coverage in their pleas to government to legalize it.


In Spain the possession and use of cannabis in public places is classed as a misdemeanour under public health laws and is punishable by fines and confiscation. Trafficking is a criminal offense.

One can be denounced for doing so by neighbors or ill-wishers, and the burden is then effectively on the user or grower to prove that the material is for personal use only.

In recent years a number of members' associations have been established throughout the country in an attempt to extend the boundary of the Spanish citizen's constitutional rights. In an association cannabis is grown and shared among the members. The association may not promote or be seen to encourage the use of cannabis and it must be a closed group for existing adult consumers only, distributing only small amounts regularly to each member (typically 10 grams per week) so as to prevent the possibility of trafficking. As well as a membership fee, members must pay for what they consume and prices may not be much different than on the black market.

Where the associations have come under legal challenge they have been able to surmount this, and in at least one case have secured the return of several kilos of confiscated plants. The umbrella group for cannabis associations in Spain is the Federación de Asociaciones Cannábicas: http://www.fac.cc/ and Politic Group:RCN-NOK Representacion Cannabica de Navarra: http://www.rcnavarra.org/


It is illegal to purchase, possess, sell, transfer or consume any amount of cannabis in Sweden. If police suspect someone has consumed cannabis they could be ordered to take a drug test, which is seen as a way to prove consumption. Minor offenses, such as simple consumption generally renders a 30 day-fine (a day-fine is currently between 50 to 1000 SEK, largely depending on income) while possession and even occasional cultivation of plants for personal use attracts higher fines (up to 150 day-fines) as long as they are under the threshold for minor drug offenses, namely 50 grams (1.8 oz).[66] For the purchase, smuggling and possession of larger amounts, organized cultivation or sale, the punishments range from 6 months to 10 years imprisonment.[67][68] The combined sentence can be even longer, for example when a series of crimes are added up into one sentence. Depending on the circumstances 14 or 18 years is the maximum penalty before limitation rules set in.[69][70]

Every time reasonable suspicion arises, the police are obliged to intervene under a zero tolerance strategy even though mere police intuition is legally insufficient. The expressed aim of government is the creation of a "drug-free society" and the police are to give high priority towards drug crimes. However, as a condition of largely being a victimless crime, the police's own efforts are essential to apprehend cannabis offenders. That is, as opposed to many other crimes where a victim will report it to the police, they must apprehend the drug users and more advanced criminals for themselves.[71] Influenced by the practices in the US, all police officers in external duty are to receive training to become Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) to better detect persons under the influence of drugs. Something that have led to increasing numbers of apprehended drug users.[72] The traffic police especially, have integrated DRE-practices to test suspected drivers into their every day routine.[73] Subject to the law concerning driving under influence, driving while having mere traces of cannabis in the body is strictly forbidden under a zero tolerance regime.[74]

Ungerminated cannabis seeds are not legally classified as cannabis and mere possession of seeds is not illegal per se.

With the exemption of Khat, Cannabis has the least penal value per effective dose[66] and subsequently the least priority among drugs offenses. Albeit with the general exemption for drug offences among juveniles, which instead is of special priority regardless of what drugs are involved. When juveniles are apprehended, the police is obliged to report the young user to the municipal social care. Although the charges often are dropped in consideration of their youth, the social service may then take various measures ranging from just talking to the adolescent and its parents to placing the delinquent in forced treatment for substance abuse.


Cannabis is classified as an illegal narcotic in Switzerland.[75] The production and sale of illegal narcotics is punishable by a monetary penalty or by imprisonment of up to three years, as are public incitements to the consumption of illegal narcotics.[76]

The enforcement of the prohibition on cannabis is spotty, because around 500,000 Swiss people are believed to use cannabis regularly or occasionally. In a health poll conducted in 1997, 7% of people aged 15 to 39 stated that they were currently consuming cannabis.[77] Also, in 1998, some 250 hectares of land were used in Switzerland to grow cannabis,[78] yielding more than 100 tons of cannabis per year.[79] The product is sold mostly on the street and (in "scent bags" or covertly) through "cannabis shops" clustered in the urban centers. These shops, of which there were about 135 in 1999 and which authorities believe earn about 85-95% of their income with illegal narcotics,[80] are the target of irregular police crackdowns in some cities, while in others they are tolerated to some degree. Overall, enforcement varies substantially depending on the canton.[81] Some tolerate limited public consumption[82] while others periodically attempt to limit it. Nationwide, police registered some 27,000 cannabis-related infractions in 1999.[83]


Cultivation of cannabis is strictly controlled by government in Turkey; only for its seeds which are used as a spice in many different foods, especially in different breads and other baked goods. The THC-containing cannabis is totally forbidden in Turkey.

