Thailand Becomes First Asian Country to Decriminalize Marijuana

Not long after Malta became the first country in Europe to legalize cannabis, Thailand has made the same step in Asia. However, the changes in the country’s laws only decriminalize marijuana, not legalize it.

Legal experts also said issues remain around whether the changes extend to recreational use of marijuana. Still, those planning a trip to Thailand later in 2022 will find themselves in a country that is far more progressive about cannabis than its neighboring countries in Asia.

It’s not the first time that Thailand has led the way on cannabis. In 2020, the country became the first in Asia to approve marijuana for medical and research, according to Reuters. Economics drives many of Thailand’s cannabis decisions. About a third of workers in Thailand are in agriculture, and the country sees an opportunity to turn cannabis into a major cash crop for the nation

Dropping Cannabis From List of Controlled Drugs

Much like in the United States, where cannabis is listed as a Schedule I illegal drug by the federal government, Thailand’s Narcotic Control Board included cannabis on its list of controlled, illegal drugs. The changes announced at the beginning of 2022 change that situation.

The Narcotic Control Board approved dropping cannabis from the list at a January meeting. The decision also opens the door to allowing people to grow cannabis at home for their personal use, as long as they notify their local government.

The board’s vote followed a decision by lawmakers in late 2021 to remove cannabis from the list of illegal drugs codified in Thailand’s narcotics law.

Officials must now enter the board decision into the official Royal Gazette for 120 days. After that time period, it becomes law.

Thailand Health Ministry to Work Out Details on Decriminalization

The board’s decision is an important step toward Thailand joining Malta, Canada and Uruguay as countries with legalized marijuana. However, they are not there, yet. The country’s Health Ministry is currently working on a new law that will provide details on how Thailand’s marijuana decriminalization will work going forward.

The draft bill calls for a 20,000 baht fine (about $605) for growing cannabis at home without notifying the government, according to Reuters. It also calls for an up to 300,000 baht fine (about $9,036) or three years in jail, or both, for selling cannabis without obtaining a license.

The ministry will include the procedures for obtaining a marijuana retail license in the proposed bill. Meanwhile, law enforcement in Thailand told the Associated Press that it remains unclear if someone possessing cannabis is committing an offense. A complex set of laws regulates both production and possession of marijuana, “leaving the legal status of recreational marijuana use in a gray area,” AP reported. Thailand’s leaders hope to provide clarity on all the details of decriminalization soon.


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