Cannabis legalization is not exclusive to North America. So far, more than 40 countries have legalized cannabis fully or partially for medical and/or adult use. Cannabis Business Times compiled a brief look at the laws in those with established regulations.
(Editor's note: Countries that have decriminalized possession for small amounts of cannabis are not included, nor is the U.S. This feature was originally published in the July 2017 issue of CBT. It was updated in October 2021 to reflect the latest snapshot of global legalization.)
Argentina – Status: CBD legalized/Partially medically legalized/Decriminalized
Medical cannabis has been legal in Chubut and Santa Fe Provinces since late 2016. In March, the Argentinian senate legalized cannabidiol (CBD) oil for treatment of certain conditions, including epilepsy. The national medical authorities are the only group allowed to produce and distribute the medicine.
Australia – Status: Medically legalized/Partially decriminalized
Federally legalized production of MMJ on Feb. 24, 2016, and use of MMJ on Nov. 1, 2016. First federal research license granted Feb. 17, by The Office of Drug Control in the Federal Department of Health.
Canada – Status: Full federal legalization
Canada legalized medical cannabis use and cultivation in 2001. The program, which licenses cannabis producers, is regulated by the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations by Health Canada. The country is preparing to legalize adult-use by July 1, 2018.
Chile – Status: Medically legalized
Chile legalized the cultivation of medical cannabis in 2014. Cultivators must get a license from the Chilean Agriculture Service. Sale of medical cannabis is only allowed through prescription at pharmacies.
Colombia – Status: Medically legalized/DecriminalizedOn Dec. 22, 2015, President Juan Manuel Santos signed a bill into law to regulate the medical cannabis industry. It is now fully legal to grow, process, import and export medical cannabis and cannabis derivatives if you possess a federal license from the National Narcotics Council and/or the health ministry.
Croatia – Status: Medically legalized
Legal for certain conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS. MMJ is currently imported.
Czech Republic – Status: Medically legalized
Since 2013, MMJ has been legal in the Czech Republic. In the first year of the program, federal authorities imported medical cannabis products to sell at pharmacies. Today, licensed cultivators grow cannabis for the state.
Denmark - Status: Medical Pilot Program legalized
In 2018, Denmark began a pilot program that has since seen thousands of patients register for the use of medical cannabis.
Ecuador - Status: Decriminalized
Personal possession and consumption is allowed up to 10 grams.
Germany – Status: Medically legalized/Decriminalized
Earlier this year, Germany began importing medical marijuana (MMJ) from Canada as part of a recently expanded program. Potential cultivators are vying for government licenses, and current patients may pick up their prescriptions at pharmacies.
Greece - Status: Medically legalized
Greece legalized medical cannabis in March 2018.
India – Status: Federally illegal, but legal in some states
While cannabis (often called “ganja” in India) remains federally illegal, it is reportedly widely tolerated, and several states have their own laws legalizing cannabis for possession/use or sale.
Ireland - Status: Medical Pilot Program legalized
Beginning in 2019, Ireland has overseen a five-year medical cannabis pilot program.
Israel – Status: Medically legalized
Long a center for cannabis research, Israel legalized medical marijuana in the 1990s. In 2004, it began experimenting with THC as a treatment for PTSD in its military members. There are currently eight licensed producers, and patients can get their prescriptions filled in company stores or medical centers.
Italy – Status: Medically legalized
Italy legalized cannabis for medical use in 2013. Currently, production is limited to a military operation in Florence called the Military Pharmaceutical Plant. The Army sends final medicine to pharmacies across the country, where patients with prescriptions can purchase medicine.
Jamaica – Status: Partially medically legalized/Decriminalized
In February 2015, an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act was passed in the House of Representatives, making minor possession a civil penalty and opening the door for a regulated system of permits and licenses, as well as use for medical, therapeutic and religious purposes.
Macedonia – Status: Medically legalized
Legalized in 2016, medical marijuana in Macedonia is already attracting international investors. A U.S.-based group, NYSK Holdings, has invested in a cannabis oil-producing plant in the Balkan country. Production is regulated by the federal authorities who issue licenses to select operators.
Mexico – Status: Medically legalized/Decriminalized
A recent law change saw cannabis legalized for medical purposes in Mexico. In April 2017, the Mexican Chamber of Deputies approved a Senate measure legalizing the plant for medical use. Regulation and policies are being set by the country’s Health Department. Since then, the Supreme Court has ruled cannabis prohibition unconstitutional. Legislators are drafting possible regulations for future legalization.
Philippines – Status: Medical cannabis legislation in progress
[Updated March 2019.] The House of Representatives is debating HB 6517, which would legalize cannabis in all forms for medical use.
Poland – Status: Partially medically legalized
While cannabis is still illegal in Poland, health authorities have been issuing reimbursements for the purchase of medical cannabis. Medical cannabis products are imported from other countries. Currently no laws regulate nor legalize the domestic production of cannabis.
Puerto Rico – Status: Medically legalized
An executive order signed by the governor legalized the medical use of cannabis in 2015. Only groups licensed by the U.S. territory may cultivate medical cannabis. Dispensary sales began early this year.
South Africa - Status: Legal and decriminalized, but not available for sale
In 2018, South Africa legalized and decriminalized the adult use of cannabis, but a regulated system for the sale of cannabis is not yet in place.
Turkey – Status: Medically legalized
Turkey legalized cannabis for medical uses in October 2016. Cultivation is allowed in select provinces, although any province can host a cultivation facility for scientific purposes if the federal authorities allow it. Licenses are government-controlled and valid for three years.
Uruguay – Status: Legalized
Uruguay legalized cannabis in all forms in 2013. Consumers must be 18 years old or older, and residents of Uruguay and must be registered with federal authorities. Cannabis sold in the country is produced by the federal government.
Zimbabwe - Status: Medically legalized
In 2018, Zimbabwe legalized medical cannabis. Significant investment has followed, and in May 2020 Zimbabwean farmers were granted 100% land ownership for turning their fields over to cannabis.