• Sabine Downer

Where in the World is Cannabis and CBD Legal- Answered

Cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) products face unique legislation around the world. There is, unfortunately, no consensus on if they should be legal, how laws should be enforced, and what penalties should be for breaking cannabis laws. The matter is likewise complicated because of the black market for marijuana. Even if marijuana is illegal in some places, it may be readily available on the black market. Cultural acceptance plays a big role in whether or not the legal status of marijuana will actually be enforced in a particular location.

CBD products add another layer of legal confusion. While these products do not contain enough of the psychoactive cannabinoid delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to create intoxication, they remain illegal in some places. In places like the US, CBD is widely available but facing ongoing legal issues with how it should be regulated. The European Nations (EU) has provided more clear standards. However, their conclusion that most CBD products must follow Novel Food regulations means that legally bringing products to market is costly.

Where is Marijuana Illegal?

There are many countries where marijuana remains illegal for a variety of reasons. Some countries do not discriminate between CBD products and marijuana, while others do. The list of places where marijuana is legal includes some nations that are small and lesser-known. Others are religiously conservative or face too many challenges from poverty to worry about pot. One unique factor to note is that while marijuana is illegal in some countries, its status may not be enforced.

  • Afghanistan [27], Albania (unenforced) [23, 27], Algeria [27], Andorra [27], Angola [27], Armenia [27], Azerbaijan [27]

  • The Bahamas [27], Bahrain [27], Bangladesh [27], Belarus [27], Belize (decriminalized) [27], Benin [27], Bhutan [27], Bolivia (decriminalized) [27], Bosnia and Herzegovina [27], Botswana [27], Brunei [27], Bulgaria [27], Burkina Faso [27], Burundi [27]

  • Cambodia (unenforced) [27], Cameroon [27], Cape Verde [27], Central African Republic [27], Chad [27], China [27], Comoros [27], Congo [27], Costa Rica (decriminalized) [27], Cuba [27]

  • Djibouti [27], Dominica [27], Dominican Republic [27]

  • East Timor [27], Ecuador (decriminalized) [27], El Salvador [27], Equatorial Guinea [27], Eritrea [27], Eswatini [27], Ethiopia [27], Egypt (unenforced) [27]

  • Greenland [27], Grenada [27], Guatemala [27]

  • India (except bhang) [27], Indonesia [27], Iran (unenforced) [27]

  • Fiji [27]

  • Gabon [27], The Gambia [27], Ghana [27], Guinea [27], Guinea-Bissau [27], Guyana [27]

  • Haiti [27], Honduras [27], Hong Kong [27], Hungary [27]

  • Iceland [27], Iraq [27]

  • Kiribati [27], Kosovo [27], Kuwait [27], Kyrgyzstan [27]

  • Laos (unenforced) [27], Latvia [27], Lebanon [27], Lesotho [27], Liberia [27], Libya [27], Liechtenstein [27], Lithuania [27]

  • Macau [27], Madagascar [27], Malawi [27], Malaysia [27], Maldives [27], Mali [27], Marshall Islands [27], Mauritania [27], Mauritius [27], Micronesia [27], Monaco [27], Mongolia [27], Montenegro [27], Morocco (unenforced) [27], Mozambique [27], Myanmar (unenforced) [27]

  • Namibia [27], Nepal (unenforced) [27], Nicaragua [27], Niger [27], Nigeria [27]

  • Oman [27]

  • Pakistan (unenforced) [27], Palau [27], Panama (medical proposed) [27, 37], Papua New Guinea [27], Paraguay [27], Philippines (some special permits) [27]

  • Qatar [27]

  • Russia [27], Rwanda [27]

  • Saint Kitts and Nevis (decriminalized) [27], Saint Lucia [27], San Marino [27], Sao Tome and Principe [27], Saudi Arabia [27], Senegal [27], Serbia [27], Seychelles [27], Sierra Leone [27], Singapore [27], Slovakia [27], Slovenia [27],The Solomon Islands [27], Somalia [27], South Sudan, Spain [27], [27], Sri Lanka [27], Sudan [27], Suriname [27], Sweden [27], Syria [27]

  • Taiwan [27], Tajikistan [27], Tanzania [27], Thailand [27],Trinidad and Tobago [27],Turkey [27]

  • Ukraine [27],

  • Vanuatu [27], Vatican City [27], Vietnam [27]

  • Yemen [27]

  • Zambia [27]

Where is Medical Marijuana Legal?

