Ten of the best 420-friendly vacation destinations around the globe


For travelers in search of a far-flung adventure, there are a growing number of states and countries where cannabis is tolerated if not embraced.

There are now eight states that let adults legally consume marijuana, with established cannatourism markets in states like Colorado while Nevada aims to hit the ground running with its pot tourism sector.

When it comes to international destinations, Amsterdam and Jamaica may seem like givens. But keep in mind that just because a place is known for weed doesn’t mean it’s legal there, with pot simply tolerated in The Netherlands and only decriminalized in Bob Marley’s home country.

Looking to visit Albania’s famous flower harvests, Morocco’s world-renowned hash or Spain’s popular cannabis cafes? Tourists can likely find marijuana quite easily in these places, and they’re not likely to get busted for having small amounts. But it isn’t actually permitted in any of those places, so visitors partake at their own risk.

It’s also important to always check local laws regarding cannabis for your destination. While cannabis is legal in Washington, for example, it’s not legal to smoke or buy it everywhere in the state. And remember that it’s never legal to take marijuana across a border or on a plane.

Enough disclaimers. On to the fun stuff.

Here’s a look at destinations around the globe where cannabis freedom can be a perk or a focus of your next vacation.

Lisbon

Portugal decriminalized small amounts of all drugs in 2001, swapping jail sentences for optional therapy. Cannabis still isn’t legal, and there aren’t sanctioned sales or lounges anywhere in the country. But on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “virtually legal,” the website WeBeHigh.org ranks Lisbon as a 4.5, noting it’s easy to find weed and cops generally don’t bother consumers who are otherwise behaving themselves. The European port town has also been named the next big destination by a number of travel sites, so get going before it becomes the next Iceland.

Denver

Colorado legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older in 2012 and became the first place in the world to legally sell it in January 2014. The Mile High city now surely has the most developed cannatourism market in the world, with plenty of legal dispensaries, 420-friendly hotels and cannabis-themed excursions. Visitors with an ID can buy and carry up to an ounce, with stores easy to find along a stretch of South Broadway that’s been dubbed the “Green Mile.” And if you like to mix things up, Denver’s craft beer scene won’t disappoint.

Freetown Christiana, Copenhagen

This semi-autonomous neighborhood in Denmark’s capital city was formed in the early ’70s, when residents took over an old military base and established a commune of sorts that’s lasted for decades. The bohemian enclave just across the river from the center of town was long known for having a “green light district” where folks would openly sell marijuana from roadside stalls. Christiana residents tore the weed booths down in 2016 after two police officers were shot. But recent visitors report that cannabis itself is still widely accepted and available in the tiny town that’s covered in Instagram-worthy murals.

Montevideo, Uruguay

This South American nation shocked the world in 2013 when it became the first country to fully legalize cannabis. Only residents can grow or buy marijuana from government-approved pharmacies, and word on the street is that it’s not always the best quality. But residents can give weed away, which gives travelers another reason to make nice with friendly locals in Uruguay’s laid-back capital city. Plus Montevideo boasts historical sites, noteworthy architecture and a beach-side rambla that rivals Barcelona.

Amsterdam

The canals and liberal attitudes of this European city have long beckoned curious tourists and experienced cannabis connoisseurs alike, leading many people to believe that marijuana is legal in The Netherlands. But the government actually just tolerates possession of 5 grams of weed or less, while sales and consumption is permitted in the city’s infamous “coffee shops.” A number of shops have closed in recent years, but there are still plenty of picturesque places to light up.

Negril, Jamaica

It’s been two years since Jamaica passed a bill decriminalizing marijuana. There’s still no system in place to legally buy weed, but adults won’t get in trouble for carrying up to two ounces in this beach resort town. And cannabis consumption is widely accepted throughout the island nation, thanks in part to its place in the Rastafari religion and lifestyle. So pot tourists should be left alone to enjoy Negril’s white sand beaches, jerk-style street food and a music scene that helped spark the modern marijuana legalization movement.

Seattle

Since 2012, there’s been one more reason to call Seattle the Emerald City. Washington also legalized marijuana that year, with recreational sales starting in July 2014. There’s no shortage of dispensaries in this city perhaps still best known for its coffee and thriving music scene. Stricter regulations on advertising and rules against open containers in tour vehicles have kept Seattle’s pot tourism market from rivaling Denver’s, but it’s not tough to book a tour of a downtown shop or to catch a glass artist in action.

