Fourteen years ago, Portugal decriminalized all drugs in a massive, bold social experiment. People found holding personal amounts of drugs were provided with therapy rather than prison sentences. While you might think that would make Portugal some kind of drug-tourism haven, the truth is that drug use among teens has dropped, HIV infections among users have dropped, deaths by heroin and similar drugs were more than cut in half, and record numbers of people are seeking treatment for addiction. Woo! Party on!
9. The Netherlands
Americans tend to think of the Netherlands—particularly Amsterdam—as the place to just to get all kinds of wasted and wander the red light district. The truth is a little more complicated, but the bottom line is that the Netherlands distinguishes between "hard" and "soft" drugs. Soft drugs do include cannabis, but things like cocaine and amphetamines fall under illegal "hard drugs." They also treat drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one. There have been issues with selective enforcement, and stronger strains of cannabis have made many of the distinctions difficult. However, the "Dutch model" has been seen as a beacon across Europe as the right way to tackle drugs. SPRING BREEEEAAAAK!
Ecuador's 2008 constitution calls drug use a health concern rather than a criminal issue. There are mandated maximums used to distinguish between personal and "professional" use, but marijuana and hash, opiates, heroin, cocaine, LSD, meth, and MDMA are all legal in certain (not insignificant) quantities. Where exactly people are getting these drugs if no one's allowed to sell them is not clear, but as long as you're within limits, you're alright, alright, alright!
7. Colorado, Washington, Alaska, & Oregon
Oregon actually was the first state to decriminalize marijuana back in 1973. But decriminalization and legalization are two different creatures. After Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, a slow sea change began picking up steam. States as red as Texas have begun legalizing medical marijuana, and the federal government lifted the medical cannabis ban, providing compassionate care for sufferers of chemotherapy-induced nausea and other similar ailments. #YOLO420BLAZEIT, amirite?
Spain is yet another of a growing number of countries to treat drug abuse as a health issue. Different regions of Spain have different laws, but for the most part, drug consumption is widely legal. Public consumption is a crime, but due to loopholes in the law, several regions have cannabis-smoking parlors. People who do violate the restrictions on use are subject either to fines or to a treatment program.
5. The Czech Republic
Not to make this whole thing about Europe, but drug decriminalization is a big deal there. In the Czech Republic, drugs are technically illegal but considered a misdemeanor offense, similar to a parking violation. People can grow up to five coca, peyote, or marijuana plants, and there are fairly generous thresholds for marijuana, hash, mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, amphetamines, meth, cocaine, and heroin. SMOKE WEED EVERYDAY, haha. Right, guys? High five, anyone? Anyone?
It's not a free-for-all in Uruguay. Rather, marijuana was decriminalized but is closely regulated. People can purchase up to 40 grams a month, in 10-gram batches, from pharmacies. The government has approved weed plants from which they will sell clones and are tracking distribution via genetic markers. That said, the price per gram is only $1, in an attempt to funnel people towards the legal market and away from illicit sources. Compare that to $7-$26 per gram in Colorado with taxes tacked on top of that. "Daaaaave's not heeeeere!" Haha! Remember, that, huh? That was a good...that was a pretty good skit.
Mexico decriminalized very small amounts of marijuana and cocaine, as well as meth, heroin, LSD, and more. The caveat is that the amounts deemed "personal usage" are pretty conservative, and being caught with more can result in heavy jail time. Some regions purportedly enforce these more than others, but this slideshow makes no legal claims of that nature and categorically does not recommend breaking the law. SMOKE WEED EVERYDAY. LOL.
This one is still sort of iffy, but in 2009, the Argentine Supreme Court ruled that having drugs for personal consumption was protected under Article 19 of their constitution, which states that private actions that don't offend public morality or injure a third party are reserved to God and exempted from the authority of judges. This has been interpreted in different ways in different regions, and right now you can still be arrested. A Portugal-style decriminalization movement is well underway, however. The Supreme Court has your back. So get cruuuuuunk!