Legalization around the world

Cannabis legalization has started to crop up all over the world since 2018 when Canada became the first nation to legalize cannabis on a federal level.

by Dessy Pavlova · January 30, 2022

Legalization around the world

Cannabis legalization has started to crop up all over the world since 2018 when Canada became the first nation to legalize cannabis on a federal level. Although Portugal decriminalized all drugs way back in 2000, the lack of a regulated system and the continued drug crimes in the country offered some clear lessons about the important nuances of different approaches, and why legalization ought to be the ultimate goal. Today, there are multiple countries around the world looking to legalize and regulate cannabis nationwide, although the US is not one of them. That being said, California was one of the first states to legalize and is basically the size of a small country, so maybe the rest of the country isn’t so far behind. If you’re looking for what’s legal and where within the US exclusively, check out this article on legalization in the US in 2022.


In 2018, Canada moved from allowing the controlled distribution and use of cannabis for medicinal purposes to official legalization, only the second country in the world to do so. The intent is to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth, to ensure clean, uncontaminated products through regular testing and quality assurance, and to compete with illegal distribution and gradually shrink its share of the market. Consumers are allowed to purchase a limit of 30 grams of cannabis and/or its by-products from a licensed retailer and can grow up to 4 plants at home for personal use.


Malta legalized cannabis on Dec 18, 2021, becoming the first nation in the EU to do so. Prior cannabis records are to be expunged and adults 18+ are allowed to possess 7 grams or grow 4 plants for personal use. Restrictions remain, however, as cannabis use is still prohibited in public, and cannabis producers cannot sell for profit. Consult this article for more details about the regulations in Malta’s cannabis legalization framework.


The recreational and medicinal use of cannabis officially became legal in Georgia on July 30, 2010. This makes Georgia one of the first countries in the world to legalize cannabis to this extent. It is also the only country in the region formerly under communist rule to pass such legislation.


Germany still prohibits cannabis for recreational use, but simple possession is often not prosecuted. In January 2022, the nation’s lawmakers began crafting legalization legislation as a response to shifting attitudes among the public towards the plant.


Mexico legalized the private personal use of cannabis in July 2021. Prior to this legislation, possession of small amounts of cannabis had been decriminalized, and it was legal, for medical purposes, to possess and consume cannabis with THC content of less than 1%.


Uruguay is notable for never prosecuting the personal possession of drugs in general, allowing judges in possession cases to determine whether the drug was for personal or commercial purposes. Uruguay was in fact the first country in the world to officially formally legalize the cultivation, sale, and use of cannabis and its derivatives. It is one of the most widely used drugs for recreational and medicinal purposes in the country, and leniency towards its sale and use began as far back as 2013.


Public support for the legalization of cannabis continues to gain momentum since laws losing restrictions on the possession, sale, and use of cannabis have been introduced in the past decade. Beginning in 2016, the growing of cannabis for medical or scientific purposes was legalized at the federal level, while still prohibiting the use and supply of cannabis and its seeds remain illegal. In 2019, a bill was passed allowing the possession, growth, and use of small amounts of cannabis, but this bill remains in conflict with federal laws. As in many countries around the world, citizens are increasingly less inclined to see cannabis use as a criminal offense.

The Effects of Legalization

The legalization of cannabis in more and more countries around the world will undoubtedly have significant social and economic effects, from improving quality assurance and testing, combating the illegal drug trade, custom-tailoring the various benefits of cannabis for medical patients’ specific needs, and opening an entirely new avenue of entrepreneurship and investment.

Read more about the particular economic implications of cannabis legalization around the world here.