Persons carrying less than 12.5 grams of cannabis are required to attend rehab once a week and are subjected to mandatory drug screenings for a six month period if it is a first time offense. If it is not, the punishment is one year of prison. Drug trafficking is punished with long term imprisonment.

United Kingdom

Cannabis is illegal in the United Kingdom but punishments are usually minor, resulting in a confiscation and a "cannabis warning" for small amounts. A record of the warning is retained on police information databases for intelligence purposes (effectively so the police can check to see if someone has previously been given a warning) and a crime is recorded under the Home Office Counting Rules but this is not disclosable to third parties. A Cannabis warning will not show up on a CRB check, though a police caution for cannabis possession would do (which is usually the next step if someone already with a warning is caught and arrested). Technically there is nothing to prevent the police from giving an individual with personal use amounts of cannabis repeated cannabis warnings, but most forces operate along guidelines that if someone has been caught once (sometimes twice) within a 12 month period then they are arrested if caught again. Cannabis warnings can only be given to persons aged 18 and over. Due to international agreements the UK is signatory to, the cannabis warning process could not be extended to those under 18, who have to either be dealt with unofficially by confiscation and parental disclosure or by means of arrest.

19 AD. Earliest dated records of cannabis pollen in the United Kingdom. After this date cannabis is used legally by thousands (if not millions) of people.[84]

In 1928: Cannabis became illegal in the United Kingdom as a class B drug.[85]

In 2004, cannabis was downgraded to a class C substance.[86] Consequentially there was a "significant fall in its use"[87][88] and a "50 per cent rise in the number of people" seeking "medical treatment after using the drug".[89][90]

In 2008, the government commissioned a study into the effects of downgrading cannabis from a class B to a class C.

On May 7, 2008: Against the advice of the government's own commissioned report,[91] the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced the government’s intention to once again reclassify cannabis as a class B drug.[92] Then-prime minister Gordon Brown announced that the government would set aside the findings of the committee.[93]

On 26 January 2009: Cannabis was reclassified as a Class B substance.[94][95]

In November 2009: Professor David Nutt was asked to resign from his position as chairman of the Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs by the then Home Secretary (Alan Johnson), after publishing in a professional journal figures which indicated that cannabis was less harmful than both alcohol and tobacco.[96] Several other members of the Advisory Council resigned in protest.[97]

Afterwards, discussions were being focused towards imposing a new 'code of conduct'; in order to avoid any similar action in future, rather than of the issue at hand (that being the legality of the plant cannabis itself) also this is not under Common law offences, the basis for Statutory law in the UK. .[98]

On 17 August 2010: Professor Sir Ian Gilmore criticised prohibition, revitalising the topic in hand.[99][100][101][102]

On 14 September 2010: Professor Roger Pertwee suggests that "policymakers should consider the setting up of a committee to license the sale of recreational cannabis." [103][104][105]

On 18 September 2010: "Tim Hollis, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ drugs committee" says that he "does not want to criminalise people caught with minor amounts of substances such as cannabis."[106][107][108][109]

On 20 September 2010: "Ewan Hoyle, founder of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform, says [that his] party should support [the] legalisation [of cannabis]".[110][111]

On 3 October 2010: Presenter Evan Davis compared “having a spliff” with potentially risky activities (like skiing), whilst interviewing Lord Young.[112][113]

On 11 October 2010: Welsh actor and musician, Rhys Ifans "calls for cannabis decriminalisation" or legalisation within the United Kingdom.[114][115]

