China used to have a mixed tolerance when it came to smoking weed, as they were one of the first documented countries to begin experimenting with it as medicine, but that has changed a lot in recent years.
The possession, sale, cultivation and transport of marijuana in the country is definitely illegal. But, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find it fairly easily in Beijing and a lot of other cities. This might even tempt you to buy it if visiting from another country where marijuana laws are lax, but don't unless you have a celebrity father, and even then you're still looking at doing time or worse.
Although cannabis is cultivated for use in Chinese medicine and has been used for centuries, if you get caught with pot, you can be arrested and even sentenced to death,
in certain cases.
Jackie Chan’s son was recently arrested and served a 6 month prison sentence
Jaycee Chan, the son of actor Jackie Chan was arrested in 2014 and served a six month sentence simply for allowing people to use marijuana in his apartment. Police seized approximately 100 grams of marijuana from his apartment and arrested him along with other high profile actors. Some headlines even read that the 32 year old would be executed, a sentence usually given to marijuana traffickers of 5 Kilos or more. Luckily, Chan was recently released from prison this year in mid February after only serving a 6 month sentence, thanks to the fact that his dad is celebrity icon in the country.
Beijing and other cities are prosecuting drug use more often
The tolerance for marijuana use in Beijing and other cities has swayed more towards arresting and prosecuting recreational use of the drug. In the summer of 2014, over 7,800 people were arrested for drug use as Beijing took measures to crack down on the increasingly high drug use in the city. Foreigners and locals used to be able to smoke weed in some cities openly without fear of prosecution, but this has changed as China becomes more authoritarian as well as internationalized.
There are harsh penalties in China for selling drugs, and in a country that is not shy when it comes to using the death penalty to punish drug traffickers, it’s probably not a good idea to use even a small amount when you’re traveling there.
There are too many risks for stoners in China
On the bright side of this issue, westerners are rarely prosecuted for recreational marijuana use, but don't let that fool you, as it can be a lot more expensive getting caught with pot than it is in western countries. If you do get caught and are arrested, you are going to have to spend a lot of money on legal fees, you’ll end up having to unwillingly extend your stay, and worst of all you might have to serve a prison sentence.
It’s just not worth the risk. President Xi Jinping has escalated his War on Drugs recently, and although cannabis remains an important part of Chinese medicine, you aren’t very likely to find dispensaries in Beijing or other Chinese cities anytime soon.