Politics & Landscape

August 1, 2018

Toke Travels

Where in the world is cannabis legal?

Canada is less than three months from legalizing recreational cannabis.

As the first G7 nation to accomplish this societal shift, the world is watching as the flowering herb begins to impact our country, culture and economy. Recreational marijuana is projected to add $4.2 to $6.2 billion CAD to our GDP, along with employment opportunities, modern shopping experiences and changes to everyday Canadian life.

Although Canada may be the largest country to legalize, a number of nations and states have blazed the trail before us, with plenty of lessons and insights along the way. Many have decriminalized personal possession of cannabis, while a select few have fully permitted its sale, distribution and consumption.

At Fire & Flower, as we ready ourselves for October 17th, we’re learning from these countries’ successes and missteps. Let’s explore the forward-thinking nations where recreational cannabis is now legal and decriminalized.

Where is recreational cannabis legal?


In 2017, Uruguay became the first country to fully legalize recreational marijuana. The sun-soaked Latin American nation ushered in this historical change with strict regulations. For one, the government only allows Uruguayan citizens to consume the plant, creating a black market, even though the country attracts a bevy of cannabis-loving tourists every year.

Another sticking point is a lack of supply. Only two companies possess licenses to commercially produce marijuana. Plus, citizens must purchase cannabis from one of 16 licensed pharmacies or 83 registered cannabis clubs.

It’s impressive that Uruguay has accomplished the commercial aspects of legalization on a countrywide scale. Although some barriers remain, the slow loosening of regulations and the introduction of new producers will move this beachfront country toward a happy equilibrium.

United States of America

Over the past six years, a wave of green has washed over our neighbours down south. State after state has legalized the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis. The federal government has yet to follow suit, but with the projected market expected to reach $13.2 billion USD in 2025, it seems only a matter of time that the herb will win widespread acceptance.

Americans can legally light up in nine states, as well as the nation’s capital:

  • Alaska
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington, DC

Some regions, like Colorado, are home to more cannabis shops than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined. And, the marketplace has become incredibly sophisticated. Want to try a marijuana yoga workshop? How about a cannabis dinner party? If you can think of it, it’s likely out there. What’s more, you can buy nearly any kind of product imaginable: cocktails, high-tech vapes, pet tinctures and THC strips, to name only a few.

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Spain’s cannabis laws are a little hazier. As of 2015, residents can consume and cultivate marijuana privately, but the sale and distribution of the plant is prohibited. This legal purgatory has led to the proliferation of more than 800 cannabis clubs throughout the country.

Primarily concentrated in Barcelona and the Catalonia region, underground marijuana bars began emerging in the 1990s as part of a political movement. Today, the cannabis clubs retain their funky, smoke-clouded aura, offering more flower and hash than trendy edibles and oils. You must buy a membership to enter, so Spain has yet to reach the Amsterdam tourism levels that many predicted when the herb became legal.


Many nations have gotten wise to legalizing recreational cannabis, but the Netherlands has been the marijuana capital of the world since the 1970s. Scores of tourists land here to sample offbeat coffeeshops of all shapes and sizes.

But, there’s a bit of a catch: Recreational cannabis isn’t technically legal. The government has followed a tolerance policy for decades, turning a blind eye to small amounts of soft drugs like marijuana. Authorities trust individuals to make their own lifestyle decisions, and the charming Dutch seem to carry along merrily.

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Where is recreational marijuana decriminalized?

Only a handful of countries have fully legalized cannabis, but dozens more have decriminalized the plant. In these locales, recreational marijuana is still illegal to produce and sell, but you won’t get charged with a crime if you possess a small amount.

Some notable nations include:

  • Argentina
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Czech Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Estonia
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Paraguay
  • Portugal
  • Peru
  • Jamaica
  • Russia
  • Switzerland


Legal marijuana is sweeping the globe. In this new era, truth and understanding are breaking down the myths and misconceptions surrounding the plant.

As Canadians, we can look to the nations who have accomplished the feat of legalization before us. Let’s learn from their wisdom while still honouring the unique needs of our people and society.

Have you travelled to a country where marijuana is legal? Did you visit a cannabis shop? Tell us all about it on social. And, be sure to keep following the Fire & Flower blog to stay in the know about Canadian cannabis news.