This website is no longer actively maintained
Some material and features may be unavailable

February 19, 2010
Marijuana laws loosen gradually around the globe

During a recent rise in drug violence along the Mexican border, many critics of the drug war have called for a change in U.S. policy toward marijuana use.

Worldfocus compares current marijuana policy throughout the U.S. to policy in Europe and the rest of the world.

The American decriminalization of marijuana has been a gradual process, with New Jersey becoming the 14th state to allow marijuana for medical use in January.

This map shows 15 states that allow medical marijuana, including Maryland — a state not often included because the law there only reduces penalties for medical marijuana use.

Following New Jersey’s change, Emily S. Rueb wrote in the New York TimesCity Room about the potential for medical marijuana in New York:

But though 14 states have now legalized medical marijuana, New York, which has relatively liberal possession laws and actually passed a medical-marijuana law in 1980 but never put it to use, remains forbidden ground for those who seek to relieve their symptoms with cannabis. This year, however, supporters of medical marijuana in Albany and elsewhere hope to harness what they see as growing momentum.

In an October 2009 Gallup poll, 54 percent of Americans said they were opposed to legalizing marijuana, while 44 percent — a historical high — said they were in favor of legalization.

Across the Atlantic, countries such as the Netherlands are famous for allowing the personal use and sale of marijuana, while many other European nations have decriminalized the drug to varying levels.

The Czech Republic legalized the cultivation of up to five marijuana plants for personal use on January 1. Here’s a map showing the range of European marijuana restrictions:

The status of marijuana laws in Europe. (Iceland not to scale). Map: Wikimedia Commons

Europeans’ attitudes towards marijuana decriminalization are not as simple as some might assume. In his blog Travel as a Political Act,  travel writer Rick Steves discusses the real Dutch view of marijuana policy:

The Dutch are not necessarily “pro-marijuana.” In fact, most have never tried it or even set foot in a coffeeshop. They just don’t think the state has any business preventing the people who want it from getting it in a sensible way. To appease Dutch people who aren’t comfortable with marijuana, an integral component of the coffeeshop system is discretion. It’s bad form to smoke marijuana openly while walking down the street. Dutch people who don’t like pot don’t have to encounter or even smell it.  And towns that don’t want coffeeshops don’t have them. Occasionally a coffeeshop license will not be renewed in a particular neighborhood, as the city wants to keep a broad smattering of shops (away from schools) rather than a big concentration in any one area.

In Latin America too, drug laws have begun to loosen up, after decades of zero-tolerance policies. Mexico recently decriminalized the possession of up to 5 grams (0.18 oz.) of marijuana for personal use.

Global Voices blogger Issa Villarreal writes about the popular response to Mexico’s shift:

Reactions are mixed, but certainly two things always came up in discussions: the situation of violence and murder in several Mexican cities related to the narco and drug trafficking, and also the haste approval. It can be said that an important part of the distribution of the story was “hand to hand” through social networks and re-publishing in independent media, but not properly from newspapers, which also carries some critique. Among the discussions, the difference between legalization and decriminalization was a frequent one, considering that the latter holds specific limits of use.

Also from Global Voices, Juliana Rincón Parra writes about citizen groups around the world pushing for legalization:

There are groups of people advocating for the legalization of drugs, but what would that actually mean? From Hungary to Colombia, from youth to teachers, from cops and clergy, individuals and groups are taking to citizen media to put forth their arguments regarding this potentially controversial subject.

bookmark    print




“liberalism is a mental disorder”

How sad it must be to live within the tight confines of your reality.
Confident that you know what is right when you have no idea what is really going on in the world.
My father was free, his father was free and I thankfully live in the land of the free- Canada
I have spent several years in Singapore watching people give up their lifeblood and live in fear with their head down aspiring to materialism that is true spiritual suicide.
You are wrong and need to educate yourself with the experience of life.
To begin I suggest you travel and make as many non-judgmental friends from across the globe as possible.
There is still time for you.


uuummmm…Hey you idiotic Rocket Scientists look at that map again…notice anything? It doesnt take Lt. Columbo to see that its only the White world that thinks its ok to accept the decadence of drug use..the Arabs and Asians still have enough to know that in the final anlysis drug use is not good and it never will be. Only the idiot decadent Westerner would allow himself to suspend his better judgement to believe otherwise and why?
Because liberalism is a mental disorder.


