Learn About Marijuana
Science-based information for the public

Legalization Around the World

Marijuana legalization is not a U.S.-only phenomenon. See below for some of the main features of legal marijuana policy in the Netherlands and in Uruguay, and find out how you can stay up-to-date with Canada’s soon-to-be implemented marijuana policy as well.

The Netherlands

Netherlands flagDutch adults (18 and over) are allowed to buy small amounts of cannabis in licensed coffee shops.

The Netherlands government describes its marijuana policy as "a policy of toleration regarding soft drugs. This means that the sale of hash and marijuana in coffee shops is a criminal offence but the Public Prosecution Service does not prosecute coffee shops for this offence."

Coffee shops must operate within prescribed rules or "toleration criteria," such as:

Municipalities can determine whether to allow coffee shops to operate within their boundaries, and if so, how many. They may also impose additional rules.

While this policy of tolerance exists towards consumers, it is illegal for growers to produce or sell cannabis to the coffee shops, creating a tension between the need to supply the coffee shops and the illegality of doing so. This tension may serve a public health purpose, by creating a "broken system" with limited ability to expand.

watch thisWatch This: To learn more about this topic, watch this debate from BOTEC's “Cannabis Science and Policy Summit," held in April 2016 in New York City: What Can Be Learned from the Dutch Coffee Shop System (moderated by Peter Reuter of University of Maryland).


Uruguay flagUruguay’s federal legalization of marijuana started with a bill proposed by the president and then ratified by the legislature in 2013. While detailed regulations are still being developed, the main features of marijuana legalization in Uruguay are:

Citizens 18 and older who want to use cannabis must choose one mechanism to obtain it:

Other important features include:

read moreRead More: Uruguay's middle-ground approach to cannabis legalization. Cerda M, Kilmer B. International Journal of Drug Policy 2017;42:118-120.


Canada flagCannabis is a Schedule II drug under Canada’s Controlled Drug and Substances Act. It is legal for medical use, and the federal government is currently looking into legalizing and regulating it for non-medical use as well.

Cannadian policy is still developing (as of August 2017). Follow updates at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/policing/justice/legalization-regulation-marijuana.html