With marijuana reforms being proposed and instituted across Europe and the US, it’s easy to forget about cannabis’ legal status in other countries. But debates about marijuana’s uses, benefits, and legality are happening globally. In this post, I look at lesser known cannabis legislation outside the West.
India’s Marijuana Policies
You may already know that Cannabis indica was named after India. But do you know about the complex history and legality of marijuana there?
Cannabis has been used in India for thousands of years, and was actually legal until 1985 when the government gave into US pressure and instituted laws that classed marijuana alongside heroin and crack. The current legislations make it illegal to cultivate, sell, or consume cannabis buds, hash, or resin – resulting in an interesting loophole in the law.
Today, many Indian citizens still use ‘bhang’: an edible or drinkable preparation of marijuana that features prominently in certain religious festivals. Because it’s made primarily from leaves, it’s technically not included in India’s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. For this reason, bhang is legal and can be purchased at government-approved shops.
As the US policies on marijuana are changing, many Indians are questioning why cannabis should still be illegal in their country.
North Korea’s Marijuana Policies
While North Korea has an incredibly strict drug policy for other substances – like facing a firing squad for using meth – marijuana and opium are apparently not considered drugs, and thus carry no criminal charges. It may also be the case that marijuana is technically illegal, but no one is enforcing laws against its use, cultivation, and sale.
It’s fairly common for North Koreans to grow their own, or to simply find marijuana plants growing wild in parts of the country. It seems that it’s primarily used as a cheap alternative to cigarettes, and as muscle relaxant for working class labourers at the end of a long day.
Malta’s Marijuana Policies
This country is so small you may never have heard of it. But even this tiny island state is working towards more progressive drug laws. While drug use is still illegal, new laws have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and other drugs.
For cannabis users, being caught with up to 3.5 grams (0.1 ounces) results in a fine instead of jail time. Cultivation for personal use has also been decriminalized, effectively making it easier and safer to grow and smoke at home. Malta is now one of a numerous countries prescribing rehab for repeat offenders instead of prison sentences.
Medical marijuana is also on the horizon, with specialist doctors prescribing marijuana in cases where other medications are not viable.
Jamaica’s Marijuana Policies
You may be surprised to learn that marijuana is still illegal in Jamaica of all places. However, it seems that the laws prohibiting cannabis are often enforced at random. Thankfully, recent reform means that personal possession has been decriminalized.
The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act of 2015 – also known as the ‘Ganja Law’ – allows citizens to carry up to 56 grams (2 ounces) before they can be ticketed for a fine. Failure to pay the fine results in a heftier fine, or community service. People under 18 years of age found in possession of cannabis will be referred to the National Council on Drug Abuse for counselling.
Rastafarians, however, are allowed to consume marijuana as part of their faith, in registered worship locations.
This post was originally published on February 15, 2016, it was updated on March 15, 2017.