Smoking Marijuana in Canada Is Now Legal—But Not for Citizens of South Korea

October 23, 2018, 1:52 PM UTC

It’s been less than a week since marijuana became legal in Canada, and while some enthusiasts can’t seem to get enough, there’s at least one group of people who will not likely be partaking: South Koreans.

South Korean authorities have repeatedly reminded citizens leading up to and after the legalization in Canada that they can be punished according to South Korean law regardless of where they are.

On its Twitter account, the South Korean Embassy in Canada wrote, “Even if South Koreans are in a region where marijuana is legal, it will be illegal for them to consume it. Please take care not to commit an illegal act and be punished.”

Yoon Se-jin, the head of the narcotics crime investigation division at Gyeonggi Nambu provincial police agency, echoed this sentiment, saying that “Weed smokers will be punished according to the Korean law, even if they did so in countries where smoking marijuana is legal. There won’t be an exception.”

According to South Korean law, the country’s citizens can be prosecuted once returning home for using drugs abroad—even in a country where it is legal. Those found to have smoked marijuana could face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won ($44,000). The same law applies to those who grow, possess, or transport marijuana.

Nevertheless, it is reportedly unlikely that South Korean authorities would randomly test citizens when they return home. Some have suggested that they are more likely to focus on traffickers than users, while others have suggested that they will screen those who have been caught previously or have made references to their marijuana use online.

Japan has issued similar warnings to its citizens, noting that possessing or purchasing marijuana is illegal, and such a law could apply even for those who are abroad.