Thailand is the first Asian country to legalize marijuana

Thailand is the first Asian country to legalize marijuana

Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalise marijuana and hemp use on Thursday. In January, the country’s Public Health Ministry agreed to declassify the two plants as unlawful narcotics, with cultivation and trading set to be allowed in June. The decision came four years after the country became the first in Southeast Asia to allow marijuana for medical purposes. Shoppers formed a line in front of Bangkok cannabis product vendors on Thursday in anticipation of the law change. One man said he had been waiting in line since he got off from work Wednesday evening, Reuters reported.

“We expect the value of [the cannabis] industry to easily exceed $2 billion,” he said, highlighting Thailand’s ideal climate to grow the plant, and the incentives that had already been provided to farmers, and plans to develop a larger export industry around the crop.

Possession and distribution of cannabis is now legal through recognized vendors, who can now sell any of the 10 strains of cannabis plants grown in Thailand. People can now grow the plant in their homes and consume it for medical purposes, according to the Bangkok Post. Legalizing the commercial sale and personal cultivation of cannabis products is the latest step in the Thai government’s plan to monetize the plant as a lucrative cash crop. Agriculture still employs nearly a third of Thailand’s workforce, and the country is looking to develop a domestic cannabis industry, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said during statements on Thursday.

“I think Thai people are excited and eager to be players—either as investors or product-makers as well as consumers. With today’s technology and marketing strategies, Thailand will be second to none in being able to promote [cannabis] products in the global market.” Also on Thursday, the Thai government announced the release of over 3,000 inmates who had been detained under cannabis-related charges.


The law change appears to have been long in the making, and could be the first step in a national attempt to tap into the extremely lucrative domestic cannabis market. The Narcotics Control Board approved decriminalizing the drug in January, and in May, Charnvirakul announced that once the law was changed the government would give away one million free cannabis plants to households. These deliveries are expected to start on Friday. On Thursday, more than 100,000 people registered to cultivate cannabis in their homes, temporarily overwhelming the capacity of the government-sponsored registration app. The global cannabis industry is currently worth nearly $26 billion, according to a 2021 industry forecast, but is poised for explosive growth over the next decade. The same report estimates that the industry will be worth nearly $1.8 trillion by 2030.

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