Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can’t Spark Your Smoke Before You Go

Post originally Published December 26, 2023 || Last Updated December 27, 2023

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Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Don't Get Burned in Singapore

Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can’t Spark Your Smoke Before You Go

Singapore is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to drug laws, and cannabis is no exception. The possession, consumption, trafficking, import, and export of marijuana are strictly prohibited and come with severe penalties. Singapore has a zero-tolerance policy, so even trace amounts can land travelers in hot water.

The Misuse of Drugs Act lists cannabis as a Class A controlled drug alongside heroin and cocaine. Penalties for cannabis start at a minimum of five years in prison and five strokes of the cane. Trafficking over 500 grams comes with a mandatory death penalty. And in case you're wondering, the "cane" refers to judicial corporal punishment – yes, Singapore still utilizes caning as a punishment for some offenses.
While it may seem crazy, there's a reason Singapore takes such a hardline stance: the country believes it has helped keep crime rates low and built a safe, stable society. Singapore points to countries that have relaxed drug laws like the Netherlands and parts of the US as cautionary tales.

Of course, not everyone agrees with Singapore's draconian laws. But as a tourist, you have little choice but to obey them. Here are some tips for staying out of trouble:

- Don't try to smuggle any amount of cannabis in or out of the country. Singapore regularly uses drug-sniffing dogs and high-tech equipment to find even tiny stashes. You will get caught.
- Refrain from consuming cannabis in Singapore – even CBD oil and products with trace amounts of THC are illegal. Don't smoke or eat edibles during your visit.

What else is in this post?

  1. Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Don't Get Burned in Singapore
  2. Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Dubai Won't Tolerate Any Kind of High
  3. Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Avoid Getting Busted with Bud in Japan
  4. Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Malaysia Means No Mary Jane
  5. Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Think Twice Before Toking in Turkey
  6. Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - China Cracks Down on Cannabis
  7. Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - South Korea Says No to Ganja
  8. Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Brunei Bans bud Just Like Booze

Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Dubai Won't Tolerate Any Kind of High

Spark up in Dubai, and you'll soon find yourself extinguished. This glitzy Emirati metropolis takes a hard line on cannabis and drug use. Flashy supercars and posh penthouses aside, strict Sharia law underpins life here. And in the UAE, marijuana remains very much illegal.

Pot possession, even tiny amounts, can land you a minimum 4-year prison stay. Trafficking garners even harsher punishments like life sentences and capital punishment. Unlike liberal havens like Amsterdam, don't expect Dubai to blaze trails with legalization any time soon. Cannabis clashes with deeply held cultural values and norms.

Yet that hasn't stopped some naive travelers from trying their luck. In 2015, three British nationals made headlines after receiving 4-year sentences for possessing CBD vape oil. Dubai airports snared them entering the country. Despite CBD's legality in the UK, UAE laws drew no distinctions.
A YouTube prankster also famously fell afoul of Dubai's zero-tolerance stance in 2021. The internet celebrity smuggled a small amount of cannabis through airport security. He then filmed himself scattering the substance on a Dubai street below his high-rise apartment. Police swiftly arrested him for drug promotion and possession.

While he earned online infamy, jail time and deportation proved the only rewards for his foolhardy stunt. Let him serve as a lesson - Dubai doesn't take cannabis crimes lightly. And ignorance of local laws excuses no one.

Other travelers recount harrowing tales of popping positive on drug tests after merely inhaling secondhand smoke elsewhere. Strict liability laws mean even unknowing consumption can net charges. Once accused, you'll find little sympathy from Dubai's legal system.
So enjoy Dubai's glitz but leave any thoughts of getting high behind. Police actively probe narcotics crimes too. Don't think you can outsmoke their scent. Instead, save your spliffs for more tolerant destinations. Dubai offers plenty of thrills and high-flying fun without the need for cannabis.

Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Avoid Getting Busted with Bud in Japan

Far East adventure awaits in Japan, but leave your bud behind. This island nation enforced some of the world’s strictest anti-cannabis laws. Just ask the tourists locked up abroad or facing deportation after getting caught carrying a little weed.

Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka teem with soaring skyscrapers, blazing neon billboards, and party people aplenty. Japan’s major metropolises exude a freewheeling, fast-paced energy. Yet don’t mistake the lively ambiance for lax laws. Behind Japan’s futuristic facades, old-school attitudes on drugs persist. Draconian anti-cannabis legislation can ensnare unsuspecting tourists.

Cannabis possession garners up to 5 years in prison and heavy fines. Trafficking amounts over 1 kilo risk sentences of 10 years or more. Unlike some countries that distinguish between personal use and supplying, Japan prosecutes any amount strictly. Think twice before packing even a little bud in your suitcase.

Over a dozen foreigners languish behind bars just for bringing small stashes for personal use. A Swiss national received 22 months for mailing himself a joint from Hong Kong. An Israeli musician got slapped with 9 months for concealing 3 grams in her belongings. Even traces earn harsh punishments.
Don’t expect leniency as a foreigner unaware of local laws. Japan won’t grant that excuse. Its penal code explicitly states tourists get prosecuted for drugs brought into the country, even if legal elsewhere. Checked luggage, shipping containers and body cavities all get scoured at Japanese customs. Detector dogs sniff out stowaways. Expect no clemency for minor marijuana possession deemed major crime here.

Getting high inside Japan also courts major risk. Law enforcement actively probes narcotics use. A French DJ visiting Tokyo on business got busted after meeting a local dealer online. Their discretely arranged rendezvous proved a police setup. Best stick to shochu and sake as your spirits of choice while in town.
Cultural context explains Japan’s hardline stance. Cannabis carried stigma since arriving centuries ago with trading Portuguese. Meiji-era authorities later banned it in the narcotics criminalization wave sweeping the West. Today, Japanese society equates marijuana with hard drugs like heroin. The public supports tough measures keeping communities “pure” from the perceived scourge.

Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Malaysia Means No Mary Jane

Don't be fooled by those swaying palms and powder-soft beaches. Behind the tranquil tropical façade, Malaysia maintains some of Asia's toughest anti-drug laws. Cannabis remains very illegal here, so tourist tokers best tread lightly.

Possessing even small amounts means major trouble in Malaysia. Just ask the hapless tourists catching lengthy prison sentences for minor marijuana charges. In 2008, a Swiss martial arts instructor received a whopping 6 years behind bars. His crime? Bringing along 0.85 grams of weed for personal use during his Malaysian trip.

Crazy as it sounds, the instructor's harsh sentence hardly seems isolated. A 22-year old Australian woman also earned a 5-year stint after customs officers found 9 grams of ganja in her backpack at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

Malaysian law delineates cannabis as a dangerous drug alongside ecstasy, heroin and cocaine. Judges hand down mandatory minimum 1-year sentences for possession of 50-200 grams. Heavier penalties apply for larger amounts and trafficking. Anyone caught distributing over 200 grams faces execution under Malaysian law.
While you may not end up on death row, even tiny stashes can bring serious prison time. The Malaysian criminal justice system offers little leniency for cannabis, regardless of the traveler's circumstances or ignorance of local laws. Backpacking beach bums and unsuspecting vacationers alike feel the full force of the law if caught.

One unlucky Japanese tourist got slapped with 3 years behind bars for having a measly 3.7 grams of marijuana in his luggage. The 29-year old claimed he'd forgotten about the small stash of pot placed there by friends back home. Malaysian courts didn't buy the excuse.

In 2015, Malaysian authorities arrested a 22-year old Canadian woman in Kuala Lumpur. Turns out she'd mailed a box containing a bong and 2 grams of cannabis to herself at her hostel. Staff grew suspicious of the package and contacted police, who promptly detained her. She received a 7-month sentence despite pleas that she used cannabis for chronic pain back in Canada.

Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Think Twice Before Toking in Turkey

Turkey may boast gorgeous mosques, ruins, beaches and kebabs galore, but don’t let the inviting sights lull you into a false sense of security. Despite the laidback Mediterranean vibes in some regions, cannabis remains illegal across the country. Harsh anti-drug laws and inconsistent enforcement mean tourists lighting up can quickly see their Turkish vacations go up in smoke.

Unlike Holland’s hip cafés, you won’t find coffee shops selling pre-rolls in Istanbul or Antalya. And toking at your accommodation risks serious consequences too. Simply sparking a joint indoors or outdoors makes you liable to police intervention. Expect fines, detention and black marks on your permanent record back home thanks to data sharing agreements.