Tel Aviv

Since legalizing medical marijuana in 1992, Israel has become the global leader in cannabis research, making it ground zero for major cannabis conferences. No recreational sales are allowed, but the country decriminalized recreational marijuana for adults in March. People are known to freely light up in Tel Aviv, with the website MarijuanaTravels.com ranking the city an eight out of 10 for “smoking tolerance level.” And Tel Aviv’s beaches, art and architecture offer the perfect backdrop.

Portland

Oregonians approved recreational marijuana in 2014, launching sales in 2015. The “Potlandia” market is evolving as it only could here, with visitors free to light up during bicycle tours, winery trips or salmon fishing excursions. And with farms in Southern Oregon that produce high-grade cannabis that can arguably rival California’s Emerald Triangle, it’s not tough to find good products throughout the green, liberally minded state.

Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Cannabis is decriminalized in Costa Rica, and it’s widely accepted as part of the peaceful Latin American country’s “pura vida” mindset. Few places is that motto more evident than in Puerto Viejo, a beach town along the southern Caribbean coast where bicycles are the main form of transportation. Spend the day lounging on the beach, or walk a few feet to explore rainforests full of howler monkeys and toucans. But save some energy to check out the nightlife in spots like Rocking J’s, where you can spot pot leaves on the floor tiles or catch a smoky screening of a Doors concert in a beachside shack.
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Medical marijuana will soon be for sale in Texas. But who can buy it?

The first Texas CBD products are expected to be available in December; one company seeking to be first to market will be delivering direct to patients

In just a few weeks, medical marijuana will legally be sold in Texas.

The plants are nearly finished growing in South-Central Texas, which means workers will soon harvest and cultivate them, drying them out and preparing to extract low-level cannibidiol (CBD).

Once that medicine is in a liquid form, and packaged in drops, the first sales of medical marijuana — geared to help Texans with intractable epilepsy — will occur before the end of this year.

“It’s very, very exciting,” said Jose Hidalgo, chief executive officer of Cansortium Holdings, the Florida-based parent company of Cansortium Texas. “Nothing in life ever goes as planned.

“But so far, this has gone as well as it could.”

Cansortium Texas, one of three companies licensed to grow and sell medical marijuana in Texas, is poised to be the first company to get the product on the market.

Officials believe they are still on track to deliver medications directly to patients across the state starting the third or fourth week of December.

The medicine — which contains the ingredient in a marijuana plant that lets a patient get the medical benefits without the buzz — would be personally delivered to Texans by the company in white, unmarked delivery vans that include built-in security measures.

Drivers will travel with a nurse or social worker who can answer any questions patients have when deliveries are made, officials say.

The low-level cannabidiol will be sold under a 2015 law to help Texans with intractable epilepsy if federally approved medication hasn’t helped.

This culminates a lengthy process that began when the Texas Legislature, led by state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, approved the Texas Compassionate Use Act to make use of cannabidiol legal for at least some of the nearly 150,000 Texans estimated to have intractable epilepsy.

Lawmakers have stressed this is an extremely limited form of medical marijuana geared to let patients receive benefits without the high. This medicine does not include THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high.

Other marijuana use — for medical or recreation — remains illegal in Texas and more than a dozen other states. But it is legal, in one form or another, in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

The Texas marijuana crop

The first plants that will be harvested have been growing since September on a 10-acre parcel of land in Schulenburg, a small community east of San Antonio.

There, plants have grown inside MCPU’s, or Moducular Cultivation and Processing Units, with constant security.

“They look great,” Hidalgo said. “We are toward the end of the growing cycle. The plants should be harvested in the month of December.”

Once the product is fully available, only certain doctors — those registered with the Compassionate Use Program — may prescribe the product to treat intractable epilepsy.

To get this medical marijuana, Texans must have a prescription and then potentially pay between $45 and $90 for the medicine.

A look online at the company’s Florida website cites prices for some CBD products as $45 for one 300 milligram vape cartridge or sublingual drops and $90 for a 600 milligram vape cartridge or sublingual drops.

“We understand the responsibility we have,” Hidalgo said. “The last thing we want to do is be too quick … and set false expectations. These patients have been waiting for this medicine for years. It has been a long time coming. And we are almost ready.”

