To mark 4/20, a day dedicated to smoking marijuana, we’ve mapped the world according to cannabis consumption – and the results might surprise you.
The top nation isn’t The Netherlands, famous for its coffeeshops, or indeed Portugal, the US or Uruguay, each of which has made strides to decriminalise the drug during modern times. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), that dubious distinction of biggest marijuana loving nation goes to Iceland.
Why do cannabis users celebrate marijuana on April 20, and at 4.20pm? There are numerous theories behind the origins of 4/20, including:
It’s the day Bob Marley’s died. This is not true; he died on November 5. April 20 is not his birthday, either, but it is Adolf Hitler’s birthday (historians remain divided about the extent of the Nazi leader’s weed consumption).
It’s the police radio code for “weed smoking in progress”. False. Police insist 420 means absolutely nothing.
It refers to the number of chemical compounds in marijuana. Not true – there are reportedly 315.
It’s all about Bob Dylan. In his song “Rainy Day Women ♯12 & 35” he insisted that “Everybody must get stoned”. 12 x 35 = 420.
The real reason, or at least the one that most people seem to agree on, is as follows. In the Seventies, a group of high school students in San Rafael, California, would routinely meet up for a sneaky joint by a statue of Louis Pasteur on campus at exactly 4.20pm. “Louis 420”, they would whisper to one another in the halls. The code word spread inexorably and was picked up by weed bible High Times, which now owns the website 420.com, in the Nineties.
UNODC data suggests that cannabis is used by 18.3 per cent of Iceland’s population (aged 15-64). The US (16.2 per cent) and Nigeria (14.3 per cent) had the second and third highest rates of consumption; while the UK came 26th on the list, followed by Ireland. And the Netherlands? It came 20th.
Data is not available for all of the world’s countries – and some figures have been updated more recently than others – meaning caution should be exercised when drawing comparisons.
The 30 biggest weed smoking countries
Iceland – 18.3 per cent of population
United States – 16.3%
Nigeria – 14.3%
Canada – 12.7%
Chile – 11.83%
France – 11.1%
New Zealand – 11%
Bermuda – 10.9%
Australia – 10.2%
Zambia – 9.5%
Uruguay – 9.3%
Italy – 9.2%
Spain – 9.2%
Madagascar – 9.1%
Czech Republic – 8.9%
Israel – 8.88%
St Lucia – 8.87%
Belize – 8.45%
Barbados – 8.3%
Netherlands – 8%
Greenland – 7.6%
Jamaica – 7.21%
Denmark – 6.9%
Switzerland – 6.7%
Egypt – 6.24%
UK – 6.2%
Ireland – 6%
Estonia – 6%
Bahamas – 5.54%
Sierra Leone – 5.42%
A number of countries have had a rethink on their cannabis laws in recent years.
Portugal decriminalised all drugs in 2001 and within a decade substance abuse was reported to have halved – though that’s not to say the dip in drug taking was directly down to the policy.
Uruguay has adopted a similar approach – it legalised marijuana in 2013 – while California, Massachusetts and Nevada are among the latest US states to vote for its legalisation.