On the same day: An editorial in the British Medical Journal, written by Professor Robin Room, suggested "that the sale of cannabis should be licensed like cigarettes because banning it had not worked".[116][117]

On 1 November 2010: Professor David Nutt publishes a paper which classes alcohol as being more dangerous than cannabis or heroin under a new 'points system'.[118]

On 7 November 2010: Lord Taverne asked at question time in the House of Lords: "If the Government believes in evidence-based policy, is it not obvious in light of this [David Nutt's] report and many other reports that make similar conclusions that the present classification of Ecstasy in class A and cannabis in class B is not in any way based on evidence of the physical or the social impact? [119]

On 10 November 2010: Cartrain manages to smuggle in and light up a joint in the House of Commons, shouting "decriminalise cannabis" whilst being hauled out by the police.[120][121]

On 16 December 2010, Bob Ainsworth, the former minister and Home Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary with responsibility for Drugs and Organised Crime explained why he thinks certain illicit substances should be legalised.[122]

On the same day: Peter Lilley, the former Tory deputy leader, said that he favoured legalising cannabis, while continuing the ban on hard drugs.[123]

On 27 December 2010: Liam Smith labels Bob Ainsworth a "coward" for refusing to act when he had the power to do so. In defence Bob Ainsworth says: “If I had put forward the views that I was slowly developing as a minister then, I would have had to resign." [124]

On 9 March 2011: The House of Lords "heard calls for the establishment of a royal commission to examine decriminalising drug use." [125][126]

On 21 March 2011: "[The] War on drugs has failed, say former heads of MI5, CPS and [the] BBC", who have helped create (with several Lords and MPs) "a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform [that] are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence."[127][128][129]

On 2 June 2011: "Several high profile figures" "signed an open letter urging Prime Minister David Cameron to consider decriminalising drugs."[130] (including Judi Dench, Sir Richard Branson, Sting, an ex-drugs minister and three former chief constables.[131]) [132]

On 14 June 2011: "A senior policeman in Brighton and Hove" said that "the government should consider decriminalising personal drug use."[133] and "Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said the “war on drugs has failed”."[134]

On 29 June 2011: "During Prime Minister’s questions", "Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert asked:" "Does the Prime Minister believe that drugs policy has been failing for decades, as he said in 2005, and does he agree that the Government should initiate a discussion of alternative ways including the possibility of legalisation regulation to tackle the global drugs dilemma as he voted for in 2002." [135]

On 21 July 2011: Former MP, Evan Harris, "said that every scientific advisor had agreed it was a good idea to declassify cannabis from category B to C. But because of a story in the Mail on Sunday, the Labour government broke the law." [136]

On 27 July 2011: Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert wrote "Britain's drug policy has failed" and "It's time for a radical overhaul"; affirming his belief(s). [137]

United States


Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and is deemed to have a high potential for abuse and no legitimate medical uses. As such, it prohibits the possession, usage, purchase, sale, and/or cultivation of marijuana.

The federal common law has interpreted the numerous state laws on multiple occasions. The United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop and Gonzales v. Raich that the federal government has the authority to regulate and criminalize cultivation and distribution of cannabis under the interstate commerce clause, as even purely intrastate sales will affect the market price in other states by altering nationwide supply and demand patterns.

Despite the fact that alcohol causes more fatalities than cannabis, the use of cannabis remains illegal in the United States. Currently there are only 16 states that have legalized medical marijuana which include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, DC, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington.


Medical marijuana dispensary on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 215, later renamed the Compassionate Use Act, by means of popular initiative. It allows patients with a valid doctor's recommendation, and the patient's designated Primary Caregivers, to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use, and has since been expanded to protect a growing system of collective and cooperative distribution. It was the first such law in the nation,[138] and was followed by similar laws in Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.[citation needed]

California state common law has interpreted the initiative on multiple occasions. In 2007 the courts upheld a decision of a trial court in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court to "[order] the Garden Grove Police Department to give [Felix Kha] back his marijuana" because "it is not the job of local police to enforce the federal drug law".[139][140][141] In 2010 the California Supreme Court struck down limits on how much marijuana people could grow or possess in People v. Kelly, saying it's OK for people with doctors' permission to grow or possess "reasonable amounts".[142]

In California there are designated shops for people who are permitted by law to purchase and use marijuana. Today there are even marijuana bakeries that make a wide variety of treats that range from chocolate bars to foods such as nachos and baked goods. These shops are made for people who have illnesses which allow them to purchase medical marijuana to go to if they do not wish to smoke in order to get the needed marijuana into their system.