Three licenses for Texas CBD businesses

The Texas Department of Public Safety is overseeing the compassionate use program.

Workers there for months reviewed dozens of applications by companies wanting to legally grow medical cannabis in Texas.

Only three licenses have been issued.

The first went to Cansortium Texas on Sept. 1.

Another permit was issued to Compassionate Cultivation, which is growing plants in a more than 7,000-square-foot warehouse in Austin. This company is holding a dedication ceremony at its facility next week, marking progress that means medical cannabis could be available by early next year.

The ceremony also will honor Klick for her work in passing the Compassionate Use Act. The company, in fact, has also named its first strain of CBD-cannabis the “Klick Strain” to honor the Fort Worth lawmaker.

“Rep. Stephanie Klick helped start this important movement along with the great people at the Epilepsy Foundation Texas,” said Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation. “It took someone of a special background, a longtime nurse, to really understand from a medical perspective the hope, promise and truth that this medicine represents.

“And just as Rep. Klick gave life to the Compassionate Use Act, the Honorable Stephanie Klick Room will give life to every dose of medicine that will ever come out of our facility.”

Klick said she was honored by the tribute.

“I’m thankful that these Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy will soon have an alternative treatment option,” she said.

A third license was issued to Suterra Texas in the form of a conditional Texas license. This company has yet to receive the final approval needed to plant the seeds.

It wasn’t a cheap process.

Each company had to pay a nearly $500,000 fee once approved for the process, which officials say is needed to pay regulatory expenses.

And a $318,511 renewal fee will be due in two years if they want to continue making and selling medical marijuana in Texas.

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As marijuana legalization reduces alcohol use, what is the public health impact?

Analysis: Medical marijuana took bite out of alcohol use — and sales. Recreational could take more

Alcoholic beverage sales fell by 15 percent following the introduction of medical marijuana laws in a number of states, according to a new working paper by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that marijuana availability can reduce alcohol consumption. Because experts generally agree that, on balance, alcohol use is more harmful to individuals and society than marijuana use, this would represent a significant public health benefit of marijuana legalization.

For the study, researchers examined alcohol sales data included in Nielsen’s Retail Scanner database, which includes product-level sales data from 90 retail chains across the United States. The researchers say this represents an improvement over other ways of measuring alcohol consumption – survey respondents, for instance, are known to severely lowball their alcohol consumption when asked about it by interviewers.

The researchers compared alcohol sales between states that implemented medical marijuana laws and those that didn’t, before and after the change in marijuana laws. They also corrected for a number of economic and demographic variables known to affect alcohol use, such as age, race and income.

“We find that marijuana and alcohol are strong substitutes” for each other, the study concludes. “Counties located in [medical marijuana] states reduced monthly alcohol sales by 15 percent” after the introduction of medical marijuana laws.

If these findings are correct, it’s likely that they understate the effect of full marijuana legalization on alcohol use. Under medical marijuana laws, only a small handful of people are legally able to access the drug – patients wishing to use it must typically obtain a recommendation from a doctor, and in most states only certain conditions are eligible for treatment with marijuana. Full recreational legalization, as is the case now in Colorado and seven other states, means that any individual can purchase pot on demand.

While not all of the existing research agrees that marijuana availability decreases alcohol use, a solid body of evidence points to that conclusion. An analysis last year of 39 reports on the subject found that 16 supported the idea that people substitute marijuana use for alcohol, while 10 studies suggested that marijuana availability actually increased alcohol use. Twelve additional studies supported neither conclusion.

Unlike alcohol, marijuana has no known fatal dose – people don’t die of marijuana poisoning. Relative to marijuana, alcohol is more addictive, far more likely to cause vehicle accidents and much more closely linked to violent and aggressive behavior.

In the United States, excessive alcohol use kills nearly 90,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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CBD on the international stage: WHO committee delving into science, control status of cannabis compound

Cannabist Special Report: CBD, TBD -- American advocates for hemp and CBD oil hope their pleas to the FDA will have a global ripple effect

Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive cannabis compound touted for its medicinal promise — but marijuana- and hemp-derived extracts rich in CBD and low in intoxicating THC are facing a future yet to be determined.

