17 Random Things Weed-Loving American Travelers Do Wrong Abroad

A lighthearted guide to international cannabis etiquette.
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Photos courtesy Shutterstock

Hola, fellow travelers! 

Ready for a lighthearted trek through the world of international cannabis customs? Strap in; my friends and I are about to take you on a high-flying tour, minus the lecturing – I hope. 

We’ll be your trusty travel buddies, not a buzzkill. From our stash of stories, gathered while witnessing American weed aficionados zigzagging (and sometimes staggering) through foreign pot paradises, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the hilarious. We’re talking everything from Amsterdam’s chill coffeeshops to Barcelona’s hidden green havens, and even that time an American tried to explain to a Colombian farmer why California Kush is king. So, puff-puff-pass the stereotypes and let’s roll into a journey of cannabis culture, one chuckle at a time. Remember, it’s not just about the bud, but the budding experiences you can cultivate across the globe!

Here are our two cents, gleaned from years of globe-trotting and observing American cannabis escapades. It’s friendly guidance, not preaching. So, let’s get to it, amigos. Join us as we navigate the do’s and mostly don’ts of global cannabis culture, with a touch of humor and a whole lot of “only in America” moments.

“It’s Just a Vape Pen, Bro!”

First up, traveling with your own weed is a big no-no in my book. Americans love their homegrown, sure, but smuggling it to Jamaica or Barcelona? Come on, folks. Jamaica is world-famous for its love of Ganja, and even there I’ve encountered fellow Americans who chose to bring their own weed because “local sun-grown bud just isn’t good enough.” Embrace local varieties. It’s not just a change of scenery; it’s a new experience for your palate and senses

What’s more, “there is still a lot of confusion when it comes to products made from hemp, even oils, or substitutes like hemp-derived cannabinoids, and products with THC. Local FDA equivalents don’t really know the difference,” says Muy Paola, a famed content creator from Chile. “There is little clarity regarding the legal framework and perceptions molded by morality, rather than science… Topicals, oils, etc., do not have recreational purposes, yet, traveling with them without the corresponding permits can still be a problem. Might sound like overkill, but that’s the reality of airport security in many countries I’ve been to.”

Double Trouble

One of the best things I’ve learned in America is: never do two illegal things at once. However, it’s easy to disregard one’s own advice: do as I say, not as I do. 

The idea is simple: If you’ve got weed on you, hold that bladder. Public urination with a pocket full of pot is like wearing a neon sign that says “Arrest me, please.” Or, at the very least, “I am carrying some bribe money.”

Pay What It’s Worth

“If you’re gonna get seeds and bring them back home to experiment, respect the landrace and the locals. Maybe contribute to the local community. Even a small contribution can have a big impact in many countries… Your American Dollars, in cash, make a difference. Just don’t expect to get top-notch genetics for 50 bucks. Even if that’s what locals ask, offer a little extra. We’ve seen many huge seed banks buy seeds for dimes on the dollar and then sell them for millions in profit… That’s just not right. An exotic strain is priceless,” says Nicolás José Rodríguez, a guy with multiple graduate degrees focused on cannabis.

And this is true, I’ve heard multiple horror stories about some of the most popular strains in America being acquired in Thailand or Ecuador for under $25. 

In this sense, Mexican cannabis educator Polita Pepper, suggests we take this as a sort of “reparation.” She says, “It’s good to understand and value where your weed comes from. Buying weed abroad is not the same as buying it at your local, legal, regulated dispensary. This illicit market weed may not necessarily be as traceable as dispensary cannabis, but it does have a history, oftentimes traversed by inequity, racism and exploitation of the bodies and territories of native groups.”

Narco Novelas Aren’t Documentaries

Stigmatizing Latin American countries like Colombia, Mexico and Peru as “narco-infested” lands is like believing that all Americans act like Donald Trump. Drug cartels aren’t the welcoming committee; instead, they often impose terror among local populations.

But these vibrant countries offer more than just stereotypes; they offer rich cultures, histories, and yes, even safe cannabis experiences. Pepper ties this issue to the one above, bringing back up the point about exploitation. “We often forget that the weed we smoke came from somewhere and it often traveled a long road to get to your hands.” 

