While the world moves towards cannabis decriminalization, many jurisdictions remain hostile to people found in possession of even small quantities of weed.
Smoking a joint on a vacation seems like harmless fun, and in most cases it is. However getting caught with weed in certain parts of the world could get you in serious trouble – and it could happen in some European cities, as well. That’s why staying well informed about the habits of local police officers and courts before booking a flight might be an excellent idea, especially if you are visiting a country for the first time.
Of course, there is a difference between the letter of the law and actual application. This is the reason why you need a comprehensive report from the ground rather than just a summary of legal restrictions. Some countries may not actively enforce marijuana laws when it comes to small quantities, while in other places the police could step outside of the law to give you trouble. It goes without saying that you should always remain careful if you plan to smoke abroad, particularly so if you happen to stop by one of the following big cities in Europe:
Turkey is somewhat of a paradox when it comes to drugs. It is a source country for much of the illegal merchandise entering Europe (hashish included), but local drug laws are notoriously stringent. Since Istanbul is a true metropolis with a huge number of incoming tourists, you may have a little bit more leeway here than in other parts of the country, but that’s not something you should count on. With the political situation in Turkey as tense as ever, it would be wise to move with caution if you happen to be travelling to this amazing city. The police are infamous for reacting in heavy-handed style, and they might not have the patience for explanations if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For reasons unknown, Hungarian government doesn’t make any distinction between various substances that can be used to get high and treats them all the same in the eyes of the law. In practice, that means even negligible quantities of weed would be a reason for serious prosecution and possibly jail time. Sales are punished even more harshly, so dealers are likely to be extremely cautious towards people they don’t know. As a result, marijuana is not all that easy to find for foreigners and it may be best not to even try procuring it. The fact that few locals speak good English only complicates matters and could prevent you from talking your way out of trouble if push comes to shove.
It may be a mild surprise to find a Scandinavian city on this list, but that’s only until you realize that Swedish don’t approve of drugs very much. This is one of just a few countries in the world where compulsory drug testing may be required by the police – and failing a test is sufficient reason to go to court. Malmo gets bonus points for its position, as it’s located very close to Copenhagen where weed is tolerated and even sold openly in the Christiania Free Town. Many tourists make the fatal mistake of keeping a little bit of last night’s stash in their pockets when they catch a train to Sweden and encounter the well-prepared police force immediately on arrival. There have been instances where people got 6 months in jail for just a few joints, which is a big downer even if Swedish prisons are not all that bad.
The beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus is well-known for great beaches and its capital boasts very solid nightlife, but that shouldn’t be confused with having a liberal policy related to recreational drug use. Even small quantities of marijuana for personal possession are not tolerated and could result in sentences ranging up to 8 years for possession, with life penalty in play for more serious offences. In practice however, tourists can usually get away with a hefty fine in the neighborhood of Euro 500-1000, which is more than enough to ruin your vacation.
Countries from the former Eastern Bloc are somewhat slower to change the marijuana legislation and Bulgaria is a good example. The country still applies strict punishments for marijuana smokers, even is the laws are not enforced equally in all situations. If you are partying in the Bulgarian capital, pay good attention not to smoke in places where you could be detected by the authorities. Local police officers are prone to corruption and misconduct, so it is difficult to predict how they might react. There is a chance that a bribe could get you out of trouble, although this can be dangerous if you run into an honest cop.
As opposed to the neighboring Czech Republic, which is well known for its liberal approach to the drug abuse problem, Slovakia is leaning in totally opposite direction. This small Central European country doesn’t embrace smokers, dishing out draconian punishments to anyone found in possession of cannabis. Having a few joints in Bratislava could get you up to 8 years behind bars, which is possibly the worst law in all of Europe. There have been rumors about decriminalizing personal use, but that hasn’t happened yet and it is unknown when this process might start.
As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want to have any business with the Russian police. Drugs are not uncommon at all in Moscow and the party scene is quite strong, but a small mistake could turn your journey into a total nightmare. If you have less than 6 grams of marijuana, you should be able to avoid prosecution, but higher quantities are triggering criminal charges that could result in 2 years of imprisonment. However, the main problem is that street cops sometimes harass or blackmail foreigners and even the smallest amount of weed could give them a reason to act out.
This article was originally written in English, If you see any errors please email us at words@The-TripReport.com