The Cannabist’s special report “CBD, TBD” explores a regulatory and legal landscape pockmarked by federal-state conflicts, and examines national drug policy, pioneering research efforts and disparate avenues toward the compound’s full legalization. This is the fifth installment in an ongoing series.

Part I – Forbidden medicine: Caught between a doctor’s CBD advice and federal laws

Part II – How advocates are inspiring congressional action on CBD legalization

Part III – With DEA digging in its heels on “marijuana extracts,” legality of CBD oil on trial in federal courts

Part IV – CBD research is going to the dogs in quest to legitimize pet products


International health experts are putting a closer eye on how cannabis and its compounds such as cannabidiol should be regulated.

As the World Health Organization (WHO) begins an examination into what level of international controls could be implemented on CBD, advocates for legalization of the cannabis compound have spotted an opportunity. They’ve submitted public comments in droves to extol the potential medicinal properties of CBD — a compound that’s enshrouded by legal and regulatory uncertainty.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration solicited public input on CBD and 16 other drug substances – including ketamine and synthetic opioids — in advance of the 39th meeting of WHO’s Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD). The committee convenes in Geneva, Switzerland, from Nov. 6 to 10 to review the substances and begin work on potential recommendations to the United Nations Secretary-General.

The November meeting is an early step in a long process that may define how CBD is regarded and controlled internationally.

The United States Hemp Roundtable — the entity behind the saveourcbd.com website, formed to drum up support and written comments — joined several thousand public comments submitted to the FDA. The organization of businesses that make hemp-derived, CBD-rich products claimed that the cannabis compound should not be shepherded solely to the realm of pharmaceuticals.

“The structure and nature of the FDA forces definition into food, drug and supplements and the grey area of all the other products not classified,” Brian Furnish, the U.S. Hemp Roundtable’s president, wrote in a letter submitted as part of the public comment process. “CBD produced from hemp is not a controlled substance, so it is clearly not a drug. The FDA, with antiquated rules that only benefit pharmaceutical companies, says that CBD is not a supplement.

“That means CBD derived from hemp is food.”

As the public comment period was starting to draw to a close on Wednesday, more than 6,400 comments had been submitted — the vast majority of which were about CBD, according to The Cannabist’s review. More than 1,000 comments were pre-written responses suggested by saveourcbd.com, The Cannabist found.

Whether those comments are heard or acted upon by international experts remains to be seen.

The comments will first be considered by U.S. Health & Human Services, which is expected to provide its input on the 17 substances by filling out a questionnaire on aspects such as medical use, scientific use, current control status, misuse, and cultural or religious use.

However, HHS will hold off on making recommendations of its own until WHO’s determinations are submitted to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs — an action expected early next year, FDA officials disclosed in Federal Register documents..

HHS will then come back for another round of public comments before providing its position on international control of the substances.

Early stage work

WHO’s examination of CBD is a long play that has been years in the making.

At their annual meetings in 2016 and 2015, ECDD members requested further evaluation of the cannabis plant and its components. Last year, the committee set an 18-month timetable to receive additional information and evidence to continue evaluation of cannabis, cannabis extracts and tinctures, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD and THC stereoisomers within the bounds of international drug control policy.

“The committee recognized: An increase in the use of cannabis and its components for medical purposes; the emergence of new cannabis-related pharmaceutical preparations for therapeutic use; cannabis has never been subject to a formal pre-review or critical review by the ECDD,” WHO’s Director-General wrote in the Nov. 25, 2016, recommendations letter.

The committee recommended that the pre-reviews be evaluated over the following 18 months.

From there, a determination would be made as to whether the information justifies an “Expert Committee critical review,” officers for the ECDD Secretariat told The Cannabist earlier this year. The pre-review is preliminary and findings would not determine a change in control status, ECDD officials said.

A progress report of that work is scheduled to be given at the upcoming ECDD meeting, along with the pre-review for CBD, meeting agendas show.

The vast majority of the 17 substances under discussion at the ECDD meeting are among WHO’s “Substances Under Surveillance” list, which includes substances that have the “potential to cause public health harm.” The public health risks for many of those substances were disclosed in their descriptions outlined in the ECDD meeting documents and the FDA’s request for public comment.

