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

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.

  • There Are No Penalties For Possessing Pot In Georgia
    Photo: Cannabis Pictures / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    On July 30, 2018, the country of Georgia reviewed its constitution and ruled that "consumption of marijuana is an action protected by the right to free personality" and citizens cannot be given citations for possessing the drug. 

    Citizens are still unable to cultivate or sell the product, but simply possessing cannabis is completely legal. This makes Georgia one of the countries with the most liberal cannabis policies on Earth – only Canada and Uruguay are more lax with the substance.

  • As Long As You Don't Have Edibles, You Can Have Recreational Cannabis In Canada
    Photo: Rotational / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    On June 19, 2018, Canada's Senate passed their federal government's legal cannabis bill. The law lets adults purchase and use cannabis, although edibles are still off limits; they are scheduled to be legalized in 2019.

    There are different laws for each of the 13 provinces. For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, adults 19 and older are allowed to buy cannabis from private retailers. You can smoke it in private, but it is still illegal to smoke or consume in public. In these provinces, residents are also allowed to grow up to four personal plants. 

    In Quebec, on the other hand, you only need to be 18 to purchase cannabis, but growing personal plants is illegal. If you are traveling in Canada, be sure to check in with whatever province you are staying in's local laws regarding cannabis before toking up. 

  • Uruguay Was The First Country To Legalize Pot
    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."

  • Contrary To Popular Belief, Pot Is Illegal In The Netherlands
    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!

  • 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.

  • In Nepal, Weed Is Only Legal During An Annual Hindu Festival
    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.