Holiday highs: Where can you go to experience legal cannabis?
More and more tourists are travelling to experience the freedom to try cannabis in tolerant countries
The whiff of weed is spreading across the globe as more countries decriminalise the possession of small quantities of cannabis. The Netherlands has always been the Mecca for those seeking a taste of something illicit but you can now travel further in order to indulge in a spliff or a hash cake.
Colorado, where cannabis was legalised three years ago, is already seeing a big growth in tourism. Tax revenues from the now legalised business are adding to the State’s coffers. Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his Liberal party are in favour of legalising marijuana.
In many cases the change in the law is to allow for medicinal use of the herb. Substances in cannabis or medical marijuana are believed to help in the treatment of certain diseases or improve symptoms. Across different cultures cannabis has had a long history of medicinal use.
In 2012 voters in Colorado and Washington State approved the measure to legalise non-medical use of cannabis and opened a whole new industry for their states. Although possession of cannabis remains a Federal criminal offense these states have decriminalised possession. Alaska and Oregon also allow the sale and possession of marijuana for both medical and non-medical use.
However, legal possession is one thing but trying to actually smoke a joint is another – that’s illegal. You cannot smoke in public places: most hotels and restaurants are smoke free.
The best way to enjoy the freedom to try cannabis is to take a tour. You will see lots of mentions of “4-20”, that is underground slang for smoking weed. There are many tours available where you can visit growers, learn about cultivation, buy weed in dispensaries and stay in pot friendly accommodations. One-day tours will cost in the region of $150 and Denver – the mile high city – is a popular place for tours.
In celebration of the recent decriminalisation of possession of less than two ounces of ganja, the High Times Cannabis Cup competition will be held during Rastafari Rootzfest in Negril in western Jamaica.
Farmers from Jamaican parishes will exhibit their locally produced marijuana during the celebration of Rastafari ideology, culture and music. Tickets to the four-day festival from November 12th-15th are $269, from hightimes.com.
Next summer there will be direct weekly flights to Montego Bay for a six-week period from June. Holiday packages will cost from€1.497 for two weeks in an all-inclusive resort, falconholidays.ie.
Who would have thought the beautiful ancient city of Prague would have the most liberal drug laws in Europe. Most drugs in small amounts are decriminalised and you can have up to 15 grams of cannabis or five grams of hashish in your possession.
However buying it and using it is another matter. There are no dispensaries or coffee shops such as you find in Colorado and Amsterdam.
After years of waging a battle against the self-proclaimed hippie free state of Christiania, Copenhagen and it now live in harmony. The green-light district of the city is a must see. It is a mix of colourful houses, murals and street art, shops, galleries, music venues, organic food cafes and cannabis is freely on sale. Through the year there are festivals, music, theatre, and cultural events, see christiania.org.
Spain was one of the first countries in Europe to decriminalise marijuana. Citizens are allowed to grow and use cannabis for personal use but it is illegal to possess or use in public. There are also hundreds of Cannabis Social Clubs, where the members can buy and grow for their own consumption. So make friends with a Spaniard.
Visitors can get a feel of the cannabis culture of Spain at Spannabis, an exhibition held in Barcelona each year. The next Spannabis will be in March, spannabis.com.
In 2001 Portugal decriminalised possession of all drugs, hard or soft, for personal use.
The offense was changed from criminal to administrative and at the same time increased funding was announced for treatment and prevention services. But this does not mean that drugs are legal to possess, use, buy or grow.
Popular with 20-somethings taking a trip to Machu Picchu, Peru has the most lenient drug possession laws in South America. However while you may legally have up to eight grams of cannabis for personal use, how that is interpreted by the police is a different matter. The national police do not have clear intervention rules and are likely to persecute users. Better to stick to coca leaves, which have never been criminalised. Or take a trip to Iquitos, deep in the Amazon, for a natural shaman-led high. Using chant and song along with the indigenous Ayahuasca plant, the shamans lead you to find spirit healing in the jungle.
Last year the government of Uruguay decriminalised cannabis, and went a step further with plans to nationalise production. This is seen as a way to control the illegal drugs market. However, production has not yet begun and you can only obtain weed illegally.
Other counties in South America such as Argentina, Chile and Colombia are on the road to decriminalising possession and personal use. There is an attitude that taking drugs is a personal choice and one that should not be legislated against.
Nimbin in New South Wales is the home of Australian counterculture. Here cannabis is openly bought, sold and consumed. The town is a hotspot of alternative and creative social activities and has been trying to change the law since 1973.
In May there is the Mardi Grass festival when thousands descend on the small town for festive fun and the Prohibition Rally. There is even a Harvest Ball, and jazz and poetry local cafes. nimbinmardigrass.com.