CBD, however, is not under surveillance and its description in the documents cites potential medical benefit versus potential public harm:

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the active cannabinoids identified in cannabis. CBD has been shown to be beneficial in experimental models of several neurological disorders, including those of seizure and epilepsy. In the United States, CBD-containing products are in human clinical testing in three therapeutic areas, but no such products are approved by FDA for marketing for medical purposes in the United States. CBD is a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA. At the 37th (2015) meeting of the ECDD, the committee requested that the Secretariat prepare relevant documentation to conduct pre-reviews for several substances, including CBD.

Research at risk

Closely watching the activity in Geneva this November will be American researchers who lament the restrictive barriers to studying cannabis and components such as CBD.

The compound is on lockdown because of its Schedule I status, said Heike Newman, a senior regulatory manager at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus.

Newman’s job there includes providing assistance to clinical researchers when they need to submit investigational new drug applications to the FDA for further research of an unapproved drug or an approved drug for a different condition.

Nearly three years ago, Newman assisted two of the school’s clinicians with the paperwork and implementation of the first-ever approved Schedule I studies at the University of Colorado-Denver.

The process has been fascinating in that it’s quite pioneering, she said. But being early movers comes with a fair share of ground to break.

To research CBD requires a Schedule I license; to provide CBD for research requires a Schedule I license.

“Once you have the Schedule I license … then the manufacturer probably doesn’t have Schedule I facilities,” she said. “You’re constantly bumping into a problem.”

Cannabidiol is not listed explicitly as a controlled substance in the 1961 United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1972 Protocol amending the Single Convention.

However, the international body lists the cannabis plant and cannabis resin as Schedule I and Schedule IV substances — the two most-restrictive categories. Cannabis extracts and cannabis tinctures are also listed solely as Schedule I, which does account for therapeutic potential.

Late last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued a rule notice about the establishment of a drug code for marijuana extracts. The code addition primarily was an administrative move, DEA officials said, citing it would allow them to better track research requests and comply with the Single Convention treaties.

In the notice and subsequent disclosures and interview, the DEA asserted CBD’s ongoing Schedule I status, spurring fear and confusion among producers and consumers alike and triggering a lawsuit from hemp industry members.

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Can Nevada casinos cash in on cannabis industry without breaking federal law?

The gaming industry has numerous questions including whether casino-resorts can host marijuana-related conventions

LAS VEGAS — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on Wednesday ordered a committee to make policy recommendations on the interactions between the state’s long-established gambling industry and a budding, yet exceedingly popular one: recreational marijuana.

The executive order Sandoval signed calls on the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee, which includes gambling regulators, casino representatives and others, to address a series of issues, including whether events catering to or promoting the marijuana industry can be held on the premises of a casino-resort.

The committee is expected to meet no later than Dec. 15.

“Gaming regulators have been clear on the prohibition of marijuana consumption on licensed gaming properties but there are additional policy considerations such as industry events and business relationships that should be contemplated,” Sandoval said in a statement.

Nevada launched legal sales of recreational cannabis on July 1. There’s been heavy demand from tourists, but the law only allows marijuana consumption in private homes. It’s prohibited in casinos, bars, restaurants, parks, concerts and on any federal property.

Licensed gambling businesses in the state cannot violate federal law. Doing so can get them in trouble with the state’s gambling regulators. So, gambling regulators have been clear: As long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, licensees are not to be a part of the cannabis industry.

A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Gaming Control Board and a policy committee member, said the gambling industry has numerous questions outside direct engagement with cannabis businesses, including whether casino-resorts can host marijuana-related conventions, as well as ways in which cash proceeds from marijuana transactions can find their way to casinos.

“So, even if marijuana isn’t used, is it appropriate to host a convention where bongs and pipes are being sold?” Burnett said. “And there are other questions, too. Any money that comes out of something illegal, when it is transferred to buy something, it’s considered money laundering … What if the patron gambles with that cash and the casino knows?”

In November, the Marijuana Business Conference and Expo, which is expected to draw more than 650 exhibitors, will take place at the Las Vegas Convention Center near the Las Vegas Strip.

The policy committee is also expected to address whether casinos can receive or provide financing to a person or business that sells, cultivates or distributes the drug.

Sandoval, a Republican former federal judge, initially opposed legalization of recreational marijuana that voters approved in November but said he accepted the will of the people and pushed an early sale program to expedite collection of revenue from state cannabis taxes.

He ordered the policy committee to make recommendations by June.

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