Countries Around the World Make Moves to Decriminalize Cannabis

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In late 2019, a ruling by Italy's highest court struck down the prohibition against growing marijuana at home, ending a long legal dispute over that issue.

The court ruled that “at home, small-scale cultivation activities are to be considered excluded from the application of the penal code,” according to the New York Times.

In effect, the ruling appears to have decriminalized growing of marijuana at home in Italy.  Reuters called the decision a “landmark ruling,” sure to ignite further dispute between marijuana advocates who see this as a step toward legalization and conservatives who are angry with the court’s ruling.

Other countries have also started changing national marijuana laws.

But the ruling highlights a positive trend across the world. Like Italy, other countries also have made moves to change the laws around marijuana. 

We all know that Uruguay and Canada legalized marijuana for recreational use. But other countries have also made moves to partially legalize or decriminalize adult-use marijuana. 

With vague laws or lax enforcement, the population has begun to feel comfortable at least growing and using marijuana in their own home without fear of getting arrested. 

Here’s a look at a few of those countries. 

Mexico is set to debate a new legalization proposal this spring.

Mexico, like Canada, is now taking on marijuana legalization in a straightforward way. This Spring, Mexican lawmakers are expected to take up a new bill that would create a system to legalize and regulate adult-use marijuana. The proposal includes provisions that allow adults to possess 28 grams for personal use and grow up to six plants. The Mexico Supreme Court cleared the path for this in a 2018 decision that found a ban on recreational marijuana was unconstitutional.

Citizens use old law in Spain to create cannabis clubs.

Travelers to Spain know this has been going on for the past decade. A longstanding Spanish law allows people to grow and use marijuana if it is done in a private home. The law also allows people to form a “cannabis club,” where members can grow and use marijuana. Such clubs have proliferated in Spain in the last decade. Just google “cannabis clubs Spain” to confirm.

Costa Rica is one of those “sort of” countries.

Technically, Costa Rica has not legalized marijuana. But as one travel site put it recently: “Marijuana is decriminalized in Costa Rica, sort of.” Why the confusion? Again, it was a high court that got the ball rolling. The Costa Rica Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2018 that essentially decriminalized growing and using small amounts of cannabis in private homes.  However, all other cannabis-related activities are illegal.

Decriminalization is in effect across most of South America.

No countries other than Canada have followed Uruguay with national legalization and setting up a state-regulated system. However, several countries in South America have decriminalized possession and/or cultivation of small amounts, according to the World Population Review. They are:

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Chile
  • Columbia
  • Ecuador
  • Paraguay
  • Peru

South Africa is blazing the decriminalization trail in Africa.

In South Africa, it is legal to possess and grow cannabis in your home, per a 2018 decision by the South African Constitutional Court. South Africa is the first country in Africa to approve decriminalization.

Australia looks a bit like the U.S.

As states in the U.S. legalize marijuana one at the time, much the same thing has happened in Australia. That country also has a patchwork quilt of marijuana laws. In the fall of 2019, the Australian Capital Territory, which includes the nation’s capital of Canberra, legalized recreational use. No other place in Australia has legalized marijuana, but a few other territories have decriminalized possession and cultivation of small amounts.

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