Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Where in the World is Smoking Marijuana Legal?

Aunt Mary, Boom, Dope, Gangster, Ganja, Grass, Hash, Herb, Kif, Mary Jane, Pot, Reefer, Sinsemilla, Skunk, Weed. President Bill Clinton smoked it but didn’t inhale it in his youth. 4% of the Earth’s population (165 million adults) use it annually and 0.6% (25 million) smoke and inhale it daily. 



The United Nation calls it the most widely used illicit substance in the world. It is marijuana, marihuana or Cannabis. Yet "Which countries allow marijuana?" is at the top of queries on Google.

What Exactly is Marijuana?


Marijuana is a product of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana, also present in other forms of cannabis, is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). 



Of the roughly 400 chemicals found in the cannabis plant, THC affects the brain the most.

Marijuana Use in The Ancient World


  • As a fibre, Cannabis has been discovered in archaeological ruins dating back to 10 000 B.C in Taiwan. 
  • As a ritual and psychotropic agent, Marijuana has been known for millennia. Richard Rudgley, in his book The Alchemy of Culture: Intoxicants in Society argues that Marijuana was not that rare in the third millennium B.C. and there is archaeological evidence found at ancient burial sites from Romania to China. 

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  • The ancient Hindus used it, calling it ganjika in Sanskrit (ganja in Hindi nowadays). 
  • The Assyrians in the second millennium B.C. called it qunubu (“way to make smoke”). Did the word cannabis originate from this? 
  • Practitioners of the Dionysus cult as well as shamans used it to produce altered states of consciousness. 
  • The Greek historian, Herodotus in 5th century B.C Greece mentions Cannabis. 
  • Some writers even claim that Jesus Christ himself used cannabis-based oil to help cure people with crippling diseases as was common among the Jews in those times. 
Did the ancient Hebrew word for cannabis, which is qannabbos have a root in the Assyrian?
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The Muslims, especially the Sufis puffed away to ecstasy already in the Mameluk times, not to mention the delightful customs of the highly spiritual Sufi saints.

Traces of cannabis found in pipes dug up in his garden show that William Shakespeare used the “noted weed” and had trips. He wrote in sonnet 27,
But then begins a journey in my head

To work my mind, when body's work's expired” 

Marijuana Laws in Different Countries

In 1619, Jamestown Colony, Virginia, USA passes a law requiring all farmers to grow hemp. George Washington grew it and so did Thomas Jefferson. A farmer could be jailed for not growing hemp from 1763 to 1767.
Cannabis gets first criminalized in: 
  • South Africa in 1911
  • Jamaica (British Colony then) in 1913
  • UK and New Zealand in 1920
  • Canada in 1923 and in 1937 in the United States. California and Utah were the first US states to outlaw “preparation of hemp seed or loco weed” in 1913 and 1915.

Reasons for Outlawing (Criminalizing) Marijuana in USA



  • Blame it on the Mexicans - The reasons for outlawing marijuana in USA vary, according to the writer. Some claim that cheap Mexican labourers, after the Mexican revolution in 1910 brought the habit to USA. Some writers claim that Mormons travelling to Mexico brought the bad habit back.
  • Racism – A newspaper editorial in 1934 declared “Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.” 
The grand old man of the US Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger used racism very skillfully and shamelessly. 
  • “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
  • “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”
  • “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”
Money, of course, is a big player.

  • Corporate profits – William Randolph Hearst, the owner of a chain of newspapers, which paired cannabis and Mexicans together and lurid stories, sold more newspapers. It has also been suggested that DuPont chemicals, who patented Nylon wanted hemp removed as a competition. Pharmaceutical companies hated cannabis as people grew it themselves and no money came to the large companies.


Executions For Marijuana


Currently 10 countries have used capital punishment against the cannabis trade (but never for personal use alone). These countries are: 

  • Brunei
  • China 
  • Indonesia 
  • Malaysia 
  • Philippines (not after 2006) 
  • Singapore 
  • Saudi Arabia 
  • Thailand 
  • United Arab Emirates 
  • Vietnam. 

