Travel Savvy: Know Your International Cannabis Laws

In the spirit of In A Real Cool Mood traveling abroad this month, I took a moment to research the cannabis laws so I can not only be more educated about how the industry is outside of our own backyard but also to make sure I'm traveling as smart as possible. As one could easily guess, the laws in the United Kingdom and in France (where I am happily going to explore!) have different regulations in place than the United States. Thankfully, the globe in general is making strides in a positive direction but we collectively as a planet have a lot of advocacy work to do. Let's take a look at where each location stands at the time of this writing.

United Kingdom:

Cannabis in the United Kingdom is illegal for recreational use and is classified as a Class B drug. Meaning, you can’t just light up a joint anywhere legally. Medical use of cannabis was legalized on November 1, 2018. Prior to this date, all cannabis products were classified as unlawful drugs. Now, cannabis products can be prescribed but only by consultant medical practitioners for things such as nausea induced by chemotherapy, MS and epilepsy.

This shift in regulation was influenced by multiple cases where children were suffering from epilepsy but successfully using cannabis to heal. Their stories gained a lot of attention and further speak to how this plant is helping keep children alive. For one example, there is currently a six year old boy named Alfie Dingley who suffers from about 30 epileptic seizures a day. His parents have said that cannabis oil has a huge impact on Alfie’s life. When he takes cannabis oil, his seizures have dramatically gone down to about one per month. 

If that doesn’t show you the power and magic of this plant, I don’t know what will. The issue was that the family had to move to the Netherlands in September 2017 in order to legally provide the oil for their child. They eventually ran out of money and had to return to Britain. Despite the medicinal use law going into effect in 2018, doctors remained too afraid to prescribe cannabis. It’s unfortunate. No parent should have to go through the pain, frustration, and heartache of watching their child suffer, just to find something that helps and then not be able to access it.


Cannabis in France is illegal for personal use, but interestingly enough remains the most popular illegal “drug” in France. In 2012, 13.4 million French people between age 15 and 64 had tried cannabis, whereas 1.2 million people in Metropolitan France considered themselves regular users. On November 23, 2018, the penalty for possession of cannabis was reduced to a 200 euro fine, rather than an arrest. It’s progression right? I don’t know if France will soften the cannabis laws anytime soon, but I do know France's finance minister Bruno LeMaire stated, "This is my personal conviction: cannabis must not be legalized. On the other hand, we must take a good hard look at where we have gone wrong … we have the harshest laws in Europe, yet the highest consumption rates." A stubborn yet open minded view, I suppose.