While Turkey grows 70% of the world’s illicit cannabis, production gets clandestinely controlled by criminal enterprises. The government cracks down hard on all possession. Don’t assume authorities will turn a blind eye to personal use amounts either. Anti-drug police routinely raid nightclubs, bars and tourist areas hunting for tokers. Several shocked travelers report getting shaken down for bribes after being caught carrying small stashes.
Cannabis purchased within Turkey also proves dicey. The local skunk ranks among the planet’s strongest varieties, with THC levels approaching 20%. Yet more alarmingly, buds often get doused in dangerous synthetic additives to boost potency. These chemicals significantly increase mental health risks from psychosis episodes to suicidal thoughts.

Traffickers also fill shipments with sticks, seeds and grit to increase profit margins. In other words, quality and safety standards remain questionable at best. Visitors face unknown risks consuming local product. You also can’t count on help from your consulate if you do end up needing medical or legal assistance related to dodgy ditch weed.

Instead of seeking out cannabis, stick to sipping Turkey’s delicious wine, raki or aromatic çay tea for intoxication. Not only will you avoid the negative effects of potentially tainted turkish grass, you’ll also steer clear of legal hassles marring your trip. Reports abound of police leveraging possession charges into demands for hefty bribes. Don’t become another mark for corrupt officials seeking to pad their pockets.

Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - China Cracks Down on Cannabis

China takes a hardline stance on cannabis that leaves no room for mellowing. Despite growing acceptance elsewhere, weed remains utterly taboo here. And China’s draconian anti-drug laws impose harsh punishments for even minor marijuana offenses.

Cannabis gets treated on par with drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines in China. The government labels it a dangerous addictive poison ruinous to society. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently declared his aim to establish a “drug-free country” and cannabis crackdowns play a prominent role.

According to China’s Criminal Law, smuggling over 10 grams of marijuana merits a minimum 7 years in prison. Possession of substantial quantities also leads to execution. Trafficking over 50 grams nets a death sentence.

While Westerners often downplay cannabis use as harmless recreation, Chinese see it as both immoral and threatening social stability. The Opium Wars of the 19th century that ravaged the nation colored local attitudes. Back then British colonizers forcibly imported massive amounts of opium, reducing swathes of Chinese into deadbeat addicts.

Present-day China views Western tolerance of cannabis as a plot to weaken them. The China National Narcotics Control Commission states that plots promoting marijuana aim to “Westernize and divide China.” According to state media outlet People’s Daily, favoring drug use over discipline makes Western youth “slack, hedonistic and low in accomplishment.”

Yet even as attitudes slowly shift elsewhere, the Chinese government only clamps down harder. In 2022, China banned all cannabis-related social media content as internet censors went on high alert. Mere positive references to marijuana get scrubbed from Weibo, WeChat and other platforms.

The ban came in response to moves toward medical marijuana legalization in Thailand and debate in neighboring Taiwan. China sees creeping leniency as an infectious source of contagion threatening domestic stability. Officials fear even discussions might erode China’s stringent pot prohibitions.

Travelers must avoid cannabis in China since enforcement remains harsh. Anti-drug police aggressively patrol nightlife areas in Shanghai and Beijing hunting down users. Possession of even a few grams can lead to years in prison. Drug offenses also get shared with offenders’ home countries, marring records.
One American visiting family in Beijing on a student visa got deported for buying 11 grams of local pot. A Canadian teacher working in Hong Kong received 6 months of jail for mailing himself a vaporizer and marijuana.

Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - South Korea Says No to Ganja

Yearning to experience Seoul's dazzling neon cityscapes or Busan's beautiful beaches but also hoping to discreetly indulge in some cannabis? Best stash those plans in South Korea, where anti-marijuana laws remain among Asia's toughest. Both recreational and medical uses stay strictly prohibited, with no relaxations in sight.

South Korea designates cannabis as a dangerous "narcotic" without proven medical benefits. Under the Act on the Control of Narcotics, the law books mandate 5 years in prison just for ingesting marijuana. Possessing, smuggling and distributing ganja net even harsher sentences ranging up to life imprisonment.

