Is Weed Legal in El Salvador?

In an International Journal of Drug Policy poll, El Salvador was among the most conservative South American countries on drug policy and cannabis usage dangers, highlighting reform hurdles.

Only 30% of El Salvadorans consider recreational cannabis use a right, compared to over 90% in Uruguay and Mexico. Compared to 24% in Uruguay, 70% of the population links cannabis usage to criminality.

However, what is the case with weed? Can you buy weed pen disposable in El Salvador? Is marijuana allowed in El Salvador? What are the penalties for using, cultivating, or selling cannabis in this country? And what about a cannabis reform movement in El Salvador? All answers to your questions can be found below.

The Legal Status of Weed in El Salvador

El Salvador bans recreational and medical marijuana. The nation has criminalized cannabis-related activity through international drug control treaties and domestic laws. Cannabis possession, cultivation, and trafficking in El Salvador carry severe penalties. 

Possession of Weed in El Salvador

However, simple possession of marijuana in El Salvador may lead to imprisonment, with the duration of the sentence varying depending on how much weed is being carried and whether the accused person has previous records with the law. 

On the one hand, we have minor amounts of cannabis that may be associated with probation or milder sentences. On the other hand, any amount above a specific measure will trigger drug trafficking charges, hence attendant heavy prison terms. The threshold for judging how much cannabis someone had is not known since this varies from case to case depending on a judge’s preference or that of the prosecutor available at court.

Cultivation of Weed in El Salvador

It is also illegal to grow marijuana in El Salvador, and penalties can be as severe as lengthy prison terms or life imprisonment. In El Salvador, drug laws criminalize cultivation for personal use as well as cultivation for commercial purposes, which means that any amount of cannabis plants can count as trafficking. 

The penalties for growing marijuana in El Salvador are some of the harshest in the region, and they often exceed what is justified by the level of harm caused by the activity.

Trafficking of Weed in El Salvador

Additionally, weed trafficking is prohibited in El Salvador with similar repercussions. That includes transporting, distributing, and selling cannabis and being a member of any organized crime group involved therein. Trafficking marijuana in El Salvador has harsher punishments than other countries in this region, and these are often unreasonable relative to the actual harm it causes.

The Current Status of Weed in El Salvador

Despite the strict laws, marijuana use in El Salvador is still relatively every day, especially for young people. Nevertheless, the criminalization of weed has stigmatized it, thereby making its users face social discrimination in society. 

In addition to that, when it comes to the illegal drug market, police and the gangs that control it are often involved in violence, extortion, and corruption against El Salvador’s cannabis users. With that being said, health care is limited, and there is social isolation among weed smokers in El Salvador, who also do not receive enough information about the risks and consequences associated with consuming cannabis.

The Calls for Weed Reform in El Salvador

Some of those supporting weed reform in El Salvador argued that the criminal law has not proven adequate to reduce levels of drug use and it is only a way to criminalize and stigmatize the user. Some of the arguments supporting weed reform in El Salvador include:


  • The argument of human rights: Reform of marijuana in El Salvador would give respect to the right that every individual has to decide what they want to consume as long as it does not harm others. Weed law reform in El Salvador would also bring down the human rights violations occurring under the present prohibitionist regime, such as arbitrary arrests, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

  • Public health argument: Reforming weed in El Salvador would be associated with better health and well-being for users of the herb -once these individuals are offered access to weed that is safe and regulated, coupled with prevention, treatment, and harm reduction services. In El Salvador, cannabis infantry reform would eliminate hepatitis C and HIV by the contamination of used needles when sharing them among those using the substance or even during its cultivation.

  • Economic argument: In this case, weed reform in El Salvador would create revenue for the state, whereby they could tax and regulate the marijuana market instead of expanding the resources to make the prohibition work. The reforms on weed in El Salvador would also create jobs and opportunities for the poor in rural and urban areas, which, more often than not, engage in procuring a livelihood in the illegal cannabis trade.

  • The security argument: Reforming marijuana legislation in El Salvador would help to minimize these forms of violence and corruption that are enabled by the drug trade; it would specifically reduce the power of gangs and cartels that dominate this market. There is a need for marijuana reform in El Salvador to enhance police-community trust and cooperation, which will be realized through refocusing on more serious crimes and threats.

The government, however, has been reluctant to change its position on the issue of drugs, while weed reform in El Salvador remains a divisive subject. The majority of people in El Salvador are against the legalization of marijuana, including the political leaders and religiously inclined ones who do not want any amendment made to this stance. 


50% to 60% of Salvadorans say marijuana is simple to get. However, lawbreakers incur heavy penalties:

  • El Salvador extended imprisonment penalties for illicit drug manufacture from five to 10 to 15 years in 2003.
  • Under 2 grams carries a one-to-three-year sentence and a fine of “five to a thousand current urban monthly minimum wages.” More than 2 grams indicates trafficking intent, resulting in three to six years.
  • Planting and cultivation: Since 2003, cannabis cultivators face 10–15 years in prison.
  • Cannabis traffickers serve 10–15 years.
  • Promoters of cannabis face six to 10 years in prison.

The Bottom Line on Weed in El Salvador

The current situation in El Salvador over marijuana amounts to prohibitionism as they have put stiff penalties on possession, growing, and trafficking. Despite the high prevalence of marijuana smoking across country borders, its users are marginalized or discriminated against. 

In contrast to this argument, many people call for reformation; however, the government refuses changes in drug policies regarding marihuana, making its consumption a challenging issue within the political agenda of El Salvador.


Cannabis laws in El Salvador 

Cannabis in El Salvador – Wikipedia