Marijuana is a hot topic all over the world. In the US, laws are starting to loosen as states realize the taxing potential and relative harmlessness of pot, while the growing social movements around the country continue to push for leaner laws. We all know that Washington and Colorado recently became the first two states to legalize cannabis for recreational use, although it’s still illegal under federal law to possess or sell. Twenty other states have laws legalizing medicinal use, and over half of the states have decriminalized possession.
Still, while the US has begun loosening its grip on prohibition, other countries around the world are beginning to tighten theirs, for different reasons. Some countries don’t want their main tourist attraction to be cannabis, others believe there’s a negative social connotation that comes with lax marijuana laws and its users, and most of them frown heavily upon trafficking. For some countries, it’s okay to possess, grow, and even sell, but don’t you dare try to bring it in from somewhere else.
That being said, there are still worldwide weed meccas in some of the most beautiful countries in the world that avid smokers must pilgrimage to at some point in their life. As long as you mind your own business and don’t cause a scene, many countries don’t care about your smoking habits. Some of them even relish in the business that pot tourists bring each year to their economies.
This is a list of the ten most sought after weed havens worldwide, judged by their cultural acceptance, the laws of the land, their beauty, and their social friendliness.
10. Kingston, Jamaica
Many would expect the land that gave us Bob Marley to be higher on the list, and maybe it should be. Jamaica is a beautiful place that thousands of pot tourists flock to each year for the laid-back reggae culture, the beaches, and the great weather. Even though weed is technically illegal in Jamaica, people will offer to sell you their strains everywhere you go. There are even pot-sampling tours, although you should be ready to smoke in front of your tour guide to prove you’re not a cop.
That being said, Jamaica is a third-world country with rampant poverty, crime, and income equality. You can’t just zone out and go and do whatever you want like you can in some other countries. You always have to be careful.
9. Portland, Oregon
Oregon’s claim to fame is being one of the first states in the US to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and that caused a big splash towards the state’s popularity. Portland has a bohemian cannabis culture, and it’s a charming place. The city is at the forefront of the country’s marijuana movements and social activism. It’s a green and eco-friendly city, despite being somewhat urban. It also has bragging rights for being home to American’s first cannabis café, and it has one of the largest chapters of NORML in the state. NORML is of course the oldest organization in the country focused on marijuana law reform. Last year they hosted the National NORML conference for the first time.
8. Seattle, Washington
Seattle was an early adopter of legal medical marijuana laws. State legislation eliminates criminal penalties for most users, as long as the individual has documentation from a physician. Seattle is also one of the greenest cities in the country – and not just green with weed, but all plantlife. One big positive was the recent announcement from Seattle’s City Attorney, who stated that all marijuana possession cases would no longer be prosecuted. Yay! The beautiful city also hosts the Seattle Hempfest, the largest pot rally in the world – the Coachella for stoners – that brings in 100,000 people over two days.
7. Nimbin, Australia
Lets take a trip Down Under, to the picturesque mountain town of Nimbin. Located in the hills of northern New South Wales, Nimbin has been described as a hippie sanctuary. Pot is decriminalized in Australia’s capital, Canberra, but Nimbin is a counter-culture free-for-all. It’s a quaint, quiet town of less than 400 actual residents, but the annual MardiGrass festival the town puts on brings in pot enthusiasts from all four corners of the world. Included during the festival is the Hemp Olympics, offering competitive games such as “Bong Throwing” and “Speed Rolling.” The festival has drawn some scrutiny because of its blossoming reputation as a cannabis destination.
6. Christiana, Denmark
Weed is illegal in Denmark, but Christiana has declared itself an autonomous region, and, as such, has become a popular destination for connoisseurs of the sticky-icky. The town is often regarded as a hippie, counterculture commune. It is another hidden gem: A small, quirky town that has its own “Green Light District,” which is a farmer’s market for bud and hash. Locals call the place Freetown Christiana. The country’s autonomy and a loophole in the “no hard drugs” policy lets Christiana allow weed sales, though there are occasional police raids and crackdowns.
5. Oakland, California
At the north end of downtown Oakland is the cultural district known as Oaksterdam. California allows medical marijuana, and Oaksterdam takes full advantage of that privilege. The district has bud-friendly coffee shops, growing equipment stores, and even its own weed college called Oaksterdam University. The prevalent cannabis culture here is aided by the city’s somewhat lax law enforcement (they’re out to get the bigger guys, the hard drug traffickers, not the college stoners). All of that makes Oakland (and Oaksterdam in particular) a great haven for weed fanatics.
4. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is a huge player in the medical and legal marijuana markets. It’s actually illegal to carry cannabis on your person without a medical license in BC (and Canada in general), but police usually turn a blind eye if you’re caught with less than a quarter ounce. The province’s inexpensive power, abundance of sunshine and water, and the many forests in the area make it an ideal growing haven. The BC cannabis industry is brings in a whopping $6 billion annually, making bud one of the most valuable cash crops in the area. Vancouver boasts some of the highest-grade bud in North America, aptly called BC Bud by locals and tourists alike. A 2012 poll found that 61% of British Columbians support legalization of marijuana. Also, there are numerous cannabis-friendly diners and cafes (they allow smoking, but don’t sell the goods themselves).
Still, Canada tightened its drug laws in November 2012, issuing mandatory jail-time of one year for possession of more than 3 kilos, and 6 months for owning between six and 200 plants. The federal laws are at complete odds with the country’s residents, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper finds marijuana having harmful effects on its users and on society.
If you aren’t getting caught with kilos in your trunk and you only have five plants, you should be good to go.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
Many are astonished that Prague would be such a cannabis-friendly country, but it is actually one of the most cannabis friendly countries. The Czech Republic boasts the most liberal drug laws in Europe, and just about every drug is decriminalized (including cocaine, LSD, speed). You can have up to five plants growing in your house and up to 15 grams in your possession. What makes Prague so high on our list is the beauty of the city and the relaxed atmosphere. You don’t have to be paranoid that you’re going to get in trouble for lighting up in this medieval looking oasis.
2. Barcelona, Spain
Spain was one of the first countries in modern Europe to decriminalize marijuana. Their laws allow citizens to use and grow a personal stash, although they don’t permit public use, buying or selling. It has been claimed that you can possess up to 40 grams legally. Also, the privacy laws in Spain are potent – a crime must have a victim – so if there’s no complaint, there’s no problem. They also put on cannabis celebration festivals such as Spannabis and High Life Expo. Besides the decriminalization and awesome laws, Barcelona is a gorgeous place with scenic beaches and architecture, and beautiful people.
1. Amsterdam, Netherlands
No cannabis destination list would be complete with Amsterdam, the Holy City for pot pilgrims. The religious expedition that stoners undertake year in and year out is second to no other country. One in three tourists orders something green from the menus of over 200 cannabis cafes. They are home to the annual High Times Cannabis Cup.
Although cannabis is illegal in the Netherlands, for over 20 years Dutch citizens have been allowed to buy and use marijuana and hashish because of a differentiation in their laws between “soft drugs” like weed, and hard drugs like cocaine and heroin.
In 2012 a law was passed that would have banned tourists from using Amsterdam’s famed cannabis cafes, but legislators made the mistake of giving jurisdictions the choice of enforcing the law or not. Since cannabis is the biggest tourist attraction, tax income and source of livelihood for the cafe owners, virtually every shop owner denied enforcing the law, and pot pilgrims still have a mecca to travel to. Given all that this place has to offer: The incredible landscape, architecture, wonderful museums, canals and waterways, Amsterdam is the perfect place to take a stony vacation.