The amounts of marijuana in question vary from 149 grams in Lisa Tray case in UAE, 922 grams in Lam Ming Hwa case Brunei.



  • Pakistani law prescribes the death penalty for possession of over 200g
  • Sri Lanka 500 g 
  • Bangladesh 2 kg 
  • India is the most liberal in the region with 10 kg in the case of opium. 
  • Sri Lanka prescribes the death penalty for possession of 2 g of heroin in contrast to 50 g in China and 500 g in Laos. 
Amnesty International estimates that over 500 people are executed in China for drug offences. 
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The punishment climate is getting tougher globally, while more and more countries are decriminalizing or even legalizing marijuana. 

  • In 1985, only 22 countries had legal death penalty for drug offences. In 1995, this number grew to 26 countries. 
  • By the end of the 2000, it stood around 34. 

This is about half of the 64 countries in the world, which retain the death penalty

Arguments For Decriminalizing and Legalizing Marijuana in USA

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The main arguments for decriminalizing marijuana are:
  • Lower costs of law enforcement and criminal justice system
  • Reduction of income earned by organized crime
  • Reduction in prison overcrowding
  • Reduction of subsequent use of hard illicit drugs e.g., heroin and cocaine
  • Moderate lifetime use may decrease certain types of cancer 

Arguments Opposing Decriminalizing Marijuana in USA
  • Marijuana use produces biochemical changes in the brain, which leads to heavier illicit drugs and addiction
  • Increased crime
In October 2009, Gallup found 44 percent of Americans favored legalization and 54% opposed it.


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The state of California will vote in November 2010 on decriminalizing marijuana. 

Countries Where Cannabis is Legal

There are some countries where possessing or smoking cannabis or marijuana is legal in small amounts e.g. 1 gram. 

  • Argentina
  • Australia (Decriminalized in Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory)
  • Belgium
  • Brazil (one gets only warning for smoking)
  • Canada (legal for medical and industrial use)
  • Chile, Colombia
  • Czech Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Germany
  • India (government shops sell cannabis as bhang)
  • Iran
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Pakistan (laws are never enforced)
  • Peru
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela.
Though it is legal, it does not mean that you might not get in trouble with law enforcement.

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Famous Users of Marijuana
  • Friedrich Nietzsche - "If one seeks relief from unbearable pressure one is to eat hashish"
  • Abraham Lincoln - "Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica."
  • George Washington raised hemp and most likely smoked it
  • Pamela Anderson - wrote an open letter to president elect Obama urging him to legalize marijuana, promote vegetarianism and end the War in Iraq
  • Thomas Jefferson - "Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country."

Marijuana Research:


There is a lot of research on marijuana. Researchers at Carleton University in Ottawa once tracked 70 people and compared their IQ scores at two stages: when they were aged nine to 12, before they started using marijuana, and again at ages 17 to 20. They found the IQ scores of heavy users dropped by about four points on average.
However, the effects on the brain of long-term, recreational use (fewer than five joints a week) appear to be minimal. The Carleton intelligence study, in fact, found IQ scores increased in light users by a mean score of nearly six points. A synthetic form of marijuana also has been shown to reduce agitation in Alzheimer's patients. Marijuana also has been found to be a potent trigger for heart attacks.
THC causes blood vessels to relax, which in turn can lower blood pressure, decreasing blood flow to the heart and causing the heart rate to go up by about 10 to 20 beats per minute. It's not enough to cause trouble for most people, but could harm those who already suffer from restricted blood flow to the heart.

Other studies e.g. University of Buffalo School of Medicine have found regular pot use can lead to male infertility by causing sperm to swim abnormally fast; that it may fuel the growth of cancerous tumors; and that it may be linked to an increased risk of depression. Source: Edmonton Journal (Alberta) March 6, 2004 Saturday Final Edition.



Marijuana Abuse: 

Use and abuse are entirely different things. Before you get too excited about marijuana,  Read here real life information about marijuana abuse and addiction from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.