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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.