Its really time to end up with this waste of energy and money in order to run after people who use a plant!!! The money for this stupidity is OVER!!!


Organised crime ran the numbers racket and the law went after them. OC ran prostitution and the law went after them. OC ran loansharking and the law went after them.OC ran drugs and liquor and the law went after them.
Whew! Today I took my paycheck to check into cash ( 98% interest) because the banks wouldn’t gouge me any further.I bought a megalottery ticket at the convenience store along with a sixpack of beer. Next door at the medical marijuana dipsensery I bought a oz of pot. I’ll go home, go on Craigs List and hire a girl for sexual therapy, maybe pop in a dvd of THE GODFATHER.


As a president dedicated to health care reform of every kind I support the medicinal use of marijuana. In fact I smoke pot before my public debates to help calm me down. If the republicans in congress were not so stubborn I would have already legalized it. Vote Democrat, vote for legal weed.
This has been a message from President Orama


I do not want to see it legelized. I think it will open up a Pandora’s Box that we are better off not having.


Decriminalize this already. The DEA can still bust gangsters and illegitimate sellers of marijuana but the general, peaceful public has every RIGHT to possess and intake marijuana responsibly. I would be GLAD to buy taxed, legitimate pot as long as I don’t have to worry about going to jail all the time.


good herald daily post Stan. Reid Angus poll showed over 50% LEGALIZATION approval for west coast….. hurry up America! Obama’s stance has been very low-key. Yes, the memo, but, it is still a “back-burner” issue that I feel is more important than the majority of crap reported as news or talked about in social commentary.


It’s even sickening when you think about it. $7.7 Billion a year spent on prohibition! And our new President can’t even call the DEA dogs off with a press statement and replacement of the Drug Czar. DEA have had a boost in California and now in Colorado with all the raids even being called “rouge”. Dallas cops have been raiding without warrants for weeks now on a “surge”. Become informed and take a part in a change at &


Yes it is a healing herb, but more important is its ability to produce the biomass for fuel which is against the interests of the Saudis and the Bush oil folks. It would reverse the greenhouse effect and save the planet, but what does that matter if it puts money into the hands of our farmers and takes the money away from those now in control.


idk, marijuana kills zero people a year i wouldn’t mess with that stuff.

the rastas think gang is a miracle herb from God and the ancients used it to alleviate breathing problems.

yeah, i wouldn’t mess with cannabis. it’s totally un-american too. it’s not like our constitution is printed on hemp or anything.

i’m gonna stick to my caffeine (5000 deaths a year i have read), alcohol (that doesn’t cause any harm in our society), and tobacco (it’s not like 100s of thousands of people die from that a year).

(WF report on our DU use that’s mutating the countries we invade and our own vets who come home and procreate in our gene pool!)


Change Ireland to red i know people getting fined 700 euro for 0.5g and junkies walking the streets with needles are left alone by the police its a joke


If alcohol would be discoverd now (this age) it would be categorized as drugs… If sigaretts would be discoverd now, it would also be categorized as drugs… Pot isnt dangerous…


The drug war is 40 years old; drugs are everywhere!
The drug war can’t be won; so the next best thing to do would be regulate it, tax it. Pot is not dangerous.


Is not smoking bad for your health? Good way to reduce the population of certain people, pot heads driving. If you grow it just the right way adding chemicals to give it real strenght you can sell it by the gram and make real profit.
MADD will have another cause.


A recent discovery is a product being sold as incense called K2. I understand it’s second rate to marijuana however legal and able to bring in a tremendous profit. It’s about time to get legalization over with and have the “real thing” regulated for price control, quality, and ultimately consumer safety.


and I have to live in red area. ;/


Here’s a more descriptive map of the 50 states to compare to the European map.


Why cant we just get past this madness. Legalize it.


It seems as clear as can be that alcohol is far more dangerous than cannabis to life and limb. Cannabis simply does not have the same relationship to violence than alcohol does (don’t forget about fetal alcohol syndrome when keeping score!). Alcohol supremacism over cannabis is nothing more than bigotry, and it makes the law into a laughable joke. Or it would be laughable if it didn’t spawn so much death and misery.

Facebook Twitter YouTube

Produced by Creative News Group LLC     ©2018 WNET.ORG     All rights reserved

Distributed by American Public Television