Cannabis most likely got its start in Asia. It seems appropriate that the continent, home to about 60 percent of the global population, is now considered the next, and perhaps greatest, frontier for cannabis.
The first domino to fall in a part of the world famous for its conservative drug policies happened in Thailand, where officials have removed the prohibition against growing cannabis at home for medical purposes. Most experts believe it will open the door to pursue recreational marijuana legalization in the coming years in Thailand, and may cause legalization to speak across the country.
Writing about the issue for Reuters, Thomas Shum quoted an expert who believes the market in Asia will grow by about 10 times to $120 million by 2026. That’s still small, but it’s a start. “Cannabis in Asia will burn slowly, but where there is smoke there may eventually be fire,” he wrote.
Why Asia Is An Important Market For Legal Cannabis
Asia is an important market for cannabis because it’s an important market for every type of product. Some in the West may not understand the sheer immensity of Asia. It is home to 4.7 billion people. By comparison, North America and Europe have about 1.3 billion people, roughly equal to Africa.
Thai companies have already moved quickly in reaction to the law change, even though Thai leaders say officially that they frown on cannabis tourism. Thailand-based Gunkul Engineering has committed to spend $57.6 million to build a cannabis plantation and cannabis oil facility over the next two years.
“We want to take advantage of the state’s policy that delists marijuana and hemp from the narcotics category to earn extra revenue and make use of vacant land near our wind turbines,” an official with the company told the Bangkok Post.
People in Thailand can already buy chicken leg snacks mixed with cannabis leaves, as well as CBD-infused green teas.
Other Countries in Asia Slow to Follow
Widespread legalization may take some time in Asia, where many countries are known for extremely strict drug laws. The biggest market in China may be the most difficult to change. As noted by Reuters, China remained “scarred” by the opium trade, which it associates with imperialism.
However, China also provides about 70 percent of the world’s hemp fiber production. China officials also allow export of hemp oil that contains CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical ingredient in cannabis. Still, few expect the country’s leaders to change course by legalizing medical or recreational cannabis.
Other countries also show signs of change. Japan allows CBD products, although its strict cannabis prohibition laws remain in place. South Korea also has legalized pharmaceutical cannabis, and Reuters reported that Japan, Malaysia and Taiwan may follow suit.