EducationThe Continental Cannabis Guide: Medical cannabis-friendly countries

The Continental Cannabis Guide: Medical cannabis-friendly countries

9 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Medical cannabis-friendly countries

Contents

Please note that this information does not constitute legal advice and should not be solely relied upon. It is crucial to thoroughly review the current travel advice for each country before making any travel arrangements or embarking on a journey with medical cannabis.  

For some patients, medical cannabis really is a lifeline and is therefore a necessary component in the holiday of a lifetime. 

So that you don’t have to choose between your health and a holiday, we’ve put together this guide that explains which countries currently have medical cannabis policies in place.

Our Continental Cannabis Guide has been designed to provide you with the advice and information that you need, to help you research your next travel destination. 

We’ve put together this comprehensive guide that focuses on cannabis-friendly countries around the world. It is important to bear in mind that even though medical cannabis may be legal in these countries, they don’t all have the appropriate levels of availability or accessibility, resulting in barriers for patients. 

There are also a good handful of countries that are yet to legalise medical cannabis, but the recreational use of cannabis has been decriminalised, including Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Moldova, Bolivia, and Dominica. 

It is assumed that these countries may be more open-minded when considering Embassy requests compared to those who have strict laws forbidding cannabis use in all its forms. Although those who offer their own medical cannabis programmes are likely to be the most accepting. 

Wherever you choose to jet set off on your next adventure, ensure you have permission to travel with your medical cannabis and have all the relevant documents when it's time to depart.  

Medical cannabis in South America

Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay all legally allow their residents to use medical cannabis in certain situations, and cannabis based products can be offered as a treatment plan for a variety of conditions.

Although medically legal in Brazil, cannabis has been at the centre of many controversies. It was reported in 2022 that doctors had been banned from lecturing on the subject, and that medical cannabis treatments are ‘overwhelmingly inaccessible’ for patients in Brazil.

So, just like any other destination, we’d strongly advise contacting the Brazilian Embassy before attempting to visit with medical cannabis. 

From our research, it appears that the only South American country that has legalised recreational cannabis use so far is Uruguay, which was done by President José Mujica almost a decade ago, in 2013. 

Cannabis is decriminalised in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Paraguay and in Trinidad and Tobago. Each of these countries have individual restrictions on the amount of cannabis their citizens can possess, and exceeding these limits is classed as breaking the law. 

Medical cannabis in North America

Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, and St Vincent & The Grenadines all have laws that support the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. 

Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, as well as the majority of the before mentioned North American countries, have decriminalised recreational cannabis up to a certain quantity. 

The quantities vary, for example in Bermuda cannabis possession is decriminalised up to 7g, whilst in St Lucia the limit is 30g. Recreational cannabis is legal for Rastafarians in Jamaica, for all adult residents in Mexico, and also for adults in certain American states. 

Whilst cannabis is still classed as illegal at a federal level in the United States, medical cannabis is legally available in 38 states, 3 territories and in the District of Columbia. As of March 2023, recreational marijuana usage had also been approved by 23 US states.

Medical cannabis in Oceania

Medical cannabis is legal in Australia, New Zealand and Vanuatu. So far, Australia is the only country in the region to decriminalise the use of recreational cannabis, and this has only been done in one of the six states and two territories (The Australian Capital Territory).

In the ACT, adults over the age of 18 are permitted to use cannabis for recreational reasons in their own homes, grow up to two plants per person (with a limit of four per household), and possess up to 50g of dried cannabis flower. However, consuming and growing cannabis in public spaces is classed as a criminal offence, as is growing or possessing cannabis in an area where children can reach it 

Whilst in New Zealand using cannabis for recreational purposes is still illegal, medical cannabis treatment options can be prescribed on a case-by-case basis by specialist doctors, much like the UK. 

Changes in Vanuatu’s Dangerous Drugs Act were made in 2021 and in 2023 their government created licences for businesses to grow medicinal cannabis and hemp. However, it is still unclear whether patients in Vanuatu can actually access and use medical cannabis. 