In early 2009, California state representative Tom Ammiano introduced a bill, titled Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, to legalize, regulate, and tax the recreational use of cannabis in California.[143] According to the Wall Street Journal, Ammiano, a Democrat, estimates that marijuana legalization "would generate more than $1 billion annually for the cash-strapped state". Currently, marijuana is California's biggest cash crop, with annual sales reaching $14 billion. The bill "proposes a tax of $50 on an ounce of marijuana, which sells for a few hundred dollars on the street".[144]

On January 16, 2009, a pair of bills (House Bill 2929 and Senate Bill 1801) were introduced into the Massachusetts legislature. Its stated objectives are "the reduction of cannabis abuse, the elimination of marijuana-related crime and the raising of public revenue." The bill proposes an excise on all cannabis sold that would range from $150 per ounce to $250 per ounce depending on the levels of THC present.[145]

Multiple attempts at rescheduling cannabis at a federal level have failed in the past.[citation needed] In June 2009, the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009 was introduced into the US House of Representatives by Barney Frank co-sponsored by Ron Paul and three other congressmen. If enacted, the bill "would eliminate federal penalties for the personal possession of up to 100 grams (over three and one-half ounces)". This would effectively leave the legality of cannabis possession for states to decide.[146]

In 2010, Proposition 19, titled the "Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010", qualified for the November California ballot. Rejected by 54% of voters, this initiative would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis and its related activities in the State of California. It would also have allowed local governments to regulate and tax the newly created cannabis market.[147] Supporters of the initiative received funding from many sources, most notably, a founder of Facebook.com and George Soros.[148]

On June 23, 2011, Congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would end the federal prohibition on the cultivation, sale, and use of marijuana. The bill would limit the federal government's role in marijuana regulation to international and interstate smuggling. [149]


National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws protesters at July 4th protest.

A September 2009 article in Fortune Magazine notes that President Barack Obama’s stance regarding marijuana, expressed by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, has all but decriminalized its use in the United States. The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, confirmed at a press conference that his Office would no longer subject individuals who were complying with state medical marijuana laws to federal drug raids and prosecutions. The article likens Obama’s policy toward marijuana, in terms of its eventual outcome, to the Twenty-First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which repealed the federal prohibition on alcoholic beverage sales.[150]

In an October 15, 2010 article, former Surgeon General of the United States, Joycelyn Elders voiced her support for legalization of marijuana:

"I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol," said Joycelyn Elders, the former surgeon general and a supporter of the measure. "I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana."[151][152]


Uruguayan law and governments systematically agree that drug use should be considered a complex multifactorial issue. The law does not consider the user or consumer as the problem. Consequently, drug consumption is legal and is not criminalized in Uruguay. As of April 26, 2011, Cannabis is legal to grow in small amounts for home consumption. Instead, the law prohibits traffic, distribution and production. In general, police acts are oriented towards the reduction of large-scale drug trafficking. By contrast, the state takes a public health approach in regards to the population of users or potential users. These include offering free healthcare services at public events where drug consumption is likely to occur (e.g., rock concerts) and voluntary rehabilitation services. Policy is based on epidemiological evidence regarding demonstrable public harm. Thus, government efforts over the past decade to reduce drug consumption have been largely oriented towards tobacco and alcohol, and more recently coca-paste.

Use of capital punishment against the cannabis trade

Several countries have either carried out or legislated capital punishment for cannabis trafficking.

