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Thailand Becomes First Southeast Asian Country to Legalize Medical Marijuana

December 28, 2018
A stock photo of some Medical Marijuana Buds.
Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize cannabis for medical use on Tuesday. The Thai National Assembly unanimously passed the measure after amendments were first brought to the Health Ministry in November.

The new legislation makes it legal to produce, import, export, and possess cannabis for medicinal purposes. Patients with a qualifying condition must receive a medical card from a doctor, and doctors must be licensed by the state, much like in the US.

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First outlawed in the 1930s, this marks a change in a country known for strict drug laws. Cannabis is still illegal for recreational use in Thailand, and possession of up to 22 lbs of “kancha”—as it’s called in Thailand—without a medical card can get you up to five years in prison and a stiff fine.

Some lawmakers look at this new legislation as a first step on the road to recreational cannabis legalization for the country.

Along with huge public support, concern over foreign interference helped push along the legislation. Several patent applications from foreign companies are pending with the Thai government, which would make it difficult for Thai researchers to have access to the plant for study, and would also block Thai companies from producing the plant and make it harder for Thai patients to receive medical cannabis. The new legislation promises to block these foreign patent applications.

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Cannabis is still illegal in many of Thailand’s neighbors, such as Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Currently, all of these countries impose prison sentences for possessing small amount of cannabis and the death penalty for trafficking large amounts of the plant.

Thailand’s new legislation could positively affect the rest of the region. Currently, Malaysia is considering legalizing cannabis for medical use.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pat Goggins

Pat Goggins is an editor at Leafly, specializing in cannabis cultivation after working for a commercial grower in Oregon for two years. When not fixing typos, you’ll probably find him on a boat or in the mountains.

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  • disqus_IUa2SscHzV

    Funny how a country like Thailand allows imports but the countries that tell everyone they will take over the Cannabis world DON’T allow imports because they need to protect their expensive cannabis products because their costs are so high. They can only reject imports for so long until the world understands Canada and Israel’s protectionist measures. They want free trade into Germany and the rest of Europe but close their markets because they can’t compete otherwise.

    • nazri mansor

      yup.. double standards.

  • Sativa53

    Once southeast Asia gets off their moral high horse and realizes that there is a major profit to this, there will be a massive supply boom locally, to the US and eventually Europe. The agricultural kingpins in the region will be the first to urge their funded politicians to change the policy using medical benefits as well as more uses for hemp as their sedge way.

  • Jeff Hudson

    LOL, anyone remember Thai-sticks?