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Legalised cannabis gains global traction

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A worker checks marijuana plants at a legal cannabis plantation for medicinal purposes in Guatavita municipality, Cundinamarca department, Colombia, in September. AFP

Legalised cannabis gains global traction

Tiny Malta on December 14 became the first country in Europe to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, with Germany and Luxembourg set to follow.

While many countries have decriminalised the use and possession of the drug, abandoning prison sentences for consumers, just Canada, Uruguay and a number of US states had made it fully legal, including for medicinal purposes.

Here is an overview:

Latin America

Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalise the production, distribution and consumption of marijuana in 2013.

Its citizens and residents can buy up to 40g of weed a month from pharmacies, grow it themselves at home, or join cannabis clubs where members tend to the plants together.

The government has licensed two private companies to produce and distribute marijuana.

Several other Latin American countries have legalised cannabis for medicinal use: Chile in 2015, Colombia in 2016 and Argentina, Mexico and Peru in 2017.

Colombia authorised its industrial use and export for medicinal purposes in July while Mexican courts have decriminalised personal use.

North America

In 2018, Canada became the second country in the world – and the first G7 major economy – to allow the recreational consumption of cannabis.

The legislation limits personal possession to 30g and four plants per household.

In the US, federal law prohibits the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana.

However, 18 states and the national capital Washington, DC, have legalised marijuana for recreational use. California is the biggest legal market in the world.

Thirty-six states and the capital, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have legalised marijuana for medical use.


Under the new Malta law adults will be allowed to have up to 7g of cannabis and grow up to four plants at home.

It also allows non-profit groups of up to 500 people to grow it for members.

Germany’s new government has also vowed to legalise the drug for personal use and Luxembourg is expected also to give the green light for home cultivation and use early next year.

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A young woman holds an edible ticket, made of rice paper and basted with hempseed oil, by Berlin’s public transport operator BVG. The ticket is to calm down commuters in the busy pre-Christmas period. AFP

The Netherlands in general, and Amsterdam in particular, have tolerated the sale and use of marijuana in their iconic coffee shops since 1976.

That year, the Dutch decriminalised the sale of small amounts of cannabis – less than 5g – and allowed individuals to legally grow five plants each for personal use.

A controversial 2012 law banned the sale of marijuana to non-residents and tourists in three southern provinces.

The Hague banned cannabis from the city centre in April 2018.

But in July 2018, the Dutch government gave the green light to a wide-ranging experiment to allow up to 10 municipalities around the country to grow cannabis.

In Spain, laws allow for the private production and consumption of cannabis by adults, though its sale is still illegal.

The Czech Republic decriminalised cannabis for personal use in 2010, but you can be still fined for possessing small quantities, with criminal penalties beyond that.

A similar system operates in Portugal, which decriminalised all drugs in 2001 though they still remain banned.

Users have to pay fines or agree to addiction treatment.

In July, Georgia’s supreme court did away with fines for cannabis for personal consumption.

Several other European countries have legalised cannabis for certain medical purposes, including Austria, Britain, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Slovenia.


In 2018, South Africa’s top court ruled that private, personal cannabis use by adults was legal.

Thailand is also planning to legalise the cultivation of cannabis for medical use, which would make it the first country in Southeast Asia to enter a market dominated by Canada, Australia and Israel.

In Lebanon, where illegal plantations of marijuana are widespread, Parliament last year legalised the cultivation of marijuana for medical use.

Morocco, the world’s No1 producer, passed a law in March authorising the “medical, cosmetic and industrial” use of the drug, while keeping the ban on recreational use.


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