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Thailand Is on Its Way to Full Cannabis Legalization

January 3, 2022 08:30 am ET
Thailand Is on Its Way to Full Cannabis Legalization

From being the first Asian country to legalize medical cannabis to opening dispensaries for free medical cannabis oil and approving medical cultivation and distribution, Thailand has led the charge when it comes to cannabis legalization. In its most recent move, the country has now legalized cannabis flower.

A reporter from Bangkok explained that cannabis has been removed from Thailand’s new narcotics code—which went into effect on Dec. 9, 2021—“in a move that is set to give a further boost to the country’s blossoming industry.” But what does this all mean for the people of Thailand and its tourists?

Expanding the Thai Cannabis Industry

The country is loosening its reins on cannabis in preparation for full legalization as it continues “lifting the last remaining hurdle preventing full use and commercialization of the plant,” reported the Bangkok Post. The nation previously removed stems, roots, leaves, and sprigs of cannabis from its Category 5 narcotics list but kept the cannabis buds (flowers) on the list, which also includes psychoactive mushrooms and the kratom plant. Now, the country has also removed cannabis buds from the list.

According to the Bangkok Post, the next step for Thailand will be to announce a revised list of narcotics for all five categories due to the new law, which allows for full legalized use of cannabis. Minister Anutin Charnvirakul explained, “The only exception is cannabidiol (CBD) extracts with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) of more than 0.2%.” Once the revised list of narcotics has been announced, all forms of cannabis products containing less than 0.2% of THC can be “made and used freely.” These products can even include things “such as oil, soap, cosmetics, and supplements.”

Not only will citizens of Thailand be able to access and use cannabis freely, but they are actually encouraged to cultivate cannabis as a means of supplementing their incomes. Charnvirakul believes that this “will, in turn, stimulate the economy and agricultural tourism.” The Bangkok Post explains that Charnvirakul was in the Nakhon Phanom province to launch the “Cannabis Kickoff on Mekong Bank” event when he encouraged citizens to cultivate and announced important information regarding this new legal state of cannabis. 

Thailand is not the first country to encourage its citizens to cultivate cannabis, but it is one of very few that will have “no restricts on how many plants each household can grow.” The only requirement will be that citizens “ask for permission from authorities before planting it.” The Thai government has also instructed the Food and Drug Administration to “streamline and facilitate the process.” 

Another distinctive aspect of the nation’s legalization is that all hospitals in Thailand will now have cannabis clinics offering alternative medicine. According to Charnvirakul, “Village health volunteers will also be urged to inform people” of the alternative medicine available at all its hospitals. Thailand will also be putting approved medical cannabis medications on its main drug list to allow patients to access them using the universal coverage scheme.

Boosting the Economy With Cannabis

Recognizing the impact of the pandemic on households, Charnvirakul states, “People had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cannabis initiative would help.” He goes on to explain that when the economy is picking up and they don’t have new products as alternatives, people will keep doing the same things and competing with each other. However, if they “offer them a choice, they can learn to build on it, creating new products and business models, which will in turn speed up the economic recovery,” he stated.  

The Bangkok Post explains that the ministry also has plans to promote other herbs in its five categories, including the kratom plant—which has a lot of potential for alleviating chronic pain. Charnvirakul once said that legalization (of alternatives like cannabis) would be “a win-win for the Thai people because they can grow the plant, and it will benefit the economy.” He explains that they know cannabis does not have any adverse effects when someone consumes it, “apart from getting sleepy,” and that when they weighed “the pros and cons of freeing up this product,” they “decided to give full support.” 

However, some believe that the Thai government’s plans to legalize cannabis for the benefit of its people and economy would not be as easy as it seems. Chokwan Kitty Chopaka, a spokesperson for Highland Network (a Thai group that promotes knowledge about cannabis), explains, “Thai cannabis would be competing with products grown in some U.S. states and Canada where it is already legal for recreational use.” However, they may be able to overcome this hurdle when considering how expensive cannabis is overseas. 

While Chopaka has expressed fear that “there’s already a market out there and they are a lot better at it than we are,” cannabis has a long history in Thailand. The nation was once known as “the land with the world’s most powerful ganja,” and there’s no reason it can’t reclaim the title. Thailand’s humid climate makes for ideal growing conditions that produce excellent cannabis crops.

Thailand’s model of cannabis legalization appears to have its citizens’ and economy’s best interests in mind, from improving their financial standing and access to effective alternative medicine to restoring Thailand’s former glory of one of the best cannabis cultivators in the world. With such a sound model, the nation should reap the rewards of its initiatives in no time. 

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