April 20, 2022

Happy 420! Let’s talk about the Legal Status of Weed around the World.

 

I guess your levels of happiness highly depend on where you are located.

There aren’t many legal issues handled so differently around the world. Laws around cannabis are quite confusing, especially for folks who travel.

For those of you who don’t enjoy weed occasionally (or regularly), here’s an example that might be more relatable: drinking alcohol is legal almost everywhere—almost. Maybe you heard stories of friends traveling to Muslim countries with strict laws against drinking.

When I was living in Morocco, tourists were surprised that alcohol was only sold in licensed stores—and that there weren’t many of these shops. They also found out that asking a friendly local surf instructor doesn’t always help because most dudes don’t want to be seen at these stores for alcohol.

As alcohol is so embedded in European and North American culture, many of us are confused when traveling to places with different approaches to drinking.

After Colorado, California, Oregon, and other states in the U.S. legalized weed, folks from these places experienced similar situations when traveling. Not to forget, our friends from Canada find themselves in the same situation.

Imagine you are from Boulder, Colorado, and plan a trip to Europe. Let’s say you are going to Sweden. Let’s say you forget to check your bags and forget about that weed you put in there weeks ago. You might end up like Snoop Dogg in 2015—you will get into serious trouble.

And that’s not the worst-case scenario. Imagine our friend from Colorado going to Indonesia for a surf trip. That forgotten bag of weed could get him or her several years in jail.

Just to make things more confusing, imagine our friend travels to the Netherlands. At the airport, he would get into trouble for a bag of weed, but after entering the country, our friend would be able to buy weed in a coffee shop.

The Netherlands managed to set up the most ridiculous laws when it comes to weed: it’s not legal; it’s just tolerated.

Shops are allowed to sell small amounts, but they are technically not allowed to buy large amounts for that resale. If you want to support organized crime, this is the way to go—otherwise, it’s just silly.

And then, you have countries like Germany. The new German government wants to legalize weed. But it’s not going to happen overnight. But until then, we are playing the same game that is played in almost every country where weed is illegal.

It’s about racism, it’s about elitism, and, of course, privilege.

If you ask someone in Germany if cannabis is legal, most people will tell you that it’s illegal but tolerated. And that’s true to a certain degree.

If you are a white kid and smoke weed, there won’t be much of a problem. If your parents are migrants, things might take a different route. Not because of the laws, but because of enforcement. Your chances of getting stopped by the police as an Arab teenager are pretty high in Germany.

And even if you don’t get racially profiled by the police, there are other ridiculous ways of discriminating against the friends of Mary Jane.

We can all agree that nobody should drive while being high. No doubt about that. But what about a law that says if you smoke weed on Saturday, you still can’t drive a car on Wednesday. That’s exactly what’s happening in Germany.

If they stop you and take a blood sample that shows any consumption within the last months, you will lose your driver’s license. They don’t need to find any weed on you—they can simply claim “it smelled like cannabis” as a reason.

Again, ask yourself what kind of folks German police stop for these kinds of checks?

These observations make me question existing laws. If alcohol was illegal, it would somehow make sense to argue that nobody should be intoxicated with anything. But that’s obviously not the case.

Instead, I feel that the legal status of weed is highly connected to racism and white privilege.

Just take a look around the world at who enjoys cannabis and who likes to drink. Take a look at who gets arrested for smoking weed while others snort cocaine and get away with it. Ask yourself, who wants you to drink red wine and take opioids instead of smoking ganja?

I never understood how it’s possible that these tests aren’t able to identify cocaine more than three days after consumption—what’s up, science? Taking sides here?

Sounds about white, right?

And yes, there are a lot of problems that can be caused by excessive weed consumption. Teenagers around the world are ruining their careers by smoking weed all day and playing video games. But criminalizing them doesn’t help anyone.

Weed is a drug. Cannabis can cause mental health problems. But mostly, it causes legal problems—and that needs to stop.

 

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