Photo Illustration by Elena Scotti/Fusion

A proposal to reform marijuana laws in Jamaica cleared a big hurdle this week when it gained the approval of the prime minister and her cabinet.

Jamaica isn't the only nation ready to loosen laws that outlaw ganja. Here are 12 countries around the world that could end marijuana prohibition:


1. Jamaica

Jamaica has been debating legalization for decades. Once Uruguay and several U.S. states approved cannabis for recreational use, however, public officials saw an opening to change their own pot policies.


The legislation would make marijuana possession of two ounces or less a ticketable offense that would not result in a criminal record.

The drug would also be permitted for religious, medical, scientific and therapeutic uses. This would allow the country's Rastafarians, who use cannabis in sacred rites, to grow and consume it within the confines of the law.

The Jamaican Parliament is expected to debate the law within the next several weeks. If it passes there, the country could launch its own medical marijuana industry, available to tourists, as well.


"Jamaica definitely is going to be the pioneer in the Caribbean on marijuana law reform," said Hannah Hetzer, policy manager of the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance, which backs marijuana legalization.

Other neighbors in the Caribbean could follow: governments in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Puerto Rico are all debating the issue.

2. Canada


Canada isn't just famous for the maple leaf. The western province of British Columbia is well known for its marijuana production and activists there have been clamoring for the government to remove criminal penalties on pot.

Medical marijuana is already legal throughout the country. Last year, the government began allowing companies to grow and ship cannabis to patients.

Most Canadians are ready for a change, too. An August 2014 poll found that six in 10 think marijuana should be legal. The fate of the nation's pot laws could rest on this October's general election. Opposition candidates might be open to legalization; sitting Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't.


3. Colombia

After decades of a brutal drug war, Colombia took a fresh approach in 2012 when the government legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana and cocaine. President Juan Manuel Santos had openly criticized the war on drugs a year earlier.


"A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking," he said. "If that means legalizing, and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it. I'm not against it.”

Colombia's Congress is expected to vote on the medical use of marijuana in March.

4. Guatemala


Guatemalan President Otto PĂ©rez Molina first spoke of legalizing drugs in 2012, saying the fight against it was "too high a human cost." But not much has happened since then.

During a visit to the U.S. in July 2014, he said he would review studies on marijuana legalization by the end of the year and a few months later, he told Venezuela-based TeleSur he would make a decision in 2015.

"You have presidential leadership, but not necessarily a strong domestic movement pushing for it," said Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. A 2012 Cid Gallup Latinoamérica poll found that 79 percent of Guatemalans opposed legalizing the use of marijuana, cocaine and heroin.


5. Costa Rica

Marijuana is illegal in Costa Rica and carrying more than a personal amount can land you some serious jail time. But medical marijuana is under consideration.


A Costa Rican lawmaker wants to make the country the first in Central America to legalize medical marijuana and introduced a bill last summer.

A 2013 survey from the University of Costa Rica found that while a sizable majority of Costa Ricans opposes legalization, more than half supported medical pot.

6. Mexico


An estimated 60,000 people died in Mexico's drug war during the six-year administration of its last president. The death rate is lower under the current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December 2012—but not that much lower.

Reforming marijuana laws seems like an obvious move to combat the reach of drug cartels and Peña Nieto has hinted he's open to the idea. He said in June that he's not personally in favor of legalization, but that Mexico and the U.S. can't have incongruent drug policies.

"We can't continue on this road of inconsistency between the legalization we've had in some places, particularly in the most important consumer market, the United States, and in Mexico where we continue to criminalize production of marijuana," he said.


Mexicans, however, aren't crazy about the idea. A 2013 poll found only one in three supported legalization.

7. Netherlands


Amsterdam is famous for its hazy coffee shops, where tourists can legally buy and enjoy all types of pot. But cannabis production is still illegal in the country, forcing the suppliers to operate outside of the law.

In November, Amsterdam's city council called for regulated marijuana production, a position shared by mayors across the country. Although Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten opposes regulated production, the city still reportedly plans to go forward with the experiment.

8. Denmark


If it was up to Copenhagen, marijuana would have been legal years ago. City officials there have been asking the national government for permission to set up a regulated cannabis market since 2012, to no avail.

Marijuana use is largely permitted in Copenhagen anyway (there's an open-air drug market in Christiania, the city's hippie "free zone"). But the mayor would like to set up a trial run of full legalization to see if it helps combat crime.

9. Spain


Hundreds of cannabis clubs have opened up in Barcelona and the surrounding area in recent years, turning it into a more low-key alternative to Amsterdam, Europe's established capital of weed tourism. The policy didn't change—businesses took cover under a decades-old law permitting marijuana to be grown and smoked in non-profit clubs.

Cannabis is decriminalized in Spain, but trafficking and public consumption is illegal.

10. Czech Republic


The freewheeling tourist destination tweaked its laws in 2010 to lessen criminal penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana, a move that seemed in line with its reputation as a Euro party town. Marijuana possession isn't decriminalized—you're still subject to a misdemeanor charge and a fine—but attitudes appear to be relaxed.

The laws around medical cannabis have changed in recent years, as well. In 2013, the Czech Republic began allowing doctors to prescribe the drug for pickup at pharmacies.

11. Australia


Marijuana is illegal in Australia, although the drug is decriminalized in some states. Full tax-and-regulate legalization probably isn't on the horizon just yet, but popular support is mounting for medical marijuana.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is behind it, too. "I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis, just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates," he wrote in August.

12. United States


Four states have already legalized marijuana and 23 states allow it for medical use. The next big push will come in California, where activists will try to legalize the drug for recreational purposes in 2016.

But even with all the changes at the state level, it's unlikely Congress will roll back all prohibitions on the drug. Marijuana is still classified alongside heroin and LSD as one of the most dangerous illicit drugs.

Reform is coming incrementally, though. In December, Congress passed a measure that prohibited federal agencies from using their funds for enforcement operations against medical marijuana businesses. The president has shown he's willing to let states experiment with recreational pot, as well.


Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.