Medical Cannabis Around the World

The World's View on Medical Cannabis

While much of the US is moving towards legalizing medical cannabis, there is still a long way to go before it can be considered legal at the federal level. CBD derived from hemp contains only trace amounts of THC and could be considered legal in all states. 

However, THC and CBD derived from cannabis are still classified as Class A drugs and are considered to have no medical value. To gain access to medical cannabis, one must have a medical cannabis card. 

This limitation makes it extremely difficult for medical research labs to learn more about the plant, such as the best ingestion methods, dosing, and which cannabinoids have the most impact on certain conditions. 

But, what about the rest of the world? Are conditions for medical cannabis better or worse in other areas around the globe?

Medical Cannabis in South Africa

Cannabis growing was decriminalized in South Africa in 2018, giving South Africans the right to grow, smoke, and possess cannabis on private property. Medical cannabis was legalized the year before, in 2017. 

Medical cannabis can be grown domestically and distributed overseas for medical use. Still, a medical license for doing so is expensive and not straightforward.

Strict guidelines are in place, and quality control is paramount, making growing medical cannabis a very costly business to set up. 

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) regulates the medical cannabis market, and licenses are issued only with a corresponding permit from the Department of Health. 

Medical Cannabis in Asia

Cannabis, including medical cannabis, is still taboo throughout most 48 countries in Asia, with few exceptions. 

South Korea and Thailand have begun to relax their stance on the product recently. Interestingly, Thailand used cannabis in a medical capacity for centuries before it was criminalized in 1934 under the Cannabis Act. 

Thailand is also the first Asian country to legalize the cultivation of medical cannabis for consumption, with the first legal cannabis greenhouse established in 2019. Recreational cannabis is still a class-5 narcotic under the Narcotics Act of 1969-79, with harsh penalties imposed on offenders. 

In South Korea, cannabis wasn't banned until the 1970s, and users risk up to 5 years imprisonment. However, in March 2019, South Korea legalized medical cannabis, albeit with stringent rules and a complex application process.

Can You Access Medical Cannabis in Colombia?

Cannabis use in Colombia was decriminalized in 2012 and legalized for medical use in 2015.


The South American country is now one the largest producers of cannabis in the world. 

Medical cannabis is also a thriving market. Patients can grow their own plants or purchase cannabis from licensed distributors. 

Accessing medical cannabis is relatively straightforward in Colombia. Patients can consult with their doctor and purchase the product over the counter without joining a national registry. 

You cannot purchase fresh or dried cannabis flowers. Instead, medical cannabis is used in oils and creams. 

Medical Cannabis Availability in the Netherlands

Prescription cannabis has been available in the Netherlands since 2001. Dutch doctors will only prescribe medical cannabis when all other treatments have proven ineffective. 

Prescriptions are most often prescribed to patients with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, Tourette's syndrome, and HIV/AIDS.

Until just a few years ago, insurance companies were reimbursing patients using cannabis for treatment, but most have started to back away from the practice. 

While much of the world still criminalizes cannabis use in all its forms, more and more countries are starting to understand that medical cannabis may provide some benefit in treating disease and relieving symptoms. As the laws relax around the globe, more research can be conducted on this extremely versatile product to help even more people.

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