Alex Thompson; CEO at Legaroo discusses why having ground-based, local, insider legal knowledge is key for the international traveler.
Travelling is undoubtedly one of the most amazing parts of the human experience...
Being a witness to different cultures, countries, cities and the massive variety of the natural world is worth investing in.
However, as an international traveler, and more so in this Covid Era, it's essential to remember that behavior that’s acceptable at home may be a big ‘no-no’ abroad.
The laws of a particular country are evolved from a complex mixture of history, culture, economy, politics, and of course religion, and as a foreigner visiting a country, you cannot assume that you have a shield of protection...
You won’t be treated differently from the locals when you break the break a law, even if it happens out of ignorance, chance or by mistake. In fact, in some jurisdictions you may even be treated more harshly.
This article is not meant to scare you when travelling...
But to advise travelers and the travel industry itself to keep front of mind that today we live in an extremely convoluted legal environment, fueled by the Covid pandemic. Regulations, local laws and health protections are changing at an unpredictable speed.
As I always say that when you travel and by accident cut your hand, the stitches are basically the same everywhere, but if you crash your rental car, the legal event and its process is totally different in each country. When you add language and culture barriers it can really escalate from a headache to a nightmare.
So, let’s start talking specifics: Marijuana consumption. You probably already know the penalty for consuming it in your own country, but it’s going to be a different story in another country. The examples below are a general guide though, of course, you’ll need to get a local legal adviser should you be arrested.
In Mexico: Latin America: Prison. Imprisonment up to 30 hours. The penalty will depend on the amount of marijuana. Payment of a fine of approximately US$118 Dollars. The fine will depend on the amount of marijuana in possession..
In Costa Rica: Latin America: As long as the person is of age (18+) and consumes for personal use - not in public places- then it’s not illegal. No Prison, no fine.
In Colorado, USA: It’s legal as long as the person is of age (21+) and does not consume in public places with the exception of retail marijuana hospitality and sales businesses. There are a lot of rules in relation to appropriate behavior while consuming marijuana.
In Utah, USA: Just beside Colorado, It’s illegal. The penalties for marijuana possession depend on the amount of marijuana that a person possesses. Depending on the weight, you risk being charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor, even as a first timer. Less than 100 pounds of marijuana, you will likely receive a class B misdemeanor charge, with penalties up to a maximum of six months in jail and up to $1,000 in criminal fines. If you are arrested with over 100 pounds of marijuana in your possession, you can be charged with a second degree felony, carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and US$10,000 dollars in fines.
In Italy, Europe: Although it is not officially legal, there is no penalty for the individual use of drugs such as marihuana in private places. However, the only consequence could be the suspension of the driving license if driving under the influence.
In Saudi Arabia, Middle East: Use and possession for personal use of any kind of recreational drugs is most of the time punishable by imprisonment if caught. Imprisonment for personal use of cannabis could go up to 1 to 6 months in prison with or without whippings for first time offenders. Imprisonment for drug dealing can range between 2 and 10 years in prison with whippings. Repeated dealing and or smuggling of large amounts of drugs usually result in harsher time in prison or can even include the death penalty,
In Malaysia, Asia: If you’re caught with up to 20 grams, you may be given three to nine lashes. For up to 50 grams, it’s likely that you’ll be sentenced to five years in prison and given a fine of up to RM20,000 (Approximately USD$4,785.00). If a Traveller is caught with 200 grams or over, this is classified as drugs trafficking and up until 2018, offenders ran the risk of being sentenced to the death penalty. Today, a potential life sentence would apply.
In Singapore, Asia: Possession or consumption can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison, with a possible fine of US$20,000 Dollars, as well as canning (some sort of whipping). Trafficking, import or export of more than 500 grams may result in the death penalty.
Once again, marijuana consumption is something to really think about when travelling abroad. However, regular and even simple legal issues (a parking ticket, a satellite phone, smoking a cigarette, jay walking, among thousands of examples) can become difficult to understand and quite challenging to solve when the legal environment is completely unknown.
Legaroo Assist is a solution that provides a legal companion to Travelers, a “just-in-case retained lawyer” who can serve as a local legal point of contact and can navigate an unfamiliar legal environment in benefit of a clueless or just unlucky Traveler.