There is a growing list of countries that have legalized medical marijuana. Nations like France and Mexico have very restrictive programs. By contrast, nations like Jamaica do not strongly enforce their medical program and additionally allow marijuana to be used for religious purposes. Other islands around Jamaica, where the traditional Rastafari religion is practiced, may also lack strong enforcement of marijuana laws. In South America and Nordic nations, marijuana use has been commonplace for many years despite its legal status. In these countries, it is common to see countries with marijuana laws that are not strongly enforced.

  • Argentina [27, 36], Australia (recreational in ACT) [16, 27, 35], Austria [2, 27]

  • Barbados (and religious use), Belgium [27], Bermuda [27], Brazil [27]

  • Chile (unenforced) [27, 28], Colombia (unenforced) [17, 22], Croatia [27], Cyprus [27], Czechoslovakia [27]

  • Denmark [27]

  • Finland [27], France (limited) [27]

  • Germany [27], Greece [27]

  • Ireland [27], Israel [27], Italy [27]

  • Jamaica (and religious use) [27]

  • Luxembourg [4, 27]

  • Malta [27], Mexico (limited) [27]

  • The Netherlands (unenforced) [27], New Zealand [27], North Macedonia [27], Norway [27]

  • Peru [27], Poland (unenforced) [27], Portugal [27]

  • Romania (limited) [27]

  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines [27], Samoa [27], South Korea [27]

  • The United Kingdom [27]

  • Zimbabwe [27]

Where is Cannabis Decriminalized or Somewhat Legal?

Some nations stand out on the world stage as having unique marijuana policies. For example, Antigua and Barbuda allow up to four marijuana plants per household and 15 grams of marijuana possession. However, in Antigua and Barbuda, the sale of marijuana remains illegal [19, 24, 27].

The United States also has very complicated marijuana laws [3, 27]. The legality of marijuana is federally illegal, but many states have medical marijuana programs. There are also several US states where recreational cannabis is legal. Every state has different penalties and limits on marijuana possession and legal consequences. This makes the US a very confusing place for marijuana. Likewise, the state and federal governments continue to clash on the regulation of CBD products.

It may surprise some to learn that Estonia has a complex relationship with marijuana [1, 27, 33]. While marijuana is illegal in Estonia, it has very lax penalties and is very commonly used. Many blogs frame Estonia as a stoner-friendly travel destination. However, the actual marijuana laws in Estonia should be understood:

“Drug use and possession of a small amount of an illicit drug for personal use in Estonia are not criminal acts, but misdemeanors, for which the punishment is a fine or an arrest of up to 30 days (Act on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Precursors). Possession of over 10 average doses of an illicit drug (Penal Code §184), or possession of any amount of an illicit drug for the purpose of passing it along to someone else (Penal Code §183) are considered criminal acts. Currently, there are no exact statistics regarding punishments for drug misdemeanors (drug use or possession of up to 10 doses). Almost 90% of the punishments enacted comprise fines, which average to about 100 EUR (about 80 EUR for cannabis, 100–120 for more potent drugs). The law itself does not differentiate between different drugs, but the punishments tend to be lower for cannabis, since more people who get caught with cannabis are first-time offenders. [13]”

Where is Cannabis Fully Legal?

Canada has both medical and recreational marijuana laws [9, 27]. As a nation, they are one of the leading forces in the cannabis industry and are already working internationally to grow their cannabis firms. Each territory has some specific limits and regulations on cannabis, mainly restrictions on business locations and retail. Mail-order services have been standard for medical marijuana procurement.

Georgia is a lesser-known former Soviet country [27, 29]. In 2018, they took the surprising step of simply making marijuana fully legal. Newsweek reports on the surprising legislation:

“...the nation's constitutional court ruled that punishing an individual for using cannabis restricts an individual's freedom as the plant can only potentially cause harm to the user... The court ruled that punishing a person for using pot will only be allowed if their actions put a third party at risk. Cultivation and selling will remain a punishable offense, however.”

South Africa is said to have legal recreational and medicinal marijuana [27, 34]. The details around recreational laws remain murky, but in 2018 it was reported that,

“South Africa’s Constitutional Court has passed down a judgment that makes it legal for adults to cultivate and smoke marijuana in their homes. The court—the country’s highest—ruled that the right to privacy was violated by prohibiting the possession, purchase, or cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption by an adult in a private dwelling. [34]”

Time will tell how the South African government, courts, and police interpret this law. For now, South African marijuana users are advised to exercise caution and discretion.

Uruguay has legal medicinal and recreational marijuana [27, 31]. They have been a pioneer in the South American cannabis industry. Their system is tightly controlled. Marijuana can only be purchased at pharmacies, and the customer must register with regulators. Strangely, the legal status of CBD in Uruguay is much more stringent.

Where is CBD Illegal?