Country Status Notes
 Saudi Arabia Has been used An Iraqi man named Mattar bin Bakhit al-Khazaali was convicted of smuggling hashish and was executed in the northern town of Arar, close to the Iraqi border.[153]
 Indonesia Has been used In 1997, the Indonesian government under international pressure[citation needed] added the death penalty as a punishment for those convicted of drugs in their country. The law has yet to be enforced on any significant, well-established drug dealers. The former Indonesian President, Megawati Sukarnoputri announced Indonesia's intent to implement a fierce war on drugs in 2002. She called for the execution of all drug dealers. "For those who distribute drugs, life sentences and other prison sentences are no longer sufficient," she said. "No sentence is sufficient other than the death sentence." Indonesia's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also proudly supports executions for drug dealers.[154]
 Malaysia Has been used Mustaffa Kamal Abdul Aziz, 38 years old, and Mohd Radi Abdul Majid, 53 years old, were executed at dawn on January 17, 1996, for the trafficking of 1.2 kilograms of cannabis.[155]
 Philippines No Longer Used The Philippines abolished the death penalty on June 24, 2006. The Philippines introduced stronger anti-drug laws, including the death penalty, in 2002.[156] Possession of over 500 grams of marijuana usually earned execution in the Philippines, as did possessing over ten grams of opium, morphine, heroin, ecstasy, or cocaine. Angeles City is often a mecca for Filipino cannabis users and cultivators, although enforcement has been inconsistent.[157]
 United Arab Emirates Sentenced In the United Arab Emirates city of Fujairah, a woman named Lisa Tray was sentenced to death in December 2004, after being found guilty of possessing and dealing hashish. Undercover officers in Fujairah claim they caught Tray with 149 grams of hashish. Her lawyers have appealed the sentence.[citation needed]
 Thailand Frequently Used Death penalty is possible for drug offenses under Thai law. Extrajudicial killings also alleged.[158]
 Singapore Frequently Used Death penalty carried out many times for cannabis trafficking. (July 20, 2004) A convicted drug trafficker, Raman Selvam Renganathan, 39, who stored 2.7 kilograms of cannabis or marijuana in a Singapore flat was hanged in Changi Prison. He was sentenced to death September 1, 2003 after an eight-day trial. (The Straits Times, July 20, 2004).
 People's Republic of China Frequently Used Death penalty is exercised regularly for drug offenses under Chinese law, often in an annual frenzy corresponding to the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug trafficking.[159] The government does not make precise records public, however Amnesty International estimates that around 500 people are executed there each year for drug offenses. Those executed have typically been convicted of smuggling or trafficking in anything from cannabis to methamphetamine.
 United States Constitutionality untested, never imposed While current U.S. Federal law allows for the punishment of death for those who have extraordinary amounts of the drug (60,000 kilograms or 60,000 plants) or are part of a continuing criminal enterprise in smuggling contraband which nets over $20 million, the United States Supreme Court has held that no crimes other than murder and treason can constitutionally carry a death sentence (Coker v. Georgia and Kennedy v. Louisiana)

Non-drug purposes

Cannabis Sativa (Left), Cannabis Indica (center) and Cannabis Ruderalis (right)

Hemp is the common name for cannabis and is the English term used when this annual herb is grown for non-drug purposes. These include industrial purposes for which cultivation licenses may be issued in the European Union (EU). When grown for industrial purposes hemp is often called industrial hemp, and a common product is fibre for use in a variety of different ways. Fuel is often a by-product of hemp cultivation.

Hemp may be grown also for food (the edible seeds), though in the UK Defra (the UK's Department for the Environment, Food and the Rural Affairs) will not issue cultivation licenses for this purpose, treating it as a non-food crop, though the seed appears on the UK market as a food product.

In the UK hemp seed and fibre have always been perfectly legal products. Cultivation for non drug purposes was however completely prohibited from 1928 until circa 1998, when Home Office industrial-purpose licenses became available under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Industrial strains intended for legal use within the EU are bred to comply with regulations limiting THC content to 0.2%. (THC content is a measure of the herb's drug potential and can reach 25% or more in drug strains).

