9 Countries with the cruelest punishment for marijuana use

Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller, Ph.D Pharmacology, Drug Testing Specialist

Last updated on Apr 9, 2024

It is undeniable that cannabis has become much more acceptable worldwide in recent years as compared to the past. Nowadays, there is an endless amount of strains, as well as products derived from marijuana for people to legally buy out of a dispensary.

There have also been major social, technological and medical breakthroughs regarding cannabis, which have certainly helped improve its reputation in many places around the globe.

Despite the fact that it is legal (or at least socially accepted) in large part by Western and European societies, marijuana is a lot more than just “frowned upon”, in places with some of the largest populations like the Middle and the Far East, as well as many other narrow minded countries in different regions.

In this article, we will present a list of nations with the most stringent and most oppressive laws against cannabis in the world.


It might be quite surprising to find a country like France on this list. However, being surrounded by countries who embrace marijuana has not changed the view of the French government on the use and possession of cannabis.

The fact that French authorities make no distinction between possession for personal use and possession for trafficking makes different kinds of offenders to undergo similar legal procedures.

This sets the tone for the rest of the countries on this list since they base their punishments on similar views. In France, penalties for small amounts are not too severe, but selling in large quantities can be punished by life in prison.




IllegalIllegal (Can only be used when all other forms of medications have failed and one needs to have a prescription). Some cannabis-derived drugs are however acceptable.Illegal
PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal useA maximum prison sentence of one year and a fine of up to EUR 3.750. The law does not distinguish between possession for use or for trafficking.Criminal law and the Loi du 31 décembre 1970Possession for traffickingThe Law does not distinguish between personal use possession and possession for trafficking.Criminal law and the Loi du 31 décembre 1970


For a country with a coastline of more than 7000 km (a drug smuggler paradise), Indonesia has stringent laws when it comes to marijuana.

Although there are drugs considered to be recreational in Indonesia, cannabis which is in the same category as meth, heroin, and cocaine, is not considered to be one of them.

Possession of marijuana could land an individual from 4 to 15 years in prison, and tens of thousands of dollars in fines depending on the quantity of cannabis one gets caught possessing. The punishment for having over 1 kg of marijuana is usually a life sentence.

PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal usePrison term of four to twelve years or fines of IDR 800 million -8 billion (USD 55.000 – USD 550.000). Drugs in excess of 1 kg may attract maximum punishment of life imprisonment.Indonesian Law No. 35/2009Possession for trafficking5-15 years imprisonment and fines of IDR 1 billion- 10 billion (USD 70.000 – USD 700.000). in excess of 1 kg may attract a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.Indonesian Law No. 35/2009


Even though Japan is an advanced society regarding technology and philosophy, cannabis seems to have been rejected by the Japanese government and people altogether. Apart from having the highest cost per gram in the world ($58.30), Japan also has absolutely no tolerance regarding marijuana.

The penalty for possession of a single joint is at least five years in prison. More significant crimes like harvesting or dealing cannabis can lead to a sentence of up to 7 years. On the other hand, they say they are lenient with first offenders, putting them in prison for six months. If you are a foreigner, you can expect to get swiftly deported, with no chance of ever returning there.

PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal use5 years of prison for the smallest quantities of marijuana (the amount is not specified).Cannabis Control Law (1948)Possession for trafficking7 years imprisonment and/or a JPY 2,000,000 (USD 18.000). Quantities, as considered as a possession for trafficking, are not specified.Cannabis Control Law (1948)


With strictly severe views on cannabis, offenders in Malaysia can be sentenced to life in prison for planting a single cannabis seed. They also have strict views on possession. If a person is caught with more than 200 grams of marijuana, they are sentenced to death. Even without intent to sell a person could be killed for having less than half a pound of weed. This is quite scary because 200 grams seems to be an amount that most people could exceed very easily. Imagine the number of people that would be murdered in Canada or the U.S.

PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal useImprisonment for up to 10 years (50 grams or less)Dangerous Drugs Act 1952Possession for traffickingDeath penalty. Possession of 200 grams is presumed to be a possession for trafficking.Dangerous Drugs Act 1952


The laws in the Philippines are a little more lenient towards first offenders forcing them to go under a 6-month rehab process. Nevertheless, second-time offenders are not that lucky as they can go to jail for a minimum of 6 years, which can be raised to 12 years, depending on the amount of the product and the judge.

In the case of cannabis cultivation, the penalty can be a mean life sentence for minimal quantities. There are intentions to legalize marijuana in the Philippines due to its medicinal properties, but that might not be any time soon.

Pilipino laws do not contemplate the death penalty regarding cannabis at any level. However, the current dictator in the country wants to bring it back as a punishment for marijuana harvesting.

PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal use12-20 years including a fine ranging from P 300,000-P 400,000 (USD 6000 – 7500 )for less than five grams.Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002)Possession for traffickingDeath sentence. Quantities above 100 grams are considered as a possession for trafficking.Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002)

Saudi Arabia

Punishments for marijuana consumption in this Islamic nation can lead to unfairly extended imprisonments. This is because Saudi Arabia is ruled under the Islamic law of Tazir; a religious commandment which dictates a judge can declare the length of any conviction, merely based on how long he thinks the punishment should be.

Public flogging would be the “softer” sentence for getting caught just smoking weed. There is only one penalty for marijuana trafficking, and it is death by either a shooting squad, hanging or the all-time favorite: beheading; hence the sword in their flag.

PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal useFor citizens, 2 years imprisonment and deportation for foreigners. This applies for the possession of any amount of the drug (As low as 1 gram).Narcotic Control LawPossession for trafficking2-10 years with whippings, extended trafficking attracts longer jail terms or even the death penalty. Despite the fact that this is not specified, amounts considered as trafficking are any amounts exceeding 50 grams.Narcotic Control Law


According to Singapore´s penal code, it is ok to carry up to 100 grams of opium but even less than 30 grams (about an ounce) of cannabis, categorizes as drug trafficking; one of the most stringent laws out there, which is completely out-dated and obsolete.

Possession of more than 500 grams is punishable by a mandatory death sentence. Smaller amounts could lead up to the maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. Whipping is another, much more savage, form of punishment depending on the case.

PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal useMaximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of USD 20,000 for amounts that are less than 30 gramsMisuse Of Drugs ActPossession for traffickingLife sentence For possession of 30 grams. More than 500 grams is punishable by the death sentence.Misuse Of Drugs Act


This is one of the countries with some of the longest sentences for marijuana possession all over the world. Offenders can expect to be arrested from 4 to 30 years. The Turkish laws have been known to be one of the hardest, particularly for the regular consumer. You can be thrown in jail, without giving you a single chance to defend your case, for just having a puff. The minimum jail time for selling cannabis is 10 years. However, the minimum penalty is increased to 15 years in cases where marijuana is sold to minors, making this one of the strangest anti-marijuana laws there are worldwide.

RecreationalMedicalCultivationIllegalCannabis-derived pharmaceuticalsLegal for medical purposes
PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal use1-2 years in prison or treatment and probation for up to 3 years. This applies for possession of the smallest quantity including a 1 gram of cannabis.The Turkish Penal CodePossession for trafficking5-10 years imprisonment for trafficking; 15 years minimum for selling to minors and 20-30 years for export and import. Any amount more than 30 grams is considered as a possession for trafficking.The Turkish Penal Code

United Arab Emirates

You can expect at least four years of jail time if you are caught with even the smallest amount of marijuana in The United Arab Emirates. Policies regarding cannabis possession are stringent.  Residual cannabis can get you in trouble to the point that even minor traces of marijuana in urine, will be considered as a possession. Any drug trafficking constitutes the death penalty. A large number of visitors who went there without knowing their policies have suffered the consequences. Their laws are cruel, and they apply to the vast majority of people.

PunishmentLaw referencePossession for personal useImprisonment for at least four years. Any amount of cannabis is considered illegal.UAE Law 14.of 1995 and its amendmentsPossession for traffickingDeath Penalty which is possible for quantities as low as 10 grams (Although this is not specified depending on the quantity and the judge preceding over the case).UAE Law 14.of 1995 and its amendments

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