The South Korean government justifies the harsh stance as necessary to protect public health and safety. In their view, marijuana acts as a gateway drug that inevitably leads users onto more dangerous substances like cocaine or meth. However, critics counter that the restrictive policies do more harm than good. Criminalizing cannabis forces otherwise law-abiding users into shady black markets dominated by organized crime.
Nevertheless, the general South Korean public strongly supports keeping tough pot prohibitions intact. According to a 2020 poll, 4 out of 5 citizens opposed legalization. Tolerance remains low even for medical marijuana. The cultural stigma against cannabis runs deep in South Korea, marked by generational remembers of the 1980s crackdown on prolific marijuana use among entertainers and celebrities. Back then, high-profile prosecutions shocked the public and shaped lasting perceptions of pot as a social ill.

Today, many Koreans continue viewing marijuana as a serious moral failing. People who get convicted for cannabis offenses, even Western visitors ignorant of local laws, find themselves harshly judged. South Korean media outlets typically portray such cases sensationally, emphasizing any hint of "sex, drugs and rock-n-roll" decadence. Unlike Western coverage emphasizing draconian punishments, Korean stories elicit limited sympathy for rule-breaking "junkies."

The zero-tolerance approach continues ensnaring surprised tourists expecting attitudes more akin to Amsterdam. In 2021, officials arrested a 23 year-old American soldier stationed near Seoul for mailing himself a vaporizer and cannabis concentrate from Oregon. Rather than turn a blind eye, the Korean police threw him in jail for several months before his eventual release through U.S. government intervention.

Other unlucky travelers report getting tossed in crowded holding cells for days or weeks after airport customs discovers small pot stashes in checked bags. Strict enforcement even applies to South Korean natives returning home from abroad. A Korean-Canadian YouTube personality landed in hot water in 2022 over promoting her cannabis use back in Canada. Although the controversial influencer escaped charges, she received massive public backlash with calls for her early return "home" and apology.

Lighting Up Abroad? Know Where You Can't Spark Your Smoke Before You Go - Brunei Bans bud Just Like Booze

Don’t think just because Brunei boasts bountiful rainforests and mosques galore that attitudes run chiller toward cannabis. This tiny, oil-rich sultanate on Borneo bans bud just as strictly as booze.Brunei’s hardline drug laws see no shades of gray – possession of any amount means major trouble. Under the country’s Emergency Order of 2000, having over 10 grams of marijuana merits a mandatory death sentence. Lesser quantities draw multi-year prison terms or steep fines. And trying smuggling a stash through Brunei International Airport? Not wise - scanners and sniffers ensure thorough checks of all passengers and luggage.

The super strict stance stems from Brunei’s conservative Islamic culture frowning on any kind of intoxication. Alcohol faces an outright ban too. The sale and public consumption of liquor both carry hefty penalties. Brunei’s zero-tolerance drug policies also aim to detercrime and preserve the country’s squeaky-clean image. As the world’s fifth richest nation per capita thanks to gas and oil deposits, Brunei feels insulated from pressures facing other countries to liberalize cannabis laws and generate tax revenue.
In Brunei’s view, keeping a tight lid on cannabis and other drugs protects public welfare. But critics argue the harsh punishments violate human rights and deter drug users from seeking treatment. Possession shouldn’t warrant execution they claim, especially for a substance increasingly accepted elsewhere.

Yet within Brunei society, few speak up to challenge the status quo. The absolute monarchy ruling the Sultanate brooks no dissent. Do as you wish abroad, but expect no Amsterdam-style freedoms if you toke up in Brunei.

Even blessings from abroad don’t supersede Bruneian law. In 2019, a Canadian man working in Brunei as an English teacher got busted with 3 cannabis plants he grew on his balcony. In a letter, the man’s doctor back in Canada stated he used marijuana to treat bipolar disorder. Prosecutors didn’t buy the medical necessity defense. After 8 months in jail awaiting trial, he finally got freed through Canada’s diplomatic intervention. But not before plenty of suffering over a small stash that would barely raise an eyebrow in his home country these days. Let his case stand as a lesson - consuming or carrying any amount of weed in Brunei courts catastrophe. You’d fare far better getting caught with a bottle of scotch.

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