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "Why is Marijuana Illegal?". drugwarrant.com. http://www.drugwarrant.com/articles/why-is-marijuana-illegal/. Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Walmart fires Michigan man for using medical marijuana". Wzzm13.com. 2010-03-12. http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_story.aspx?storyid=119421&catid=14. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  3. ^ "Positive and negative cerebral symptoms: the roles of Russell Reynolds and Hughlings Jackson". http://jnnp.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/75/8/1148. Retrieved 2006-03-25. 
  4. ^ Kaplan, J. (1969) "Introduction" of the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission ed. by The Honorable W. Mackworth Young, et al. (Simla: Government Central Printing Office, 1894) LCCN 74-84211, pp. v-vi.
  5. ^ "Senate". New York Times (New York City). February 15, 1860. http://www.nytimes.com/1860/02/16/news/senate-88150825.html. 
  6. ^ "W.W. Willoughby: Opium as an International Problem, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1925". Druglibrary.org. http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/history/e1920/willoughby.htm. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  7. ^ "MEXICO BANS MARIHUANA.; To Stamp Out Drug Plant Which Crazes Its Addicts". New York Times (New York City). December 29, 1925. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20915FB3A5E1A7A93CBAB1789D95F418285F9. 
  8. ^ Gieringer, Dale H. (2006-06-17). "The Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California" (PDF). Contemporary Drug Problems 26 (2): 13. http://canorml.org/background/caloriginsmjproh.pdf. Retrieved 2007-01-05. "Remarkably, neither of the preceding articles explain that the deadly marihuana is precisely identical to Cannabis indica! This fact might well have surprised readers, given cannabis' reputation for pharmaceutical safety." 
  9. ^ "Statement of Dr. William C. Woodward". Druglibrary.org. http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/hemp/taxact/woodward.htm. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  10. ^ "Who supports cannabis legalization?". http://www.gallup.com/poll/19561/who-supports-marijuana-legalization.aspx. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  11. ^ "Majority of Americans Want Pot Legalized". http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/06/majority-of-americans-wan_n_198196.html. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  12. ^ "Dutch cannabis policy challenged". BBC News. 9 January 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4595018.stm. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  13. ^ a b "Amsterdam Will Ban Tourists from Pot Coffee Shops". Atlantic Wire. May 27, 2011. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/05/amsterdam-ban-pot-sales-tourists/38248/. Retrieved 2011-06-23. 
  14. ^ "Effects of Cannabis Eradication on Cultivation Trends and General Availability". Drugscience.org. http://www.drugscience.org/Petition/C5H.html. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f Cannabis and the Law Factsheet - National Cannabis Preventions and Information Centre (Australia)
  16. ^ "ACT Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Strategy". Health.act.gov.au. http://health.act.gov.au/c/health?a=&did=10107160. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  17. ^ "Drug Aware". Drug Aware. http://www.drugaware.com.au/sitecore/content/DrugAware/Drug%20Information/Cannabis/Cannabis%20Laws/WA%20Cannabis%20Laws.aspx. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  18. ^ Victoria Cannabis Cautioning Program
  19. ^ Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987, Queensland
  20. ^ 1995 Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board, International Narcotics Control Board, United Nations, 1995
  21. ^ http://www.sesresearch.com/library/polls/POLNAT-W03-T113.pdf
  22. ^ "Judge rules Canada's pot possession laws unconstitutional". CBC. 2007-07-19. http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/07/13/pot-toronto.html. Retrieved 2007-10-01. 
  23. ^ "Scan of OCJ Decision". OCJ. 2007-10-19. http://www.thepotlawhasfallen.ca/2007October19_img.html. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  24. ^ "Another Judge Agrees: Canada's Pot Laws Are Unconstitutional and DO NOT EXIST!". 2007-11-16. http://cannabisculture.com/articles/5115.html. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  25. ^ "Marijuana Reform Bill". Munroe, Susan. 2008. http://canadaonline.about.com/od/marijuana/Marijuana_in_Canada.htm. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  26. ^ "A Case For Marijuana Inc". Maich, Steve. 2004. http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=20041122_93410_93410&source=srch. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  27. ^ "Speaking Notes for Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice of Canada, 2007-11-20". Justice.gc.ca. 2007-11-14. http://www.justice.gc.ca/en/news/sp/2007/doc_32182.html. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
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  29. ^ http://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/results.html
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