Californians don’t need to venture far to find 420-friendly escapes, with weed-powered yoga sessions, festivals and retreats popping up throughout the Golden State.
But for travelers in search of more far-flung adventure, there are a growing number of states and countries where cannabis is tolerated if not embraced.
There are now eight states that let adults legally consume marijuana, with established cannatourism markets in states like Colorado while Nevada aims to hit the ground running with its pot tourism sector.
When it comes to international destinations, Amsterdam and Jamaica may seem like givens. But keep in mind that just because a place is known for weed doesn’t mean it’s legal there, with pot simply tolerated in The Netherlands and only decriminalized in Bob Marley’s home country.
Looking to visit Albania’s famous flower harvests, Morocco’s world-renowned hash or Spain’s popular cannabis cafes? Tourists can likely find marijuana quite easily in these places, and they’re not likely to get busted for having small amounts. But it isn’t actually permitted in any of those places, so visitors partake at their own risk.
It’s also important to always check local laws regarding cannabis for your destination. While cannabis is legal in Washington, for example, it’s not legal to smoke or buy it everywhere in the state. And remember that it’s never legal to take marijuana across a border or on a plane.
Enough disclaimers. On to the fun stuff.
Here’s a look at destinations around the globe where cannabis freedom can be a perk or a focus of your next vacation.
LISBON: Portugal decriminalized small amounts of all drugs in 2001, swapping jail sentences for optional therapy. Cannabis still isn’t legal, and there aren’t sanctioned sales or lounges anywhere in the country. But on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “virtually legal,” the website WeBeHigh.org ranks Lisbon as a 4.5, noting it’s easy to find weed and cops generally don’t bother consumers who are otherwise behaving themselves. The European port town has also been named the next big destination by a number of travel sites, so get going before it becomes the next Iceland.
DENVER: Colorado legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older in 2012 and became the first place in the world to legally sell it in January 2014. The Mile High city now surely has the most developed cannatourism market in the world, with plenty of legal dispensaries, 420-friendly hotels and cannabis-themed excursions. Visitors with an ID can buy and carry up to an ounce, with stores easy to find along a stretch of South Broadway that’s been dubbed the “Green Mile.” And if you like to mix things up, Denver’s craft beer scene won’t disappoint.
FREETOWN CHRISTIANA, COPENHAGEN: This semi-autonomous neighborhood in Denmark’s capital city was formed in the early ’70s, when residents took over an old military base and established a commune of sorts that’s lasted for decades. The bohemian enclave just across the river from the center of town was long known for having a “green light district” where folks would openly sell marijuana from roadside stalls. Christiana residents tore the weed booths down in 2016 after two police officers were shot. But recent visitors report that cannabis itself is still widely accepted and available in the tiny town that’s covered in Instagram-worthy murals.
MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY: This South American nation shocked the world in 2013 when it became the first country to fully legalize cannabis. Only residents can grow or buy marijuana from government-approved pharmacies, and word on the street is that it’s not always the best quality. But residents can give weed away, which gives travelers another reason to make nice with friendly locals in Uruguay’s laid-back capital city. Plus Montevideo boasts historical sites, noteworthy architecture and a beach-side rambla that rivals Barcelona.
AMSTERDAM: The canals and liberal attitudes of this European city have long beckoned curious tourists and experienced cannabis connoisseurs alike, leading many people to believe that marijuana is legal in The Netherlands. But the government actually just tolerates possession of 5 grams of weed or less, while sales and consumption is permitted in the city’s infamous “coffee shops.” A number of shops have closed in recent years, but there are still plenty of picturesque places to light up.
NEGRIL, JAMAICA: It’s been two years since Jamaica passed a bill decriminalizing marijuana. There’s still no system in place to legally buy weed, but adults won’t get in trouble for carrying up to two ounces in this beach resort town. And cannabis consumption is widely accepted throughout the island nation, thanks in part to its place in the Rastafari religion and lifestyle. So pot tourists should be left alone to enjoy Negril’s white sand beaches, jerk-style street food and a music scene that helped spark the modern marijuana legalization movement.
SEATTLE: Since 2012, there’s been one more reason to call Seattle the Emerald City. Washington also legalized marijuana that year, with recreational sales starting in July 2014. There’s no shortage of dispensaries in this city perhaps still best known for its coffee and thriving music scene. Stricter regulations on advertising and rules against open containers in tour vehicles have kept Seattle’s pot tourism market from rivaling Denver’s, but it’s not tough to book a tour of a downtown shop or to catch a glass artist in action.
TEL AVIV: Since legalizing medical marijuana in 1992, Israel has become the global leader in cannabis research, making it ground zero for major cannabis conferences. No recreational sales are allowed, but the country decriminalized recreational marijuana for adults in March. People are known to freely light up in Tel Aviv, with the website MarijuanaTravels.com ranking the city an eight out of 10 for “smoking tolerance level.” And Tel Aviv’s beaches, art and architecture offer the perfect backdrop.
PORTLAND: Oregonians approved recreational marijuana in 2014, launching sales in 2015. The “Potlandia” market is evolving as it only could here, with visitors free to light up during bicycle tours, winery trips or salmon fishing excursions. And with farms in Southern Oregon that produce high-grade cannabis that can arguably rival California’s Emerald Triangle, it’s not tough to find good products throughout the green, liberally minded state.
PUERTO VIEJO, COSTA RICA: Cannabis is decriminalized in Costa Rica, and it’s widely accepted as part of the peaceful Latin American country’s “pura vida” mindset. Few places is that motto more evident than in Puerto Viejo, a beach town along the southern Caribbean coast where bicycles are the main form of transportation. Spend the day lounging on the beach, or walk a few feet to explore rainforests full of howler monkeys and toucans. But save some energy to check out the nightlife in spots like Rocking J’s, where you can spot pot leaves on the floor tiles or catch a smoky screening of a Doors concert in a beachside shack.
Click here to read more from our special report on canna-tourism.
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