Countries that Changed their Cannabis Legislation in 2018

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The year 2018 has been a big year for the legalization of cannabis, be it in terms of medical or recreational use. The following is a list of all nations that changed their legislation in favor of marijuana during 2018. Let’s dive right in.

Related: The Difference between Medical and Recreational Marijuana


On the 1st of March, Greece approved a new law allowing the farming and processing of medical marijuana. The first licenses were issued on November 19 and another 12 will be issued by the end of this year. Greece’s lift of the ban on medical marijuana may be predominantly oriented towards export but it also helps the country’s patients that are hoping to treat their sickness with the help of marijuana.

Related: Greece issues Licenses for Medicinal Cannabis

According to Greece’s deputy economy minister Stergios Pitsiorlas, changing the law in favor of recreational use of cannabis is currently not under consideration.

The use and cultivation of cannabis in Greece had been criminalized since 1890.


South Korea

South Korea’s legalization of medicinal cannabis has come as surprise to many as the country’s stance on marijuana has been very conservative up until this year. On November 23, the National Assembly approved the Narcotics Control Act for medical marijuana, which now has to be deliberated upon by the State Council and signed by the President.

That leaves South Korea as the first East-Asian country to legalize medical weed. The country seeks to help patients that have rare and very severe diseases, such as epilepsy, HIV and cancer.

Nonetheless, recreational consumption of cannabis is still being prosecuted very strictly by the South Korean government, as even the possession of a small amount can lead to imprisonment.


United States of America

North American policies on the use and production of cannabis saw tremendous change this year, although not on federal level. Marijuana laws have been a hot topic for a while and it has taken America’s voting ballots by storm. Here’s a list of U.S. states that changed their legislature in favor of cannabis over the course of this year:

On January 9, the New Hampshire state House of Representatives voted to legalize recreational marijuana. The bill, which legalizes possession but not sale, was sent to the Ways and Means Committee for further hearings.

Vermont legalized cannabis possession on January 22, 2018. Interestingly, it was the first state to legalize marijuana not through a ballot initiative, but by an act of the state legislature, which was signed into the law by the governor.

Alaska legalized industrial hemp farming on April 13. With that, the state underlines its very liberal standpoint on marijuana. The herb has been legal since 2014, making Alaska the third state to legalize recreational marijuana in the U.S., following Colorado and Washington.

In Illinois, medical hemp is legal while recreational use is still illegal but decriminalized. As of August 2018, legislation that ensures that applicants for medicinal marijuana will no longer have to be fingerprinted or undergo criminal background checks was passed. Update 2020: Cannabis dispensaries in Chicago have meanwhile opened doors to customers.

Michigan made headlines in November as voters approved a proposal to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The law will go into effect on December 6, 2018, and regulated stores are expected to open in 2020.

Related: Michigan legalizes Marijuana during Mid-term Elections

In 2014, Missouri decided to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis, but this law did not come into effect until 2017. On November 6, 2018, voters passed Amendment 2 during midterms, hence approving the legality, regulation and taxation of medical marijuana.

On November 26, 2018, New Jersey lawmakers showed support for the legalization of recreational cannabis with their approval of bill S-2703, which will be signed into law upon governor Phil Murphy’s approval in January 2019, as he promised to legalize recreational marijuana within the first 100 days of his administration. The new law will also include the expansion of medical cannabis access and benefit those with a criminal record due to low-level marijuana possession offenses, as it will expedite the expungement process of these convicts.

Medical marijuana was legalized in Oklahoma on June 26, 2018, while hemp production under the “Oklahoma Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program” was signed into the law by the governor two months prior.

In Utah, terminally ill patients are legally permitted to use medical marijuana since the governor signed bill HB 195 into the law in February. During midterm election votes this year, voters approved Proposition 2 of the voting ballot, which adjusted some of the qualifying conditions needed to get a subscription for medicinal cannabis. It furthermore bans marijuana edibles and marijuana smoking but allows other means of consumption, such as oils and vaping.



The incoming coalition government of Luxembourg has announced that recreational cannabis will be made legal in the near future. Medical marijuana has already been legalized in June 2018, and by adding recreational use, Luxembourg would become the first country in the EU to fully legalize cannabis.

Contract talks for the new coalition are still ongoing but all three involved parties, the Democratic Party, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party, and the Greens, agree on the matter, which is why the new law is expected to come to fruition.



The 17th of October not only marked a big date for the citizens of Canada, but for the entire marijuana industry. On that day it became the first major world economy to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. And with that, the second country worldwide to legalize the plant after Uruguay did so in 2013. Adults are now able to purchase and consume the herb from federally licensed producers. Pharmaceutical cannabis has been made legal as early as July 2001, making Canada one of the vanguards of tolerance towards the safe and regulated use of cannabis.



Mexico officially declared the prohibition of non-commercial, recreational use of cannabis as unconstitutional on October 31. The country’s marijuana laws underwent a constant change during the years that lead up to this ruling. In 2009, the possession of small amounts was decriminalized and the medical use of cannabis was legalized in 2017.

Related: Hope for Legal Marijuana in Mexico

Mexico’s Supreme Court reasoning behind the new marijuana policy in October reads as follows: “that right is not absolute, and the consumption of certain substances may be regulated, but the effects provoked by cannabis do not justify an absolute prohibition of its consumption.”



Georgia’s strict anti-drug policy on cannabis came to an end on July 30. Until then the impending punishment for illegal involvement with marijuana was imprisonment for up to 14 years. Due to the new ruling by the Constitutional Court of Georgia, possession and consumption are now legal while sale and cultivation remain prohibited.


South Africa

On September 18, South Africa’s top court legalized the private use of cannabis, affirming a lower court’s ruling that stated that it was “unconstitutional and therefore invalid” to criminalize the drug. The buying and selling of marijuana are still prohibited by law, as well as consumption outside of one’s private dwelling.

The cultivation, possession, sale and use of the plant were first prohibited under an amended Customs and Excises Duty Act in 1922.


United Kingdom

Despite being the world’s largest exporter of medical cannabis, the UK denied its own citizens the use of medical marijuana until new laws came into effect on November 1, 2018. Medical cannabis was outlawed almost five decades ago in 1971 because it was classified as a substance that served as a gateway to more dangerous drugs.

Medical cannabis products are now available for patients with “exceptional clinical need” while CBD oil can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription as long as these medications do not contain more than 0.2% THC.


The bottom line

The worldwide adoption of cannabis has seen exceptional growth during 2018.

Related: The Legal Status of Marijuana in Thailand and Cambodia

Numerous countries, such as Thailand and the Philippines, have not been included in this list since their announcements in regard to legal cannabis still need to be approved by the responsible governmental bodies. But the wave of nations opening up to the benefits that the regulated use and distribution of cannabis brings can be expected to continue in the following years. It is becoming ever so clear that cannabis is a plant of great international popularity while its medical use cases inhere tremendous value for countless patients around the globe.

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