Though not all states in the U.S. have adopted legislation liberal to drugs, Americans consume more drugs than people in any other country in the world. Only 5% of the world's population live in America, but 75% of the drugs prescribed in the world are used in this country, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While weed users may still end up in prison in some U.S. states, other countries are leading the way in marijuana policy reform.
The following three countries have the most marijuana-friendly legislation in the world.
In 2013, Switzerland adopted a change to the law that decriminalized marijuana possession. Now, the country authorities do not prosecute residents aged 18 and over who possess 10 grams or less of cannabis. People who own a larger amount of marijuana are obliged to pay a fine for criminal possession, which is estimated at 100 Swiss Francs ($103 USD). However, the offense will not appear on permanent records.
Although marijuana decriminalization does not make this drug legal in Switzerland, it allows the country's law enforcement officials to investigate more serious crimes instead of wasting time on prosecuting more than 30,000 minor cannabis offenses annually.
Previously, the country had a problem of HIV/AIDS epidemic, as half of HIV-infected patients were drug abusers. But after the decriminalization, this rate was reduced to 20% of HIV-infected residents who suffered from drug addictions. Such results were achieved thanks to the country's policy of helping drug abusers by offering them housing, methadone programs, job programs, needles exchanges, and supervised injection rooms.
Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and became the first European country with a liberal drug policy. The country relieved criminal liability for having drugs, selling, or using them. Thus, you will not go to prison for drug possession or usage, but you may be fined for selling them. The crime rates have significantly dropped since decriminalization, as there have been 8,000 fewer arrests per year for drug violations in Portugal.
Instead of punishing people for drugs, Portugal has focused more on drug users rehabilitation and addiction treatment. The country's policy offers drug addicts to change their life choice by counseling, providing needle exchange programs and hospital help. Currently, the country has the lowest level of drug consumption in the European Union. Thanks to such a policy, prisons and jails have become less full, and many people have been successfully treated and diverted from using dangerous drugs.
Due to the most liberal drug policy, Amsterdam, the country's capital, is the best marijuana destination in the world. Visiting the Netherlands, you can freely walk in the capital's streets with up to 5 grams of marijuana. Moreover, you can openly use cannabis at licensed “coffee shops” in Amsterdam. Other cities determine their own regulations of cannabis use for tourists, so some of them may also be so marijuana-friendly.
Though the Netherlands has laws prohibiting weed production and distribution, it seems like the government officials are not active in enforcing those regulations.
Besides these three countries, Uruguay and Czech Republic also do not consider marijuana a harmful drug. Moreover, thanks to their marijuana-friendly policies, these countries managed to decrease both crime rates and drug addiction rates. This successful precedent in drug legislation may become a driving force for the rest of the world to follow suit.