It’s a good time to be a pothead. The road to legalization has never been clearer, and attitudes towards weed are probably more relaxed than they’ve ever been. But that doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t be careful. After all, there’s a big difference between getting caught with a joint in downtown Denver versus rural Louisiana. But there are even bigger challenges for the international pothead, and here are nine places you absolutely don’t want to get caught holding. Well, not unless you want to go a Thunder Dome-style prison. Your choice.
Panama sucks for potheads. It’s not just the punishments, which are harsh enough all on their own – a minimum year in prison just for simple possession – it’s the culture of entrapment. Yes, in Panama, even the dealers are snitches. Of course, they don’t do it out of their respect for law and order, but because they then turn around and share the wealth with corrupt cops after you’re forced to bribe your way out of trouble. To hell with that.
It’s important to remember that Panama is the country that connects North America with South America and all its sweet, sweet drugs, so they are extra vigilant about this shit. And while you might think you could do a year in jail if you absolutely had to, just remember that these are Panamanian prisons, which are the kinds of places you might find Bane while he’s plotting against Batman. You will not make it out alive.
Sweden? Yeah, Sweden. I know it seems like Sweden seems like the sort of country that would be relaxed about this sort of thing, but the truth is that they make it a giant pain in the ass to be a pothead. They don’t get you with the law – you’re probably not going to prison – but by fostering a culture of social intolerance. Basically, if you get caught smoking weed, people will shun you, no one will hire you, and everyone will treat you like we tend to treat the town pervert.
This culture of exclusion is even embedded in Swedish law enforcement’s official policy, which is to “disturb and annoy” people involved in the weed game. That’s a far cry from “to protect and serve,” but hey, at least they’re being honest, I guess. Still, being a pothead in Sweden just isn’t worth the hassle. They just really, really hate drugs. Swedish Bikini Team, you’ve really let me down.
The Philippines has actually relaxed its drug laws in recent years, but that just means they throw you in jail now instead of killing you. Gee, thanks.
Still, their “relaxed” punishments are pretty damn harsh. Getting caught with a single joint will get you mandatory six months rehab, which isn’t that bad, I guess, but still, six months of rehab for weed? That’s like a deleted scene from Half Baked. If you get caught after that, forget rehab, you’re going to prison for six to 12 years. If you’re going down for that, you might as well just get into the crack game.
The penalties for possession in Guatemala? Eight to 15 years in prison. Goddamn. And again, these aren’t cushy country club prisons, or even Podunk local jails where you waste your days in boredom with your cellmate, Otis the town drunk. No, in a Guatemalan prison, your cellmate is more likely to be a nine-foot tall ogre with teeth sharpened into fangs who was arrested for terrorizing local villages and disemboweling their goats. Or for being a hitman for drug smugglers coming up from South America. Either way. And either way, you’re going to want to avoid Guatemala if you’re really into the forbidden horticulture game.
Sensing a theme? Yeah, you do not want to get busted in Central America. They take the drug game seriously, and given the issues drug smuggling has caused in Latin America, can you really blame them? Of course, a lot of that would go away with simple legalization, but that’s a whole new can of worms that I won’t open here, mostly because I’m being tazed by my editors right now.
Anyway, Nicaragua will crush you with up to 30 years in prison if they catch you. Sure, you probably will get off with something a lot lighter than that, but is that something that you really want to risk? When the only alternative is blowing a corrupt Nicaraguan cop just so he can take all your money and weed and leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere, I’d say it’s best just to avoid the country altogether.
Indonesia is famous for its harsh drug laws. We’ve all read the stories and seen the movies about some cute Australian girl or whatever getting busted in Bali and sent to rot in some hellhole. But that shit isn’t fictional. Simple possession will get you a minimum four-year sentence, and usually it’s even longer than that.
And that’s the best case scenario. The worst case is that they decide you’re smuggling or dealing, and then they just kill you. Now that’s a hell of a vacation.
United Arab Emirates
It’s probably not that surprising that the Middle East can be a little draconian when it comes to their drug policies, and the United Arab Emirates is probably the harshest. Getting busted with even a hint of residue will land you a minimum four-year sentence. It’s so bad that even if you fail a drug test, you can get busted for possession, so you might also want to avoid the poppy seed muffins.
Look, anytime a country’s drug laws start to mirror an episode of Seinfeld, you know things have gotten out of control. Of course, there’s also always the chance that they’ll just decide to kill you, because that’s just what happens when you commit heinous crimes over there like this or talking to a lady in public, or, you know, being a lady in public. It’s sad, because otherwise they just seem so relaxed about things. Do we have a sarcasm font?
Apparently, gassing your own people is cool, but according to Bashar al-Assad, who really puts the “ass” in Assad, getting high is the most unforgivable of crimes. Under his regime, it’s been reported that people busted for possession have gotten life in prison. Yes, Life with a capital “L.” I mean, come on, that’s some straight up North Korea shit right there.
By the way, North Korea would probably be on this list too, except nobody really knows what goes on there. They might all be smoking weed in the streets and partying with Dennis Rodman. Or they might just kill all the potheads and then feed them to the rest of the public, Soylent Green-style. We just don’t know. But it’s probably best to assume you don’t want to get caught smoking weed in North Korea. Or doing anything in North Korea for that matter. Sadly, it would seem that the same is true in Syria. Oh well, at least the rebels there seem much more relaxed about things.
Possession in Malaysia will get you four years minimum, which sucks, but it’s the way Malaysia goes about it that really separates them from the rest of the asshole gang. For starters, aside from simple jail time (and is jail time ever really simple?) they’ll straight up whip your ass. And I mean that literally. They will lash you. What is this, 1820?
And if you’re caught with seven ounces or more (admittedly, that’s a lot and it pretty much means you’re dealing, but still…) they’ll execute you. Say what you will about our own broken industrial prison complex, but we aren’t hanging dudes for weed and marching bros in front of a firing squad because their frat house got raided on a bad day.
It’s either the whip or the chair in Malaysia. Either way, you’re gonna need a whole lot of weed to get over that pain. Or you can just, you know, stay home, chill on the couch, and get baked like a real American. It’s the patriotic thing to do.
Smoking pot image by Shutterstock