Medical cannabis in Europe

Europe has one of the largest cannabis markets in the world. Cannabis based products are permitted in 27 European countries, however each has different regulations and laws surrounding their usage. 

Certain European countries currently have strict restrictions on what kind of cannabis medicines can be prescribed to patients, this includes Austria, Belgium, Slovenia, Slovakia, France, and Ukraine. 

For example, in Slovenia patients are only granted access to Sativex or Marinol, despite having around 30,000 residents self-medicating with illegal cannabis.

However, there are also countries in Europe that are extremely supportive of cannabis. The Netherlands is famous for its coffee shops and Spain is well known for its friendly cannabis clubs, making them both tourist hot spots. 

Italy, Belgium, and Malta all have legislations in place that allow the recreational use or cultivation of cannabis for its citizens to a certain degree. In 2021, the Italian law was altered to decriminalise the cultivation of cannabis, allowing their adult citizens to grow up to 4 female plants each. 

Germany is currently in the process of considering changing their laws on recreational cannabis. Karl Lauterbach, Germany’s Health Minister, recently told the press that the notion had received “very good feedback” from the European Commission.

Medical cannabis in Asia

The laws and regulations surrounding cannabis widely vary across Asia. Certain countries such as Cyprus, Georgia, Israel, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Thailand have implemented laws that endorse medical cannabis treatments. 

Others, such as India, Japan. Pakistan and Singapore allow products that contain cannabinoids, but have strict limits in place regarding their THC content. 

Thailand approved the use of medical cannabis in 2018, and have since taken some cannabinoids off their list of registered narcotics. In 2022, the director general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, Marut Jirasrattasiri said:

“In the next stages, both Thais and foreigners will have the opportunity to be treated with medical marijuana”. 

Israel has been the home to many monumental moments in cannabis history due to its continued research into the plant's medicinal benefits. Personal cultivation and consumption in Israel was decriminalised in 2019, and because of all this, it is now a popular destination for cannabis advocates to visit. 

Medical cannabis in Africa

Despite being indigenous to the region, of the 54 countries and territories in Africa, only eight have implemented legislation in support of cannabis use for medicinal purposes.

Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all have medical cannabis programmes, however Ghana does enforce a strict THC restriction on the cannabis based products available. 

Recreational use is still prohibited in Ghana, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia and Malawi, as well as in Uganda where cannabis is only legalised for exportation. 

On the other hand, South Africa decriminalised cannabis for private consumption in 2018, and it can be medically prescribed to treat any condition deemed acceptable by a doctor who holds a SAHPRA licence.

The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill was passed in 2020 and since then South Africa has capitalised on the cannabis industry, even offering ‘bud and breakfast’ style accommodation for tourists.

Our aim is to provide you with relevant information to help you to make better-informed decisions when travelling with your prescribed medical cannabis, but we cannot provide any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to the accuracy of the information in this article. It is a general guide only and not a substitute for obtaining your own legal advice.

Accessing medical cannabis can be challenging due to the stigma surrounding it. However, Releaf makes it simple with our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your cannabis prescription.

 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Authors

With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

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Compliance Director

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.


Further reading

What the professionals say about medical cannabis on holiday

We know that dream holidays can create memories that last a lifetime, and we want to do everything we can to help you make those memories, whilst staying medicated. Here we’ve collated advice from the UK Home Office, Government, International Narcotics Control Board, and The Sanskara Platform so that you can scope out the horizons for your next destination. 

Lucy MacKinnon

Destination Inspiration: Medical cannabis friendly countries in 2023 Top Charts

Each year, TripAdvisor and Lastminute.com release a list with their top spots to visit, providing plenty of information for prospective travellers.  But one piece of information that isn’t included in these features, is the legal status of medical cannabis in these countries. That’s where we come in.  In this feature, we will explore how cannabis-friendly the countries featured on Lastminute.com’s ‘Top 10 Best Holiday Destinations for the 2023 summer’ list, so that you can de-stress in the perfect destination. 

Lucy MacKinnon