Thailand likely first country in Asia to legalise medical marijuana

In our neighbourhood.

Belmont Lay | July 31, 2018, 01:40 PM

Thailand could be the first country in whole of Asia to legalise medical marijuana.

Cabinet ministers in the military government had given the green light in May 2018 to amend the country’s drug laws to allow research on the effects of medicinal cannabis on humans.

The bill is currently being debated.

Marijuana testing on human subjects will open a window to conduct research or develop medicines and make the country “more international”.

Authorities are expected to give the nod to legalisation within a year.

Hemp cultivation was allowed in 23 designated districts in nine of Thailand’s provinces in 2017.

All cannabis grown in Thailand must not exceed 1 percent THC though.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects.

The hemp is then processed it into oils, extracts and isolates.

Benefits of medical marijuana

Private hospitals, state organisations and Thai medical companies would be able to apply for licenses with the Ministry of Public Health to conduct research and experiments using marijuana once the law goes into effect, possibly next year.

Medical marijuana has been used to treat Parkinson’s disease, cancer, depression, seizures and autism, and a host of other ailments.

Thailand could create revenue if the medicines are exported to other countries.

Thailand's history with cannabis

Thailand was one of the world’s top exporters of cannabis in the 1980s.

It wants to reap the rewards of the US$12.9 billion marijuana market.

The global marijuana market is projected to grow to US$23 billion by 2022, with an annual growth rate of 22 percent in the next five years.

The United States is in the lead, but Canada and California are projected to capture up to 41 percent of the total global market in the next four years.

Globally, Uruguay and Canada are leaders in recreational cannabis use.

The Government Pharmaceutical Organisation -- under the Ministry of Public Health -- is trying to persuade the military government to approve studying the drug so it can market it for medical use.

The best strains of cannabis in the world 20 years ago were from Thailand, and now Canada has developed this strain.

Punitive measures against recreational drug use

Large seizures of drugs are still carried out by the Thai authorities.

Seized narcotics, such as meth, are destroyed.

The Thai government maintains that cannabis is illegal and will continue to enforce punishment for those possessing marijuana for recreational purposes.

It is not clear how the government can negotiate making recreational marijuana illegal, while legalising medical marijuana

Why Thailand is a good place for medical marijuana?

Costs of production in Thailand is lower, making it a potentially attractive destination for foreign producers.

The Southeast Asia nation has year-long tropical climate, and Thailand has traditionally cultivated marijuana.

Thailand has a large medical tourism industry, as well as a system of traditional medicine that is regulated and standardised.


The marijuana plant has historically been used to help with pain, nausea and distress during childbirth and was commonly grown for personal use in rural areas.

US troops were exposed to Thai marijuana when they headed off to the country for recreation during the Vietnam War period.

Currently, possession of cannabis in Thailand could land its owner in jail for up to 15 years.