World Facts

Marijuana Use By Region Of The World

According to the UN Office on Drugs & Crime, North Americans and Oceanians lead the way.

The 2011 World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, states that cannabis (marijuana) use by persons in the age group of 15 to 64 years was in the range of 125 to 203 million people worldwide back in 2009. The 2015 World Drug Report shows that about 27 million people are serious drug abusers, of which a large percentage are marijuana users. In most places, men are more likely to abuse marijuana than women. The problem of synthetic substances and chemicals added to cannabis since 2008 has further increased concern over its use. These new additives have not been properly analyzed and could pose a threat to users' health as they can be more addictive and have more side effects. As more cannabis abuse is seen, the demand for treatment has also increased, especially in Africa and Oceania.

15. Oceania (12.1%)

Oceania tops the list for marijuana use at 12.1%. Although the Australian government has been in discussions regarding the legalization of cannabis, there is no solution seen yet to the problem. Laws against cannabis use in Australia are dependent on each individual state and territory. Statistics show that marijuana (cannabis) was used by almost 1 million Australians in 2014, and at least 5.8 million in that country have tried it in their lifetime. Those Australians in the age group of 20- to 30-year olds smoke it on the most regular basis, and its indigenous peoples have high rates of avid users as well.

14. West & Central Europe (7.1%)

West and Central Europe also have marijuana problems of their own, with usage rates reaching 7.1% in the same regions. Most of the countries in West and Central Europe have in the past ten years shown a slight increase in cannabis use. The Czech Republic has partially legalized marijuana use, and Spain also has partially legalized its use in some areas. Statistics show that, in 2009, 12 countries had increased their marijuana use in the region, while 4 countries experienced a decrease in the use of the substance. Most of the cannabis imports to Western Europe come via Spain after arriving from North African growers.

13. Eastern & Southern Europe (2.6%)

Eastern and Southern Europe have rates of marijuana users at 2.6% of the adult population. Albania grows its own cannabis and sends it to other European countries as well. It is illegal to grow and sell the substance in the country nonetheless, which often results in Albanian authorities having altercations with domestic farmers. Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia are the routes most often used for the illegal transport of the crop out of Albania and into foreign markets. Bulgaria and Macedonia also figure as transit points for large shipments. However, Bulgaria has taken big steps in stopping large shipments from passing through its national borders.

12. South Asia (2.5%)

South Asia has relatively low figures of marijuana use, with about 2.5% of the adult populations among its many countries using it. This is despite the fact that the region sees some of the largest marijuana crops cultivated of any region of the world, and making the region a major exporter. India has government-authorized shops selling marijuana, but otherwise it is illegal in the country when sold by private entities. Some wild cannabis-growing regions of India have lax laws regarding the use of this substance. Afghanistan treats cannabis cultivation as being illegal, and has destroyed many annual cannabis crops with the intent of eradicating the drug problem in its country. Sri Lanka treats marijuana as an illegal substance, but allows for its use in traditional medicine, and Sri Lankan cannabis grows wild and can be bought anywhere at a pittance. In the Himalayan foothills, Bhutan has so much cannabis growing in the wild that it is often used as livestock fodder.

11. Middle East (3.6%)

The Middle East has its own share of marijuana users, at about 3.6% among its collective countries. Although Iran has taken steps towards the legalization of marijuana, some countries in the Middle East have refused to even consider it. Qatar has some of the strictest laws against marijuana possession in the world, and simple possession can lead to a prison term of 10 years, and its desert police tend to shoot first before asking questions. Israel, meanwhile, is taking steps towards the legalization of medical marijuana. Nearby, Damascus and Beirut have stopped destroying local farmers' marijuana crops.

10. East Asia (1.0%)

East Asia has a minor share of marijuana use, with rate of only about 1.0% among adults. Brunei has some of the toughest laws against marijuana use and possession. Myanmar grows cannabis but, for the general population, its use and possession are illegal, though lax enforcement allow for its widespread use to continue. Cambodia has been tolerant on marijuana use, and the country has a long tradition of medicinal marijuana. Laos has laws against marijuana use, but it is nevertheless widely used and often tolerated by authorities. Malaysia has stringent laws against marijuana use, and possession can result in life sentences for even having very small amounts of the substance.

