Thailand’s Path Towards Full Legalization of Cannabis and Kratom
Known as a Southeast Asian paradise to many, Thailand was the first country in the continent to legalize the medical use of cannabis and Kratom. These two natural substances have been used for millennia by locals due to their reported therapeutic properties. In the 1930s, they were included in the list of controlled substances and have been criminalized ever since.
In Thailand, as well as in its neighboring countries, the consumption and possession of these substances have been punished harshly with death sentences for decades. Thailand finally legalized their medical use in 2018 and became one of the first Asian countries to adopt a progressive measure towards drug decriminalization.
The National Legislative Assembly passed the groundbreaking law by an almost unanimous favorable vote on Christmas day 2018, legalizing the use of both natural substances for medical use and research purposes. However, recreational use of cannabis is still considered a crime, and Thailand has some of the harshest sentences in the world, following Saudi Arabia. Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia have similar laws but the latter is considering a partial decriminalization.
This new legislation was followed by controversy regarding the way the government could benefit from selling patent rights to companies working with cannabis research, stimulating the monetization of natural and traditional medicine. To most Thai people, it seems unfair that the use of medicinal plants could become a business since “[they] have been using cannabis as a natural medicine for many centuries and everyone should have equal access to medicinal plants”, according to Dean Puapongpan.
Under the new legislation, providers, producers, and researchers must obtain a license to deal or commercialize with both plants while consumers or patients that wish to have legal access to these substances will need to obtain a medical prescription. Possession of more than 10 kg of cannabis or Kratom is still considered a crime (possession with trafficking purposes) while possessing less than 10 kg could also be subject to jail sentences of up to 5 years in jail or fines of up to 3,000 USD.
In 2019, the Thai government launched an online educational platform about medical cannabis where Thai people can access information about cannabis clinics and research details about its health benefits. Thailand’s prime minister, Prayut Chan-ocha, has shown his progressive views on cannabis legalization with this and other pro-cannabis actions.
Public health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, made his intentions clear in 2019 when he expressed his intentions to decriminalize possession of marijuana and its recreational use. He added that Thai people would soon be able to legally own up to 6 cannabis plants at home.
As far as tourists and visitors are concerned, at the moment they must comply with the same regulations as Thai people. Visitors can enter Thailand with prescription cannabis or kratom as long as they provide the official documents required by immigration officials.
While many aspects of Thai legislation around kratom and cannabis is yet to be confirmed, the Government's intention to move towards their full decriminalization can be seen as an important step in the long path towards drug decriminalization in Southeast Asia, one of the areas with the harshest punishments in the world.