Marijuana Legalization is Going Global

Progressive Policies Taking Hold

In the past few years we have seen progressively more legislation in the United States that is swinging in support of marijuana, both medical and recreational. States have built billion dollar industries on the formerly banned plant and other countries have taken notice.

The United States hasn’t always been on the forefront of marijuana legislation, but it is becoming a hot-bed for creativity and innovation in the marijuana industry. Though the United States is still limited by the overarching federally illegal status of cannabis, states have taken it upon themselves to embrace the amazing plant on their own.

Countries Outside the United States

Often if people think of cannabis outside of the US, there is one country that comes to mind, the Netherlands. The cosmopolitan city of Amsterdam has long been the center of cannabis in the world due to its laissez-faire openly progressive marijuana policies. Yet those who are up to date on their medicinal cannabis studies know that Israel is also the center of many marijuana innovations due to their extensive studies devoted to the health benefits of the plant. Though cannabis is still illegal in most countries in the world, here is a snapshot of the countries that are embracing marijuana in one way or another.



Uruguay was the first county in the world to completely legalize cannabis. The move, which was initiated in 2013, has become an interesting model for countries who have partially legalized the plant. There are still some bumps in the road, however, particularly in relation to the registration process in the country. There is very little trust of the government in Uruguay and some worry that the government database for legal cannabis users could be used against them later if a different administration comes into power and changes the laws. Interestingly, the majority of Uruguay’s population is not in favor of marijuana.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic legalized medicinal marijuana in 2013, but the country has struggled to provide a consistent and quality source of medication to their patients. It is still notoriously hard to access cannabis even after you have received the proper credentials to obtain medical marijuana. Many hope that the Czech Republic alleviates some of their issues in the coming year as they create a more established industry.



Ecuador is trying to change the image of drugs within their country. A long time victim of drug related gangs and the consequential War on Drugs, Ecuador has recently loosened their legal repercussions to cannabis. Though they have not technically legalized cannabis in any way, they have chosen to make it legal to have small amounts of marijuana. This has come on the tail of a widespread effort to pardon many non-violent drug offenders in the country. Many people believe Ecuador may soon follow in the footsteps of Uruguay and move towards full legalization of cannabis.


Our neighbor to the north has often been quite friendly to medical cannabis, but they have yet to recreationally legalize cannabis in any provinces. Medical marijuana is widely available and is seen as respected medication. Patients are reimbursed by the government for visits to the cannabis doctor and there is government oversight for medicinal marijuana production and distribution. They have also decreased marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance, a move that the Untied States failed to make in the last year.


Spain is an interesting case in the world of marijuana. From walking down the streets of Barcelona, you would largely believe that marijuana is legal, but it is not. Amsterdam style “coffee shops” line the streets and they are quite popular, but technically they are still illegal. Marijuana has been decriminalized in Spain and it is widely accepted, leading many people to believe that it will soon be recreationally legalized.


Cannabis is not legal in Portugal, but it is not illegal either. Portugal decriminalized all drug possession in 2001 and since, they have served as an experiment into the world of complete personal determination when it comes to drug use. Portugal is clear to point out that the medical marijuana industry in the country is completely distinct from the grey recreational industry that exists in a country with complete drug decriminalization.


Amsterdam has built a reputation on its “coffee shops” that dish out made to order joints and famous “moon cake” edibles. In the rest of the country, however, recreational cannabis is not legal, however medicinal consumption is. This has created an interesting dichotomy in a county with a city famous for its cannabis tourism. Laws regarding cannabis have actually gotten harsher in recent years, making cannabis more difficult to access.


Germany is one of the newest countries to approve medical marijuana within their borders. The move was unanimously voted in and will take effect in March of 2017. Much like medical marijuana within the Untied States, patients will have to be approved by a doctor using a list of qualifying conditions, or based on a physician’s opinion. Germany is increasingly becoming a world leader on cannabis and as well as other global issues, especially within the European Union, making it a pronounced example for other countries across the world.

A Snapshot of What’s to Come

These eight countries only provide a snapshot of what is happening in cannabis industries all across the world. Eight other countries and territories across the world have also legalized cannabis recreationally, each with different rules and regulations governing what qualities a patient for medical marijuana must have in order to be eligible. Those countries are Australia, Chile, Puerto Rico, Israel, Macedonia, Croatia, Colombia, and Poland.

The tide has turned in favor of legalization all across the world and it is likely that that trend with continue to spread. Marijuana is also being widely decriminalized even when it is not being legalized. Continued research from all across the world will provide increasingly more countries with the motivation to legalize marijuana due to its widespread effectiveness as a medication.

If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 post. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s 100% online, private and efficient.


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