In some countries, CBD is considered to be illegal. This is most often seen in nations that do not differentiate between CBD and marijuana.

  • Afghanistan, Algeria, Albania [8, 21], Andorra,

  • Belarus [22], Bolivia [22], Bosnia and Herzegovina [22],

  • Ecuador [22],

  • Guatemala,

  • Iceland [22], Indonesia,

  • Moldova [20],

  • Philippines [11],

  • Russia [22],

  • Serbia [22], Slovakia [20, 22],

  • Venezuela [22]

Where is CBD Legal?

Among EU nations, hemp and CBD have nuanced regulations. Most EU countries have applied some form of the EU Novel Food Regulations to their CBD markets [5].

“...the European Foods Safety Authority (‘EFSA’) has classified [CBD] as a ‘novel food’ ingredient. ‘Novel food’ is ‘food that was not used for human consumption to a significant degree within the Union before 15 May 1997, irrespective of the dates of accession of the Member States to the Union.’ Pursuant to EU regulations, anyone who wishes to sell food containing a ‘novel food’ ingredient must first secure a license from the EFSA. [5]”

However, there are variabilities such as language used and the amount of THC permitted [5]. The European Industrial Hemp Association and the Cannabis Trades Association have challenged the Novel Food guidance because it is a time consuming and expensive process for CBD producers to adhere to.

Likewise, many feel that it does not give proper acknowledgment to the historically unregulated use and production of CBD products. In the US, this legal controversy also exists. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has used its approval of the pharmaceutical Epidiolex as a rationale for restricting commercial CBD products. The CBD industry in the US has largely ignored the FDA’s orders. Most CBD products on the US market comply with the 0.3% THC limit of the 2018 Farm Bill.

However, there is a lack of standardization in potency test methods and reporting. Some CBD products may have a total of 0.3% or less THC. Others may have only less than 0.3% delta-9-THC. In hemp flower, the amount of THCA (inactive THC) in the buds will convert to active THC when smoked.

US CBD products are required by the 2018 Farm Bill to have no more than 0.3% THC. However, many states have recreational marijuana programs that would make CBD products with a larger THC percentage legal. The lack of coherent and cooperative state and federal policies have created a chaotic, but booming CBD and marijuana industry within the US.

Countries Where CBD is Legal Under EU Novel Food Laws or Similar

  • Austria: 0.3% THC limit [5]

  • Bulgaria: 0.2% THC limit [18, 21]

  • Croatia: 0.2% THC limit [21]

  • Czechoslovakia: 0.2% THC limit [21]

  • Germany: 0.2% THC limit [15, 20, 26]

  • Hungary: 0.2% THC limit [21]

  • Luxembourg: 0.2% THC limit [30]

  • The Netherlands: 1% THC limit [5]

  • Poland: 0.2% THC limit [21]

  • Romania: 0.2% THC limit, but allows CBD to be extracted from hemp or marijuana [22]

  • Spain: 0.2% THC limit [5]

  • Switzerland: 1% THC limit [5]

  • Ukraine: conflicting sources report a 0.2% THC limit [21] or 0% THC limit [22]

  • United Kingdom: 0.001% (undetectable) THC limit but otherwise governed as a Novel Food [7, 10, 32].

Countries With Other Legal CBD Regulations

Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Romania, and Slovenia allow CBD products with less than 0.2% THC to be legally retailed to the public [22].

Norway is not an EU member, CBD products must not contain any THC but are otherwise legal to sell to the public [22].

Sweden offers CBD with no THC, like in Norway, however, retailers must obtain a license [22].

Mexico (1% THC limit, pre-market authorization required but can be retailed to the public) [11]

In Italy, hemp products as food such as hemp seed oil (5mg/kg THC limit) and hemp seed flour (2mg/kg THC limit) are legal and regulated under EU policies. It has been implied that CBD oils in Italy follow EU Novel Food regulations [5]. However, the THC limit is thought to be 0.6% versus the EU standard of 0.2% [22]. High-CBD hemp flower is thought to be considered illegal smokable cannabis. Overall, the legal status of CBD in Italy is unclear. Court documents are said to have exceptions that may allow the sale of commercial CBD products that do not have an intoxicating or narcotic effect.

South Africa has allowed for the use of dagga (cannabis) derived extracts which are (under 0.0075% CBD and 0.001% THC. The legal sale and use of commercial CBD products is pending approval [25]. South Africa has differentiated between the two, saying:

“Cannabis products considered to be health supplements are those containing a daily dose of less than 20mg cannabidiol (CBD), as well as those containing less than 0.001% of THC, or less than 0.0075% CBD. [14]”

CBD Regulation in Canada

Surprisingly, the US companies cannot trade hemp and CBD with its northern neighbor Canada without applying for a Canadian cannabis license. Canada has much more interest in countries like Colombia and parts of Europe that are willing to accept Canadian regulatory standards as equivalent.

