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Uruguay was the first country to fully legalize marijuana

Outside of the US, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize marijuana in 2013. After Uruguay, Canada legalized marijuana in 2018.

Other countries haven’t legalized, but they maintain relaxed approaches to marijuana use and sales. The Netherlands allows citizens to keep and cultivate some marijuana, and police let coffee shops sell marijuana as long as they don’t sell to minors, among other specific requirements. Spain also permits marijuana clubs where people can use the drug, although the drug is officially illegal to sell. And according to multiple reports from experts, visitors, and defectors, North Korea either has no law restricting marijuana or the law goes effectively unenforced.

One of the reasons marijuana legalization is so rare is because countries have been bound for decades by international treaties that established prohibition across the world. If a country tried to relax its marijuana laws, it could be seen as acting in violation of the treaties, which could lead to a loss in international standing and credibility.

But as more countries and their citizens view the war on drugs and marijuana prohibition in particular as failed policies, many are considering reform. So Uruguay and Canada could be the beginning of a much broader global movement.

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