Thailand: Thailand, Soon To Be Asia's Medical Marijuana Hub

Last Updated: 18 January 2019
Article by Deepika Sharma

The latest development in Thailand is that it will soon legalize "medical marijuana", thereby, it will become the first Asian country to legalize marijuana for medical use and research. This proposal of  legalization is expected to become a law by May 2019 at the latest.

Marijuana: Part of Thai culture since ages

Marijuana was considered and extensively used as a traditional medicine in Thailand. It was mostly used as a pain reliever and muscle relaxer. However, Marijuana was banned in 1934 and so was its utilization.

It is pertinent to note that legalization of marijuana is restricted to only medical use namely inter alia, treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy and pain and nausea in cancer patients. Legalizing of medical marijuana would mean that doctors can prescribe the patients to use cannabis for their ailments, and will use Marijuana in research centers. Medical institutes can freely produce and test the drug for new inventions.

Doctors also may prescribe medical marijuana to treat:

  1. Muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis
  2. Nausea from cancer chemotherapy
  3. Poor appetite and weight loss caused by chronic illness, such as HIV, or nerve pain
  4. Seizure disorders
  5. Crohn's disease

As it being the only country in Asia using marijuana for medicinal purposes, people from neighboring countries will take advantage and will head to Thailand which will increase medical tourists in the nation. Such legalization and usage of Marijuana will definitely push other countries such as Colombia, Denmark, USA, Britain, etc. to legalize marijuana. However, Uruguay and Canada have gone one step further and also legalized recreational use.

Battle between Thai and Foreign companies

Considering the suitable climate for Marijuana in Thailand leading to lower cost of production as compared to other countries, it is no less than a cash crop. Therefore, the Commerce Minister, Mr. Sontirat Sontijirawong is vouching for a tremendous economic growth in the country due to legalization of Marijuana.

Basis, cost effectiveness, foreign companies are eyeing to move in and take over licenses for its production in the country, which will help them to run the lucrative market.  Thus, leading to an internal battle between local and foreign firms over control of a potentially profitable market. The Government is trying to fix this by prioritizing its residents first and has granted the rights of researching on Marijuana plant, its production and extracting rights to Thai companies. Further, Foreign companies may only be given an opportunity if it is a joint venture with a local Thai company. This move by Thailand has led to an incentive for other countries to invest more in Thailand and grow more presence in Thailand markets. For example, U.S. and Canadian companies are expected to increase their presence in Thailand through Joint ventures with local companies. Likewise they can produce and export marijuana which would increase the proximity to larger markets in India and China.

Concern of Thai Companies

Further, Thai business entities and activists have raised concerns that propel of patent requests filed by foreign firms could allow them to dominate the market and make it harder for researchers to access marijuana extracts.

According to Zion market research, string of patent requests filed by overseas firms could allow them to influence Thai companies out of what's projected to be a $62.9 billion global marijuana market by 2024.

Rigid penalties for Illegal possession of Marijuana

Thailand encounters lot many cases of illegal possession of marijuana and thus, Thailand laws are very rigid with its laws on illegal possession of drugs. There are serious immigration consequences for a marijuana arrest which may lead to deportation by immigration, there is also the possibility of being "blacklisted" after which guilty people will never be able to return to Thailand.

Charges for Possession of marijuana in Thailand can entail the following punishments:

  • For minor use of marijuana, fine of up to 10,000 Baht or maximum of up to 1 year in prison sentence can be given.
  • For possession of up to 10kg of Marijuana, fine of up to 50,000 baht and maximum of up to 5 years in prison sentence can be given.
  • For possession of 10kg or more, this is considered as possession with intent to sell. The sentence can range from 2 – 15 years in prison, and/or include a fine of 20,000 to 150,000 baht. Charges can also be levied for amounts of 10kg or more for the intent to produce, import or export cannabis. The sentence is the same.

Footnotes

1 https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2018/12/19/medical-marijuana-is-coming-to-thailand.html

2 https://www.aseantoday.com/2018/12/thailands-move-to-become-asias-medical-marijuana-hub/

3 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-cannabis/weeding-out-foreigners-strains-over-thailands-legalization-of-marijuana-idUSKBN1OB0D0

4 http://www.thailand-lawyer.com/marijuana-arrest.html

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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