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Thailand Steps it Up with Decriminalized Cannabis & Home Growing

Cannabis in Thailand
Written by Sarah Friedman

Different parts of the world move at their own pace when it comes to loosening restrictions on cannabis. Thailand has been pulling away from the rest of Asia, and was the first in the region to legalize cannabis for medical use. Now Thailand knocks it up a notch with decriminalized cannabis, and the ability for home growing. That’s progress!

Thailand just decriminalized cannabis, and is the first in Asia to do so. Is this an indication of what’s to come in that region of the world? Stay tuned to life to find out! We’re on top of this new and growing industry, and have all the most relevant news in our THC Weekly Newsletter. Subscribe for all the latest stories, as well as premium deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and much more! We’ve also got great offers for cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC which you can find in our “Best-of” lists!


Where was Thailand prior to this?

Thailand might have just decriminalized cannabis, but this decriminalization is not the first move Thailand has taken to loosen restrictions on cannabis use. In fact, this progression started back in 2018, when Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly, a military appointed organization, voted unanimously (166-0) to legalize cannabis for medical use. This also meant getting a sign-off from reigning monarch King Maha Vajiralongkorn. This was done, and the legislation officially went into effect in 2019.

The medical legalization didn’t do anything to effect other laws related to cannabis. Cannabis still remained a ‘category 5’ narcotic under the Narcotics Act of 1979, though the law was updated in 2019 to cover the medical legalization. Illegally possessing the plant was still punishable by up to 15 years in prison with a fine of approximately 1.5 million baht (~$48,000). Even with the update, trafficking could still land a person in prison for life.

The medical legalization is meant only for those authorized by the government to use or grow cannabis, and anyone taking part is required to have a prescription from a doctor and a cannabis identification card. Not long after passage of the law, it was already being spoken about for an update. This due to the cabinet approving a proposal by the Public Health Ministry to allow patients, medical practitioners, and traditional medicine healers to all be able to cultivate cannabis.

Thailand decriminalized cannabis

That update also included an import/export market, as well as allowing for manufacture of products within the country. Beforehand, all import, export, and production was for state agencies, and not manufacturers, so the update was made so that locals could compete with the global market.

Thailand decriminalized cannabis and home growing

On January 25th 2022, Thailand’s narcotics board announced that it would officially take cannabis off of its narcotic drugs list, which decriminalizes the plant, and takes away penalties for things like home growing. Not everything goes, however, and in order to grow cannabis, residents have to notify their local branch of government, according to Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. All cannabis grown is for private use, and cannot be grown for commercial purposes, though those who would like to grow commercially can obtain a further license to do so.

This rule has not gone into effect yet. In order for that, the new rule must be published in the official Royal Gazette, after which 120 days must pass before it will be legal to grow plants at home.

This is not a legalization, and so far its caused some confusion. Both law enforcement and legal representatives have stated that it remains unclear if marijuana possession would still be an infraction that a person could be arrested for. How it will effect production and possession laws is still unclear at the moment, as well. The government is planning on releasing another bill with further updates to clarify.

Thailand decriminalized cannabis – what comes next?

In order to clear away the confusion created about Thailand removing marijuana from its narcotic drugs list, the Health Ministry is expected to introduce a separate draft bill with more specific details about how things will operate. This will include rules for production, commercial use, and yes, recreational use, which implies that this decriminalization might have some recreational aspects to it.

According to Paisal Dankhum, Food and Drug Regulator Chief, homegrown cannabis is still meant for medical use, and random inspections will be made to ensure this is the case. And for those who don’t notify their local government, the draft bill enforces punishment with a fine up to 20,000 baht (~$603). For anyone selling without a license, the fine is up to 300,000 (~$9,000)baht, three years in prison, or both.

Thai marijuana pipe

As you can see, the update actually brings it closer to a legalization, as it will provide guidelines for selling cannabis. Thailand has been inching toward this for awhile, looking to cannabis as a cash crop which can be banked on by the country which has a third of its labor force in agriculture.

Says Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul of the removal of cannabis from the drugs list, it “responds to the government’s urgent policy in developing marijuana and hemp for medical and health care benefits, developing technology and creating income for the public.” This last point is exemplified by the mad dash drink and cosmetics companies did last year, when hemp and CBD products became legal to use for consumer goods.

Thailand and medical cannabis tourism

That Thailand decriminalized cannabis, and might be opening it for recreational use in some ways, is huge in itself. But Thailand has been pretty forward thinking on other cannabis-related measures, namely with opening the country up for medical cannabis tourism. Medical cannabis tourism is the idea of traveling to a country to take advantage of its medical cannabis treatments.

As of right now, this is not the case, but nearly a year ago it was the talk of the country with Pipat Ratchakitprakan, Tourism and Sports Minister, saying “We would like to provide medical tour packages, such as detox, Thai massage and other wellness courses that use marijuana substances.” At the time there was draft legislation meant to allow foreigners to bring their own medical cannabis to Thailand as long as the patient already held a prescription.

Now, with a decriminalization measure on the way, possibly to be followed by at least some recreational measures, the idea of cannabis tourism is being spoken about again, with hopes that the draft bill will contain more specific information.

According to one source: “Thailand’s health ministry as part of accelerated plans to legalize cannabis for recreational use in the country is contemplating the setup of a so-called ‘cannabis sandbox scheme’ for interested foreign tourists, according to various local media reports.” The source goes on to say:

cannabis tourism

“The planned tourism scheme, comparable to the current Covid-19 sandbox schemes which allow foreign travelers access to designated areas under various pandemic control regulations, would determine certain regions in the country where cannabis could be consumed as a pastime.” But of course, we don’t have anything officially stated to this degree yet.

Elsewhere in Asia

Asia is not a region known for its acceptance of cannabis use. For example, in Japan, all use of cannabis is illegal and punishments for using cannabis come with a prison sentence up to five years, and a possible fine of up to two million yen (~$17,482), and this includes those only using it for medical purposes. Being caught cultivating it can carry a sentence of up to seven years. In fact, simply assisting another person in any of these crimes comes with a sentence of up to three years.

China is similarly difficult, though its actual repercussions for law breaking are less well known as China is not the most forthcoming country when it comes to how it treats those who break laws. Minimum penalties have been said to be detainment for a number of days and a fine of up to 2,000 yuan (~$315). It is known that China uses the death penalty regularly, but as the country does not publish this information, its hard to know how often this might be applied to cannabis crimes.

Speaking of death penalties, other Asian countries still use this as well for drug crimes. Singapore is an offender here, with the country’s prison system claiming that of four hangings in 2019, two were drug related, and out of 13 in 2018, 11 were related to drug offenses. The drugs in question were not defined, which doesn’t rule in or out that some of them could have been for cannabis.

Malaysia isn’t any better. In fact, under Malaysian law, if a person has 200 grams or more, they are considered to be trafficking, and trafficking is a crime punishable by death. In a strange turn of events, Malaysia did legalize medical cannabis in late 2021 by way of an announcement by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who stipulated that there was no need for a legal update since none of the regulating laws: Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, Poisons Act 1952, and the Sale of Drugs Act 1952, prohibit the use of medical cannabis. This means that Malaysia now allows cannabis medically, but could still kill traffickers with as little as 200 grams.

Conclusion

Thailand is sure moving forward quickly, with a medical legalization in 2018, and now decriminalized cannabis just four years later, along with further talk of legalization measures. The Southeast Asian country has sure made itself one to watch, as it further puts together its new cannabis policies.

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DisclaimerHi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.

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