places/travel Here's What Happens When You Get Caught With Pot In Foreign Countries  

Donn Saylor
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While the United States gradually adopts a more progressive viewpoint on legalizing marijuana, the rest of the world has varying degrees of acceptance — or disapproval — when it comes to the drug. Marijuana policies around the world illustrate just how subjective attitudes toward pot are: a few countries openly embrace weed, others have decriminalized it while still maintaining that it's technically illegal, and still others have instituted hardline rules in which you'll pay for a pot transgression with nothing short of your life. Several pot laws in foreign countries accept that the drug has notable medicinal value, permitting it only to individuals struggling with certain medical conditions. These wildly divergent international laws about weed are proof that the world needs to get on the same page and foster a better, more cohesive understanding of what pot is and isn't.

Keep reading to see how other countries view marijuana… and what happens if you're caught with it.


Uruguay is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Here's What Happens When You Get Caught With Pot In Foreign Countries
Photo: Cannabis Training University/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

In 2017, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize pot. The consumption, sale, and cultivation of marijuana is permitted at both the local and federal levels. But when you purchase weed in Uruguay, you actually buy it right from the government; in other words, cannabis is not a flourishing free enterprise. At least not yet. It is highly regulated, and the government keeps close tabs on every facet of marijuana consumption, from the genetics and initial cultivation of pot plants to where it can be smoked and who can smoke it (sorry, foreign visitors). As the Washington Post says, Uruguay's "apparent goal is to make marijuana use as boring as possible."

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Netherlands is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Here's What Happens When You Get Caught With Pot In Foreign Countries
Photo: HereIsTom/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The popular image of the Netherlands (specifically, Amsterdam) as the freewheeling drug capital of the world is something of a myth. Drugs, including weed, are not at all legal anywhere in the Netherlands. In the case of marijuana, it is simply tolerated by the law and law enforcement. Since 1976, the Dutch have been allowed to smoke weed in "coffee shops," and you can possess up to five grams without being arrested, but this is not the same as full legalization. It's more accurate to describe it as the government simply turning a blind eye. You can legally buy sex, though!

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Jamaica is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Here's What Happens When You Get Caught With Pot In Foreign Countries
Photo:  Torben Hansen/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

In both Jamaica and Iran, you can grow pot legally. You just can't smoke it or sell it. Wait… huh? The seeming contradiction of being able to manufacture weed but not enjoy it or profit from it is indicative of the world's confusing and off-kilter attitude toward the substance. Fortunately, there is one Jamaican demographic who can legally consume weed. Because pot is so closely linked to Rastafarian culture and spirituality, the country permits Rastafarians to use it for sacramental purposes.

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Nepal is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Here's What Happens When You Get Caught With Pot In Foreign Countries
Photo: Oliphant/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Pot is illegal everywhere in Nepal. Except during the annual festival of Maha Shivaratri, in which Hindus pay tribute to the god Shiva. Given the close relationship between weed and the spiritual traditions of the country, the Nepalese tend to take a laxer view of pot in general. In Kathmandu, it's reported that "It's illegal, but they are not too bothered about [pot] use, just smuggling, which is serious." As in Myanmar, those unfortunate enough to be arrested for a minor weed-related infraction in Nepal can typically buy their freedom with a minimal bribe.

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