Marijuana is associated with peace, love, and relentless optimism and more than just a potent substance. It is becoming a more well-respected therapeutic aid for the ill, and its uses in industrial feedstock are myriad.
Yet there are people and countries that remain herb-haters despite all the proof that cannabis is a good thing. Being caught with marijuana in some countries can land you in big trouble, or worse, get you killed.
It sounds hard to believe that anyone or anywhere could judge the mighty cannabis plant so harshly; yet they unfortunately exist. The extreme penalties in the following list of countries should be considered if you are a weed-loving world wanderer.
Egypt, where cannabis has been illegal since 1877, was one of the first countries to restrict marijuana.
Although according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report from a few years back, Egypt ranked 25th globally in annual hash and cannabis consumption, harsh penalties still apply.
Cannabis is illegal and remains off limits, but its use is still quite popular in Egypt. But as a foreigner, you should really be very careful with weed, as a British citizen was even executed in 2013 for trying to smuggle 3 tons of hashish out of Egypt.
This might be an extreme case, as most of us wouldn’t even consider smuggling, but any kind of possession can get you into serious trouble in Egypt.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in Egypt.
Not so long ago, it was not uncommon to smell the whiff of marijuana on an occasional street corner, but Duterte has launched his harsh crackdown on drugs.
Duterte has been rather ruthless in his fute against drug related crimes and several sources claim that in 2017, which was the second year of the campaign, already over 12.000 drug suspects (drug users and dealers, mostly from poor families) have been brutally killed. He openly stated that there will be no mercy for criminals and that even priests and human rights advocates can't protect them from being killed.
To many this came as no surprise as Duterte himself is know as a violent man who claims to have killed at least 3 men himself in the past.
However, cannabis is not the main problem of the country’s government as about 95% of all drug-related arrests concern shabu users. “Shabu” is a local word for methamphetamine, and is widely used amongst the poor.
Even though President Duterte himself is in favor of medical marijuana, any kind of possession or other cannabis related offenses can expect severe punishment.
Getting caught with cannabis is no joke in the Philippines as even for a small amount you can receive very heavy fines and even land in prison for a very long time. In other words: Just don’t.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in the Philippines.
Singapore was also one of the first nations to outlaw cannabis. It still has some of the harshest laws when it comes to marijuana. Banned since the early-1800s, weed and the Singaporean justice system do not play well together.
Smoking a joint can land you in jail for 10 years or incur a $20,000 dollar fine, or both. Larger quantities of cannabis can be considered trafficking and can carry the death sentence.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in Singapore.
The story of the Australian Schapelle Corby should chill anyone’s bones cold enough to take a temperance break if going to Indonesia.
Guilty or not, suspicious circumstances or not—she only just escaped the death penalty for being caught with cannabis when entering Bali.
After 9 miserable years in an Indonesian jail (of a 20-year sentence), she returned home with a broken spirit. Don’t let this happen to you.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in Indonesia.
Since 1952 when the Dangerous Drugs Act came into law, Malaysia has had capital punishments for those caught with enough drugs (by weight) to infringe upon the act.
Punishment can vary from physical punishment in the shape of lashings, to serious jail time.
Scarcely enough buds to be considered a personal stash for any serious toker can land you in jail for 5 years. Being caught in possession of 200 grams of weed or resin carries a mandatory death sentence by hanging.
The Malaysian High Court in Kuala Lumpur sent a man to the gallows in 2016 for trafficking 9.73kg of weed. The danger is very real, and strict rules need to be obeyed to play in this beautiful country.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in Malaysia.
Oddly, considering a long and rich history of using the cannabis plant, marijuana is illegal today in China. In bigger cities like Shanghai it might not be too hard to find something to smoke, but for foreigners it would be better to stay away from weed.
You won’t be sentenced to death for personal amounts, but you will definitely be deported.
Being caught smuggling commercial quantities is a different matter, and could indeed result in the death penalty. Public executions are used as a strict deterrent against drug trafficking in China.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in China.
South Korea ranks as the least drug-tolerant country on this list. In a frightening show of government might, ROK officers are allowed to stop anyone, anywhere for random drug tests.
Korean citizens can be jailed for testing positive, even if it is week-old metabolites from a joint smoked in another country.
If you test positive to a drug test when entering South Korea, you can be imprisoned for a few months. So if you are planning on visiting, you must abstain for at least a month or two to be safe. A foreign jail would be a terrifying experience.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in South Korea.
The UAE once challenged South Korea for the world’s most draconian drug laws. If you were caught with the slightest crumb in your possession, you could face 4 years in prison.
Recent changes in the drug laws means that first time offenders are treated more lightly. First-timers can commute the 4 years to time in a rehabilitation program. However, trafficking and commercialization are still strictly prohibited.
Now that greater validation of the many medical uses for cannabis is reaching mainstream science, there are a number of locations in the UAE carrying out medical marijuana research.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in the United Arab Emirates.
The beautiful sea-fringed deserts of Saudi Arabia carry with them the cliche image of the hookah pipe. So it must be an okay place to light up a joint, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. The KSA has ruthless penalties for drug possession and trafficking.
As recently as 2016, two Yemeni citizens were sentenced to death after being convicted of importing hash into the country. Most executions in Saudi Arabia are beheadings carried out with a sword.
Read more about the legal status of marijuana in Saudi Arabia.
There are some countries in this world where it just isn’t worth the risk. Trying to take some herbal happiness with you can get you in a lot of trouble and it certainly might not be the ideal time to try that new stealth gadget you bought.
If you can’t do without some weed, then it is best to avoid the listed countries altogether. If the travel bug has bitten deep, have a herb hiatus. If you are keen to visit these magnificent countries, do a detox. Never try to smuggle or import, as your life may be at stake.
As Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez says in the classic 80s movie Highlander, “If your head comes away from your neck, it’s over.”