Iceland. That’s right, Iceland is home to the world’s largest per capita population of weed smokers, according to the new 2014 World Drug Report. Fifty-five thousand members of their population of about 320,000 light up. That’s a whopping 18.3%.
Other countries with enormous weed-smoking populations include Nigeria, Zambia, the U.S. and New Zealand. But no one beats Iceland.
While usage in the U.S. rose after some marijuana legalization began in 2012, it’s still under 15%. It’s surprising, then, that Iceland still comes out ahead with weed prohibition on the books (at least the U.S. is better than Iceland at some things). The Icelandic government only recently began considering otherlegislative options, but it’s likely change could happen quickly, given the wide-ranging support of the public. Here’s a quick look at the national culture that has made the Icelanders the world’s top tokers.
What’s the weed scene like in Iceland? Similar to many European countries, marijuana is illegal buttolerated. Possessing a small amount or smoking in public results in a fine. While repeat offenders can be given jail time, smoking weed is widely socially accepted.
Weed in Iceland is expensive. One-eighth of an ounce of high-quality buds can cost $175 — in the U.S., one-eighth costs $30 to $50. There are generally three grades available: “Marri” is low-quality, “polli” is medium-grade and “riger” is the top-shelf stuff.
Their president is open to legalization. Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson has some progressive views on drug policy. At the Global Commission on Drug Policy last year, he said, “We have to admit the war on drugs has been lost long ago. It is better to prevent marginalization of young people than jail them for soft drugs usage which are comparatively harmless. If we allow the sale of alcohol, there is no reason to ban the soft drugs any longer.”
Why do Icelandic people love weed more than everyone else? It’s unclear, but perhaps because they didn’t have legal beer until 1989. The country completely prohibited alcohol in 1915. Since then, other spirits such as wine and hard liquor became legal, but beer only got the OK about 25 years ago.
So how was an Icelandic college kid supposed to have fun before 1989? Perhaps the green option was an attractive alternative to sketchy booze.