Will Thailand Legalize Marijuana? Marijuana Laws in Thailand Explained
A recent drug bust in Thailand has prompted onlookers to wonder whether marijuana laws in Thailand are on the brink of a metamorphosis. Police recently caught traffickers with a massive 220 pounds of black market cannabis, which was confiscated and taken into their custody. Rather than lighting it on fire in a brazen attempt to get god high, Thai authorities found a much better method of getting rid of this weed… Turning it over to pharmaceutical companies to be converted into medicine. The cannabis will be used to produce a variety of sublingual drops, transdermal patches, suppositories, creams, and capsules. Is this indicative of structural change? Will Thailand legalize marijuana?
On this episode of the Puff Puff Post’s Prospect Watch, we will discuss why Thailand might be the next big thing in cannabis. But first, let’s take a glance into the present status of marijuana laws in Thailand.
What is the Current Status of Marijuana laws in Thailand
So will Thailand legalize marijuana? If liberal drug enforcement policy was the best predictor of this, the answer would be a definitive no. Marijuana laws in Thailand take a no-nonsense approach towards those caught dealing the plant in large quantities.
Cannabis was made illegal in the country as early as 1935. Trafficking, possession, cultivation, and transport of 10 kilos or less is punishable by 5 years in prison and a substantial fine. Anything exceeding this could net you as many as 15 years in prison.
While Thai authorities are at liberty to jail citizens for a simple possession charge, most choose to impose a fine instead as a less harsh measure.
Despite these laws, Cannabis culture in Thailand is alive and well in certain parts of the country. The plant has a much longer and more storied history in Thailand than one might expect.
Will Thailand Legalize Marijuana? A Brief History
Marijuana was originally introduced to Thailand through contact with traders the Indian subcontinent. This is evidenced by linguistics. In Thailand, locals refer to the plant as Kancha, which is a bastardized version of the Indian word ganja.
In the 1980’s the nation was one of the leading global exporters of marijuana, and the west knew it. Hippie’s, stoners, and cannabis enthusiasts of all manner flocked to the South Asian country to partake in its legendary product.
Dr. Nopporn Cheanklin, executive managing director of Thailand’s Government Pharmaceutical Organization, speaks with nationalistic pride as he recounts his nation’s cannabis history. According to the doctor, Thai marijuana was once unmatched in its quality.
“The best strains of cannabis in the world 20 years ago were from Thailand, and now Canada has developed this strain until up to this day, we can’t claim that ours is the best in the world anymore. That’s why we must develop our strain to be able to compete with theirs.”
While Thai cannabis is undoubtedly still world class, it has fallen out of the coveted number one spot. Nations such as Canada, where cannabis is legal, are able to dedicate all of their botanical knowledge towards producing the most effective strains science can deliver.
Today, cannabis is more ubiquitous in Thailand than one might assume, in spite of marijuana laws in Thailand. Areas most frequented by tourists tend to be the most heavily saturated in cannabis. In these areas, businesses openly sell what is referred to as “happy goods”, often baked goods with marijuana or the world’s famous Thai sticks.
Occasionally, dealers will collaborate with law enforcement in the tourist-heavy areas and demand a bribe from visitors who are caught buying weed. Tourists are actually more likely to end up in jail as a result of these sorts of shakedowns than locals.
Evidently, the present world of cannabis in Thailand is a strange and inconsistent one. Drug enforcement policy is often Ad Hoc and implemented at the discretion of the individual officer. Given these complexities, is there any reason to be confident in a future where Thailand legalizes marijuana?
Why are Marijuana laws in Thailand Changing?
When asking the question “will Thailand legalize marijuana?” one must examine whether or not the country has embarked on many of the processes that have characterized legalization elsewhere.
In more cases than not, it is a push for medical cannabis that leads the charge towards ending prohibition. In Canada, medicinal marijuana was the tip of the spear as in 2001, as the nation decided to allow patients access to this invaluable medicine. 17 years later, the Trudeau administration is on its way too full unadulterated legalization.
In the United States, a similar process gave rise to the current cannabis movement, albeit on a statewide level. California became the first state to legalize medicinal cannabis, much to the chagrin of old Bill Clinton. January 1 of this year, the Westcoast state would end prohibition entirely.
Today, 30 American states have medicinal cannabis, while only 9 have recreational marijuana. However, many of these medicinal only states have expressed interest in altering their cannabis laws.
So what relevance does this have regarding the question of will Thailand legalize marijuana? As it would turn out, Thailand is in medias res with regards to this process.
The Push From the Medical Industries to Amend Marijuana Laws in Thailand
As with Canada and the US, the medicinal benefits of cannabis, and the potential for enormous profit are leading the charge for legalization in Thailand.
Thailand’s Government Pharmaceutical Organization is in the midst of persuading the nation’s military government to allow the sale and marketing of cannabis for medicinal use.
The government is proceeding cautiously on the issue of marijuana laws in Thailand. The nation’s drug enforcement agencies are worried that if Thailand legalizes marijuana, it might undermine their efforts to portray a no-nonsense reputation toward trafficking.
The tension between science and law enforcement is a familiar trope for those who follow the global legalization movement. Two opposing views of cannabis are battling it out for supremacy in the public’s eyes. Is marijuana a dangerous drug? Or a benign substance with medicinal properties?
Current Amendments to Marijuana Laws in Thailand
In the battle between, “just say no” style drug enforcement and scientific fact, the latter has gained some ground recently in Thailand. Incremental progress to ensure that Thailand legalizes marijuana has already been made in form of drug studies.
In May, Thailand’s military government approved clinical trials on medical marijuana’s effects on humans. The bill is currently being debated in the National Legislative Assembly, which is expected to ratify the motion into law. This unprecedented decision would make Thailand the first to legalize medical marijuana in Asia.
Does Thailand have Potential To Dominate Global Cannabis?
A wise man once said, “past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.” Given the nation’s history as a world-class cannabis producer, if Thailand legalizes marijuana, the Asian nation could be setting itself up for an economic renaissance.
Two things set Thailand apart as a hub for cannabis: lower costs and better growing seasons. If marijuana laws in Thailand were to be amended, the country could witness an influx of foreign investment from well established Canadian and American cannabis companies who seek new lanes of expansion and reduced production costs.
So will Thailand legalize marijuana? It’s difficult to say definitively, but there is cause for optimism. The process of changing marijuana laws in Thailand is sure to be a slow and arduous one, with progress made in sluggish, meandering steps rather than leaps and bounds.
However, this process is evidently already underway. If Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly makes the much-anticipated decision to approve cannabis for clinical trials, step one of the two-step legalization process will have been achieved.
Thailand has the potential to invigorate its economy, end the persecution of cannabis users, and spearhead the cannabis rights movement in Asia. The opportunity that lays ahead is massive indeed.
By: Stefan Hosko