Australia has lagged behind on reforming recreational and medicinal cannabis laws. 

Cannabis is legal in these countries. So, why not Australia?

Laura Woods

Cannabis for recreational use is not legal in Australia…yet. 

While many countries around the world are moving to legalise cannabis, Australia has lagged behind on reforming recreational and medicinal cannabis laws. 

As it turns out, such prohibitionist policies are becoming less popular with the Australian population. Support for legalising cannabis has nearly doubled over six years and according to a recent Unharm survey, the majority of Unharm supporters  want a legal, regulated market for all drug types. 

So, how do Australia’s cannabis laws compare to other countries around the world? And what can we learn from countries who have already legalised cannabis? 

Has Australia legalised cannabis? 

Not entirely. Cannabis laws in Australia differ state by state. Most states still criminalise cannabis, except for Australian Capital Territory who legalised the possession and consumption of recreational cannabis for personal use only. 

This means that there are no penalties for adults who possess up to 50 grams of dried cannabis (150 grams fresh), grow up to two cannabis plants per person or use cannabis in their home. 

Australia did legalise medicinal cannabis back in 2016, however medicinal cannabis products are so tightly regulated that many consumers report problems with access and availability.  

So, long story short, recreational cannabis is not completely legal anywhere in Australia. 

Inhale or ingest cannabis (legally) in these countries

There are many countries who have legalised cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes. 

Countries leading the way on legal cannabis include Canada, Uruguay, South Africa, Jamaica, Malta and some states in the United States. 

Generally speaking, in these countries it is legal to buy and use recreational cannabis – with a few caveats. 

For example, in South Africa, cannabis is only legal for private, at-home use. Then in Jamaica, cannabis is legal for private use and for religious purposes. Rastafarian practitioners embrace cannabis (or “ganja”), and use the “holy herb” in religious rituals as a means to gain wisdom. 

In some U.S. states such as New York, and places like Colombia and Costa Rica, smoking cannabis is not criminalised, but it is illegal to sell it.

The countries moving towards legal cannabis

Decriminalisation means that cannabis is still illegal, but the penalties are more like a parking ticket rather than a prison sentence or criminal charge. 

There are many regions across North America, Africa, Europe, Australia and South America that have adopted some form of decriminalisation for recreational use of cannabis. 

The specifics of decriminalisation differ by location. For example, contrary to popular belief, cannabis in the Netherlands is illegal. But a legislative loophole has made it decriminalised for personal use, with recreational consumption of the drug “tolerated” (hence all those coffee shops).

Decriminalisation is on the horizon for European countries like Germany, Luxembourg and Italy, as well as in African countries like Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

Don’t get caught with cannabis in these countries

Cannabis still remains a prohibited substance in some countries, and can even result in severe penalties.  

Except for Lebanon and Israel, a lot of the Middle East remains particularly hostile towards cannabis. Caught with a small amount of cannabis in the United Arab Emirates, and you’re looking at a four-year prison sentence. The same zero-tolerance stance goes for Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Singapore, Japan, Korea and Turkey are other countries who are also notorious for enforcing strict, anti-drugs laws. 

Do you think Australia should legalise cannabis? Sign the petition today.

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