Under the Cannabis Act, CBD products remain strictly regulated and are only available as a prescription pharmaceutical [6]. The Cannabis Act and its Regulations govern the possession, production, distribution, and sale of CBD. Health Canada oversees Canadian cannabis and hemp production and licensing.

Individual Canadian provinces determine what rules they will enact for how cannabis products can be sold, where stores may be located, and how stores must be operated [6]. Federally, Canada licenses cannabis and CBD businesses according to the scope of their activities. There are different options for cultivating cannabis, cultivating industrial hemp (under 0.3% THC limit), processing cannabis or hemp into extracts, conducting cannabis research, and distributing cannabis or CBD products.

CBD products can only be sold by businesses that are a provincially or territorially-authorized cannabis retailer or a federally-licensed seller of cannabis for medical purposes [6]. When it comes to import and export, Canada upholds CBD as a controlled substance under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The following requirements must be met to import CBD and hemp to Canada:

  • Must hold a license issued under the Cannabis Regulations

  • Must hold an import or export permit issued by Health Canada for each shipment

  • Must contain no more than 0.3% THC in the flowers and leaves

  • May only import for scientific or medical purposes

Medicinal CBD Countries

Canada isn’t alone in its medicinal CBD policies. Many South American countries also view CBD as a pharmaceutical product that requires a prescription. These include:

  • Argentina [11, 22]

  • Brazil (0.2% THC limit) [11, 22]

  • Chile [11, 22]

  • Colombia (0.01% THC limit) [11]

  • Paraguay [22]

  • Peru [22]

  • Uruguay (one pharmaceutical authorized by prescription)

Elsewhere in the world, Australia offers CBD as only a prescription medicinal product. CBD products in Australia are governed similarly to the EU, where Novel Food standards are applied. Portugal, Finland, Malta, and New Zealand (2% THC limit) also offer CBD as a prescription pharmaceutical [22].

Belgium requires a prescription and has legal pharmaceutical CBD products [22]. However, while retail CBD products and marijuana are illegal, enforcement is said to be very lax.

Denmark strictly regulates CBD products [22]. They are required to contain no more than 0.2% THC and are treated as either a medicine, food product or food supplement depending on how they are formulated and marketed. Danish authorities advise that the sale of commercial CBD products is broadly illegal even if they meet the 0.2% THC limit. A medical CBD pilot is underway for patients seeking prescription CBD in Denmark.

CBD Legality Undetermined

CBD and marijuana legality are largely unknown for North Korea [27]. There are claims that North Korea does not classify marijuana as a drug and allows it to be openly grown and used [33]. There is really little way of knowing the actual situation given the countries closed borders and restrictive government. Fortunately, no one will be visiting there or doing business with them any time soon.

However, it is surprising that the legal status of CBD in France is very murky [12]. French law allows the cultivation of industrial hemp. Hemp must contain no more than 0.2% THC. France is one of the largest producers of industrial hemp. However, the large number of CBD products available are largely imported from Switzerland and other parts of Europe.

In 2019, a shockwave struck the French CBD market as police began raiding CBD stores and confiscating products [12]. French business owners are legally challenging these raids. It is their hope that a clear policy for CBD legality will soon be laid out by the French government.

Ecuador’s regulatory standing on CBD is unclear [22]. However, given their prohibition on cannabis in general, it is likely that both CBD and marijuana are not currently legal in Ecuador.

More to Come on Where CBD is Legal Worldwide

We are working to collect and organize information about the legality of marijuana and CBD in all states and countries. Compiling and fact-checking this information takes some time though. For now, we have not evaluated the legality of CBD products in the following countries:

  • Armenia, Azerbaijan, Antigua and Barbuda

  • The Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi

  • Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba

  • Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic

  • East Timor, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Fiji

  • Gabon, Gambia, The, Georgia, Ghana, Greenland, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana

  • Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong

  • India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast

  • Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan

  • Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania

  • Macau, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar

  • Namibia, Nepal, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia

  • Oman

  • Pakistan, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Portugal

  • Qatar

  • Rwanda

  • Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, The Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Korea, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria

  • Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey

  • Vanuatu, Vatican City, Vietnam

  • Yemen

  • Zambia, Zimbabwe

Corrections, Updates, and Suggestions on Legal Statuses

Likewise, we work to keep our information accurate and up to date. If you have corrections or suggestions for us, please feel free to send them to us by e-mail. We ask that you send at least two sources for us to evaluate and corroborate.


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