The Worst Places in the World to Get Busted with Weed
For people who smoke weed, finding a reliable source is essential to having a good vacation. No one wants to be stuck desperately scouring the beach for a dealer, only to spend $50 on a couple grams of shake.
It’s a task that’s becoming slightly easier with countries around the world loosening their cannabis laws. Both Canada and Uruguay have fully legalized recreational weed, along with several U.S. states. And destinations like Amsterdam and Jamaica, known for their cannabis culture, welcome pot tourists.
But there are many countries that consider weed evil, as dangerous as meth and heroin, while consumers are vilified and written off as addicts. Depending on how much a person is caught with, serious jail time or even the death penalty is a possible punishment. Southeast Asia in particular has some of the toughest cannabis laws on the books.
Here are some answers about the riskiest destinations in the world to get caught with cannabis.
What happens if you get caught with weed in Indonesia?
Indonesia, known for its stunning beaches, temples, and volcanoes, is an incredibly popular tourist destination. Bali alone drew more than 6 million tourists in 2018.
But getting caught with weed there could easily mean jail time or even the death penalty for high-level trafficking.
Cannabis is a Group 1 drug in Indonesia, along with heroin, cocaine and crystal meth, which means the government considers it to be a dangerous substance with no therapeutic value. Millions of people still use cannabis in Indonesia, with the majority of it being produced in the Aceh region, according to a report from the Transnational Institute.
The punishment for getting caught with cannabis for personal use is a maximum of four years in prison or mandatory rehabilitation. If you’re busted growing more than one kilogram or five plants, it’s five to 20 years in jail or a life sentence.
The Transnational Institute report notes that around 26 people a day are sentenced to jail due to cannabis crimes in Indonesia and that consumers can be charged for dealing. Having to bribe your way out of being arrested, is another possibility.
According to the U.K. government, “Police often raid venues (particularly in Bali) known to be frequented by foreigners. You may have to take a urine or blood test if there is a reasonable suspicion that drugs have been used.”
Pip Holmes, 45, a British national, is currently facing up to 15 years in Bali’s infamous Kerobokan Prison for being caught with 31 grams of THC oil he says he uses for arthritis.
Holmes, a surfer, received the oil in the mail from a friend in Thailand. He was charged with smuggling.
What if you get caught with weed in Japan?
Japan is so strict on weed that when Canada legalized it in 2018, the Japanese government warned its citizens abroad not to partake because they could still face consequences upon their return back home.
Under Japan’s Cannabis Control Act, weed possession can lead to up to five years in jail, or seven if there’s a suspected intent to profit, and a potential fine of up to $18,000. Jail sentences for growing, importing and exporting weed are seven years—or up to 10 if there’s intent to profit, and a potential fine of up to $27,000.
According to the Diplomat, weed arrests are on the rise in Japan, jumping from around 3,000 in 2017 to 3,578 in 2018. Japanese pop singer Junnosuke Taguchi and his girlfriend Rena Komie were arrested last May for having just 2.2 grams of cannabis in their apartment. They were released on bail, paying $27,000 each. Both were given suspended prison sentences in October, meaning they won’t face any jail time.
What if you have weed in Thailand?
Thailand has loosened its weed laws recently, legalizing medical cannabis in 2018. It’s a marked departure from the days when people were killed for drug possession as part of the country’s war on drugs.
And anyone who has been can tell you that drugs—from mushrooms to weed, to opium—are widely available to backpackers.
But be wary of who you buy from.
The penalty for low-level possession is up to one year in jail and/or a $320 fine, climbing up to a maximum of five years in jail for possession of up to 10 kilograms of weed.
But the bigger issue for travelers could be getting caught by “dealers” who in reality are working together with cops in order to shake you down after you make a purchase. Full moon parties on the Thai islands are also known to have undercover officers posing as dealers, who will demand a bribe in exchange for not arresting you.
What happens to weed users in Singapore?
Singapore is known for being strict as hell—it’s illegal to litter, spit, smoke publicly, and chew gum on public transit. So it’s not surprising that the country’s weed laws are among the toughest in the world.
Possession of weed can lead to a maximum of 10 years in jail or a $20,000 fine. If you’re caught with more than 500 grams of weed, you can be charged with trafficking which means punishment ranges from a caning to life in prison and even the death penalty.
In 2016, a Nigerian man, Chijioke Stephen Obioha, 38, was hanged in Singapore after being caught with 2.6 kilograms of weed.
After Canada legalized weed, the Canadian government warned its citizens that Singapore officials can demand a drug test upon entry to the country. If you test positive, you can be arrested and prosecuted, even if the drugs weren’t consumed in Singapore.
Is Malaysia hard on weed users?
Malaysia is looking into scrapping the death penalty for drug traffickers, which includes people busted with more than 200 grams of cannabis. The government is also considering decriminalizing personal possession.
But possession is still illegal and is punishable by at least five years in jail if a person is caught with 50 grams or more. Growing even one weed plant can mean life in prison.
How about United Arab Emirates?
Dubai has emerged as a tremendously popular destination for both business and leisure.
It drew nearly 16 million international overnight visitors in 2018, making it the fourth most visited city in the world, according to a report from Mastercard, with tourists spending an average of $550 a day. But spending any of that money on drugs would likely be a mistake.
In the UAE, even having drugs in your system can be considered possession, which is punishable by a minimum of four years in jail or a fine of $2,700.
Keith Brown, a British youth worker and father of three, was sentenced to four years in jail in 2008 after he was found with .0003 grams of cannabis stuck to his shoe in the Dubai airport. The weed was the size of a grain of sugar.
In 2017, a fellow Brit Connor Clements was sentenced to two years in jail after he moved to Dubai and took a drug test which showed he’d consumed cannabis. Clements told journalists he had to sleep on the floor of a jell cell with 25 other people and that his court hearing lasted “less than a minute.”
Using weed in Turkey: Not great
Although Turkey is currently in the midst of ramping up its medical cannabis production, recreational consumption is still illegal.
Small scale possession is punishable with up to two years in jail.
Those who “openly encourages the use of addictive or exciting drugs” can face up to five years in jail.
Neither, really, in the United States
Plenty of U.S. states have legal weed, including California, Oregon, Washington, and Denver.
But cannabis remains illegal federally, which means that foreigners are at risk if they choose to imbibe.
If you’re entering into the U.S., even admitting that you’ve ever smoked weed before could get you banned from the country for life. Ditto if you’re found with any cannabis on your person.
Even if you consume weed that’s legal in the state you’re visiting, you could get in trouble. Last summer, the weed podcast On Something, featured the story of a Chilean woman who was issued a lifetime ban because U.S. customs officials found photos in her phone of her visiting a weed dispensary in Denver.
You can apply for a waiver to override a lifetime ban, but that can cost up to $1,000 and take up to 18 months to complete.