9. Central Asia (4.1%)

Central Asia also has about 4.1% of its population using marijuana. In these countries, cannabis use has been historically linked to medicinal and spiritual purposes. Its historical value goes back to 12,000 years ago, when it was first cultivated in Mongolia and southern Siberia. It then traces its historical journey into China and Korea, where its medicinal properties became highly valued in these countries as well. Kyrgyzstan has strict laws against domestic marijuana cultivation, so farmers harvest their crops from those specimens that grow copiously in the wilds of the country. Kazakhstan has a similar abundance of wild cannabis growing in its mountain regions.

8. South America (3.0%)

South America has its own share of marijuana users, comprising about 3.0% of its collective adult population. Argentina leads the way in legalization there, with its supreme court recently ruling that personal use is not against the law. Brazil also has moved towards partial legalization of marijuana use. Colombia also adopted Argentina's stand on personal use, and Ecuador sees drug use as a health concern rather than as a legal matter. Uruguay has taken steps towards legalization of state sales of marijuana, and most South American countries have lax laws with regards to the personal use of marijuana.

7. North America (10.7%)

North America is second in marijuana use at 10.7%. In the United States, the Pilgrims first cultivated it in 1611 for its fiber to make hemp rope. George Washington also cultivated the plant at his Mount Vernon estate for rope-making. Today, laws for or against marijuana cultivation and use vary from state to state. The US Supreme Court ruled that the Federal government can decide whether to make its use legal or not, and supersede states' respective laws. In Canada, medicinal use of cannabis is allowed as well, and the use of marijuana among the 15 and older age group is prevalent there, at 12.2%.

6. Central America (2.4%)

Central America has a rate of about 2.4% marijuana users among its adult populace. The Belize government considers marijuana possession as a criminal offense on the books, though its use is common and often tolerated in practice. Costa Rica decriminalized marijuana recently, and its usage is tolerated. Honduras treats marijuana possession as illegal, and Panama is the wrong country to get caught with marijuana, as its laws are severe and strict, and getting caught with it there comes with long prison sentences. Similarly, Nicaragua maintains a strict set of laws against marijuana possession and long prison sentences.

5. Caribbean (4.6%)

The Caribbean has about 4.6% marijuana user rates at last count. Marijuana usage is prevalent among the 15- to 64-year old age group. In the upper Caribbean, there are about 2,060,000 users, while the lower Caribbean has about 440,000 users. The Jamaican government has partially legalized religious and medical use in the country. However, in St. Lucia, a $200 fine is posted even for possessing a small amount of the substance. In the Bahamas, the country is waiting for the Jamaican outcome of its own findings regarding full legalization of cannabis. In Belize, legislators are getting ready to send a proposal to their government for partial legalization as well.

4. West & Central Africa (9.9%)

West and Central Africa's problem with marijuana use is at 9.9%. There has been a move towards partial decriminalization of drug use that includes cannabis by west African governments in 2014. This is in response to the growth in the drug trade that has developed in the two adjacent regions since the mid-2000s. Cannabis is one of the cash crops in the region, and sold illegally in surrounding countries. The problem is exacerbated by its users, who are often young and poor and mistreated by the justice system.

3. Southern Africa (6.9%)

Southern Africa comes in at 6.9% in its marijuana usage rates. South Africa's laws prohibit the possession, sale, transport, and cultivation of cannabis inside its territories' boundaries. Cannabis is illegal in Botswana, but laws go unenforced most of the time. Zimbabwe has strict marijuana laws, and it is illegal to possess cannabis inside that country as well. Most other countries in southern Africa consider cannabis as an illegal substance.

2. North Africa (5.8%)

North Africa comes in at 5.8% in its marijuana use rates. There are about 4,780,000 users annually in the lower regions, while the upper regions have about 10,620,000 users. Most of the users are in the 15- to 64 year-old age groups. Some of the highest cannabis production in the world is seen in Africa, and much of it is consumed by North Africa's adult population. Morocco and Egypt are the two major producers of cannabis in North Africa, and cannabis seizures were also the highest in these two countries.

1. East Africa (4.1%)

East Africa has about 4.1% of its population using marijuana, either as a medicinal aid or as a recreational drug. In lower east Africa, about 2,340,000 people use it, while in the upper region about 8,870,000 use marijuana. Most of the cannabis crops are grown because of its higher price value to the farmers compared to other cash crops. These plants are grown in the largest quantities in Tanzania and the hilly areas around Mount Kenya. Kenya's cannabis harvest is mostly consumed domestically, and the country is the biggest consumer of cannabis in East Africa.

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