She suggests we ask ourselves: “Whose were the hands that cultivated this weed and how was all of this traversed by the illegality of the plant in our countries? The legacy market and growers carry a historical weight and deserve reparations in many cases. And reparations can take many forms: sometimes it’s appreciating the local weed, not being a snob, paying a fair price, and realizing that America was enormously influential in the illegalization of this beautiful plant and the horrors it brought upon many of our nations.”

Elevation, Not Location

Here’s a pro tip – look up, not around. Stoners love a good view. If there’s a hill or a secluded spot like a Medieval wall, chances are, you’ll find your kin. It’s like a natural GPS for good vibes.

Giuliana Roldán, Global Expansion Manager at Puffco, adds another great recommendation. “For all global travelers out there, here’s a secret tip – check out online forums! Connect with the local community, dive into unique flavors, and ensure a safe experience. These forums are gold mines for info and contacts, linking you with passionate people living the cannabis lifestyle. Let’s also start sharing the legal lowdown for each country – many places are 420-friendly. Remember, we’re all cannabis users, and we’re all kinda medical users, too. Spread the knowledge, share the love.” 

Stoners Aren’t Walking Dispensaries

Just because someone’s puffing away doesn’t mean they’re open for business. Respect the puff, don’t interrupt the stuff. It’s about camaraderie, not commerce.

Street Smarts Over Street Sparks

Smoking on the streets? Nope. Understanding local laws and police practices is crucial unless you fancy a night in a cell, struggling with your high school Spanish. “Donde está la biblioteca?” won’t help much there. Well, that is, unless you know for a fact that the library is the right spot to light up. 

Zara Snapp, from Instituto RIA in Mexico, recommends understanding the privilege you carry as a tourist and not overstepping.  As she notes, “This means studying the laws before traveling, connecting with activists, local groups or 4.20 friendly places instead of assuming that you will not be prosecuted because you are a tourist. Give back whenever possible and recognize that activists and cultivators have spent years putting their lives on the line to make possible cannabis-friendly spaces.”  

Roldán adds, “Sharing intel within our community is key! Avoid legal hiccups by finding safe spots. Recently, in Medellín, I educated the police during a street stop. Turns out, there are designated chill zones in cities like Medellín, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Berlin, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina. Let’s all dig into these options for a hassle-free, enjoyable high on our travels. Stay informed, stay safe!”

Respect Local Cultures

Not all views align with yours on cannabis. When abroad, it’s crucial to honor local customs and attitudes. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, or in this case, smoke as the locals smoke – if they smoke at all.

Marina Sabbatella, an extremely skilled grower from Argentina adds, “Music is a universal language of cannabis. Discovering local musicians that are cannabis friendly will give you a better understanding of the culture and possible events that are cannabis friendly as well.”

Gabriel Murga, a cannabis-focused journalist from Brazil, concurs: “Understand cultural and musical etiquette, in addition to social etiquette. Musical culture in Latin America carries strong references to the consumption and culture of the plant, musical spaces where samba and rap are heard in Brazil, cumbia in Argentina, candombe in Uruguay and Rock, in Peru, can be cultural facilitators to achieve a plant of quality in Latin America. But it is extremely important to respect and take into account racial, social, and class markers, I understand the weight of illegality and social confrontations that these groups face. Talking about other topics can and should be a good entry point, as plant lovers tend to be interested in cultural exchange. It is very important to indulge in the experience of local tastes, flavors, and strengths. Your usual plant will still be at home, but the memory of that organic flower grown in dry Lima remains forever in your memory.”

Hippie or Hipster?

Trying to score weed from every dreadlocked or bohemian soul is like asking every guy in a flannel shirt for craft beer advice. Not all who wander are lost, and not all who look chill are your next dealer.

Scoring weed from minors? Just don’t. It’s not cool, it’s not legal, and it’s certainly not responsible. Remember, you’re a traveler, not a troublemaker.

