Asia has had a rocky relationship with cannabis over the years, however, Thailand made headlines recently with its legalization of cannabis. This comes after Thailand took its first steps towards legalizing cannabis in 2018 with authorities approving the use of cannabis for medical treatment. This has now been followed up with Thailand becoming the first country in Asia to legalize cannabis. However, it isn’t quite as black and white as you would think. After the 8th of June many were left with questions as to Thailand’s cannabis situation and so today we answer, is weed legal in Thailand?
Cannabis Culture in Thailand
The cannabis plant or as a lot of Thai people prefer the word “ganja” has a rich history in Thailand. It was often used as traditional medicine and as a spice until it was banned in the 1930s. Many cannabis historians believe Thailand had a huge influence on “American Cannabis Culture”. Thailand was used as a base for American soldiers during the Vietnam war. This time spent in Thailand saw plenty of U.S soldiers develop a taste for the sweet leaf. While many soldiers were placed under military arrest for possession of cannabis, the Thai American partnership would result in new trade roots during prohibition and would see “Thai Stick” commonplace in the States. The term “bong” actually comes from the old Isaan word “baung”, which was a hollow pipe made from bamboo stem used for smoking weed.
Not only did the Thais influence the Americans on all things cannabis but the influence of America’s stance on Cannabis would see Thailand adopt strict drug laws in their “War on Drugs” in 2003 under then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The countries of South East Asia are well known for their strict drug laws. For example, in 2018, a man in Malaysia was given a death sentence for selling cannabis oil to patients in need.
Do’s and don’ts
Given the notoriously strict drug laws previously upheld in the country, it may come as a surprise to some to see Thailand becoming the first Asian country to legalise weed. With all this in mind, it isn’t quite as simple as weed is legal in Thailand now. The Thai government has set regulations in place regarding the new policies. Here is a breakdown of the main points of Thailand’s new weed regulations.
- Households can grow up to six plants at home given they register with authorities. Companies can also produce weed on a larger scale so long as they register themselves with the appropriate authorities. All of the registration is done online or with Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration app called “PlookGanja”. The Thai government even distributed 1 million feminised cannabis seeds to households across the country after the plant was officially legalised.
- Cannabis cannot be smoked in public places or at large gatherings. Cannabis can be used for recreational purposes but only within the home to not disturb others with the smell for example.
- Cannabis products that have over 0.2% THC are not permitted for use. THC is the cannabinoid that induces cannabis psychoactive or “high” effects.
- The new cannabis regulations also see access to medical marijuana much easier for patients. Those in need of cannabis for medical use can now possess their prescribed dose for up to 30 days of use.
- Cannabis cannot be sold to people under the age of 20, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or others who fall under the state’s mandated categories.
- Personal amounts of cannabis cannot be brought in or out of the country.
But why is weed legal in Thailand now?
The decision to legalise cannabis comes after Thailand took its first steps toward legalisation in 2018 with authorities approving the use of cannabis for medical treatment. This would be taken further with Thailand announcing the decriminalisation of cannabis in the country.
Since the ban in the 1930s, Thailand’s government and police have been at war with drugs, including cannabis. This has resulted in Thailand having some of the largest prison populations in the world. Thailand has more than 80% of its convicts locked up for drug offences. The country’s new cannabis laws should reduce the current strain on the prison system with the government set to release approximately 4000 prisoners who have been previously convicted on cannabis-related charges.
The decision also comes with Thailand planning to promote cannabis as a cash crop. The further easing of cannabis laws seems like a no-brainer with a third of the country’s labor force working in agriculture. Thailand’s health minister Anutin Charnirakul expects an additional 10 billion baht per year in revenue for the country under these new cannabis-friendly laws. That is roughly 282 million U.S dollars.
Where do I sign up?
After reading all this you might be excited to book a flight to Bangkok or Chiang Mai to visit the world’s newest cannabis hotspot. I think it may be best to hold out just yet if you think you are going to be sparking up all over Thailand.
It is still illegal to smoke cannabis in public places. Those caught could face jail time of up to three months and a fine of more than $700.
There still will be plenty of edibles and infused cuisine to enjoy. Cafes and restaurants are permitted to serve cannabis-induced food and drink but it must have a THC content of 0.2% or lower.
As a foreigner, you can still be treated with medical marijuana where needed however the rules around tourists are still pretty vague. If you are interested in using cannabis recreationally as a tourist, Thailand may not be the place to go.
What does the future hold for Cannabis in Thailand?
So all and all is weed legal in Thailand? While it is not 100% legal and there are some things to remember, these new laws essentially decriminalise possession of weed and the cultivation of cannabis. Thailand’s new weed laws may not be free for all but it is almost certainly another step in the right direction. With becoming the first country in Asia to legalise cannabis and allow possession, cultivation, and personal use, all eyes will be on the country to see how things go from here.