On Jan. 25, Thailand went down in history as the first Asian nation to decriminalize recreational cannabis! This shows just how far cannabis legalization has come and how much ill-informed viewpoints of the past have been changed. While the U.S. continues to fight the legalization battle, recreational cannabis is legal in Canada, Mexico, and now Thailand.
Asia Doesn’t Have the Most Lenient Cannabis Laws
While the people of Thailand can now legally enjoy cannabis, residents of other Asian countries still face many cannabis-related restrictions. Compared to other continents, Asia is known to have extremely strict laws regarding cannabis sales, cultivation, and distribution. The following are some examples:
- Japan: Cannabis can land you up to five years of jail time in Japan on your first offense. Violators who aren’t Japanese face even harsher punishments. Significant fines, long jail terms, and solitary confinement are in your future should you get caught with cannabis in Japan.
- United Arab Emirates: There is a minimum of four years in jail for having any amount of cannabis, including in your system. Trafficking cannabis means you could be facing the death penalty.
- Indonesia: Cannabis possession of up to 2.3 pounds can land you anywhere between four and 12 years in prison, along with fines ranging into the realms of tens of thousands of dollars. Trafficking cannabis can put you in prison for anywhere between five and 15 years, and trafficking over one kilogram of cannabis earns the death penalty.
- Singapore: Should you get caught with cannabis in Singapore, you will face between 10 years and life in prison as long as it is less than 500 grams (more than 500 grams means the death penalty). Violators may also be punished by a method known as caning. Authorities in Singapore can also pop a urine test on you without warning, and a positive test earns you charges for both possession and consumption.
- China: Cannabis possession and consumption are illegal. If caught, you could find yourself being punished by a 10- to 15-day jail visit combined with a fine. You could also run the risk of five years to life in prison and possibly even execution.
If these examples didn’t convince you of the severity of Asian cannabis laws, check out the story of actor Jackie Chan’s son, Jaycee, who was arrested in China in 2014. Similarly, Japanese actor Yusuke Iseya was arrested in 2020 for possession of cannabis in his home. In more recent news, you could read about South Korean actor Park Yoo Hwan, who was arrested over cannabis as part of a pending investigation that started in late 2021.
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Let’s Celebrate the Changing Times in Thailand
Thailand has been groundbreaking at setting the pace for cannabis legalization in other Asian countries. In 2020 the nation became the first to decriminalize the production and consumption of cannabis for medical reasons. As you can see by the above-mentioned punishments for cannabis in other Asian countries, this—along with Thailand’s most recent recreational decriminalization—is a pretty big deal.
Locals in Thailand can now grow and consume cannabis at home. Regarding how much can be grown, possessed, and where it can be consumed, the bill is very vague other than clearly stating that it cannot be consumed in public recreationally. The bill will become effective 120 days after being signed by Thailand’s health minister.
With the biggest steps in the rearview mirror, there is still much in store for Thailand’s cannabis industry and consumers. Currently, officials are discussing creating places where people can consume cannabis recreationally or medically. Officials were clear to point out that consumption spots for cannabis in the country would not be anything like cannabis cafes in Europe.
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