Cannabis Confidence

Just as an eagle soars confidently in the sky, some Americans carry their cannabis knowledge with an air of supreme confidence. But here’s the catch: cannabis culture isn’t a one-size-fits-all, especially not the American size. 

Each country has its own unique weed wisdom, steeped in history and tradition. Imagine confidently walking into a coffee shop in Amsterdam and demanding the “strongest stuff” in loud, confident English, only to find that the Dutch approach is more about enjoying the experience than just the potency. It’s like trying to order a Big Mac in a gourmet French restaurant – you might get a polite smile, but you’re definitely missing the local flavor.

Remember, when it comes to cannabis abroad, it’s not just about what you know; it’s about being open to learning how little you actually know.

Support Local Green Thumbs

Don’t turn your nose up at local strains. Supporting local growers is like savoring a region’s cuisine. It is also a way to learn more about the culture and history of the plant in other countries. “Acapulco Gold and other endemic strains from Mexico have been sold in international markets without recognition that cannabis continues to be illegal in México, so as tourists, try to support local growers, activists and organizations to help change laws,” says cannabis lover, Zara Snapp. It’s part of the experience. Your “sophisticated palate” might just discover its next favorite.

If you can’t afford to pay a lot for local weed, consider Sabbatella’s advice: “Small gifts can go a long way. Having some stickers or filters you brought back from your country to share can be a nice start to show appreciation for local growers.”

Street Deal Skepticism

If someone’s openly offering weed on the streets, it’s likely not the jackpot but a trap. Whether it’s a legal issue or a quality concern, these deals are often too good to be true. Stick to trusted sources and remember, discretion is the better part of valor, especially with cannabis.

Lost in Translation – Weights and Measures

In the world of international cannabis, the imperial system is as foreign as a snowstorm in the Sahara. 

Asking for an ounce or an eighth in a gram-centric world? Might as well wear an American flag T-shirt. Learn the metric system; your credibility (and wallet) will thank you.

Down this line, Sabbatella comments, “Potency can be different in different places. Especially with edibles, it’s very important to find out what you are about to consume.”

Language Barriers and Bud

Not everyone speaks English, but a little effort goes a long way. Learn the local lingo for weed; it might just get you better deals and quality. “Por favor” and “gracias” can be as important as knowing your “sativa” from your “indica.”

Privacy, Please!

In the age of oversharing, remember that not everyone is as open about their cannabis use. Respect the privacy of those you meet and smoke with. What happens in Amsterdam – or anywhere else – should stay off your social media, especially when it involves others. 

As Zara Snapp says, “Coming out of the psychoactive closet is a very personal decision and not everyone has the possibility of doing so.” Respect their world as much as you do your weed.

It’s Medical

Finally, keep in mind medical cannabis clubs and dispensaries are meant to aid local patients in need. “Medical cannabis clubs and associations might work under a market logic, but they operate only to help patients. Be conscious about this,” concludes Rodriguez. 

Thank You, Come Again

So, there you have it: a journey through the do’s, don’ts, and please-don’t-evers of globetrotting ganja aficionados. As we wrap up this worldly wanderlust of weed wisdom, remember, it’s not just about lighting up; it’s about opening your eyes to the kaleidoscope of cultures and customs that color our planet. The global cannabis scene isn’t just a playground; it’s a classroom, where every puff and pass is a lesson in history, sociology, and humility.

Whether you’re gazing at the stars from a hilltop in Barcelona or whispering for “un poco de hierba” at a back alley in Mexico, carry with you a spirit of respect, curiosity and a hearty dose of self-awareness. After all, the best trips aren’t measured in miles traveled or grams consumed, but in the memories made and the perspectives gained.

As you set off on your cannabis journeys, focus on exploring diverse cultures rather than just chasing new highs. It’s about broadening horizons, not just elevations. Who knows? The greatest discovery might just be a new way of seeing, not just seeing new things. Safe travels, and may your journey be as enlightening as it is entertaining!

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  1. Yes, a very random collection of facts…and a lot of repetition! Try to make friends with a local, wherever you happen to go, and that way you can make smarter choices about consumption while on vacation. Locals also know about the best food and drink, too hahaha

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