Thailand Debates Legalization of Medical Cannabis Despite Harsh Laws on Recreational Use

Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly is currently debating a bill that would legalize medical cannabis. If passed, it would make Thailand the first Asian country to do so.

The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO), which is under the Ministry of Public Health, is pushing the Thai Government to pass the bill. Reasons are mostly economic – the global marijuana market is currently valued at 12.8 billion and is projected to reach $23 billion by 2022.  If the bill is passed, the GPO hopes to study its effects and market it for medical use.

As of now, possession of cannabis is a serious offense in Thailand. It could mean up to 15 years in jail. Cannabis is classified as a category 5 narcotic and deemed unsafe for consumption.

Although Thailand is currently known for its tough policies against drug trafficking, it was one of the world’s largest exporters of cannabis in the 1980’s. American GI’s were exposed to Thai cannabis during the Vietnam War, and it has been historically used in Thailand to help with pain, nausea, and child birthing process.

Thailand’s year-long tropical climate and relatively cheap cost of production could make it an attractive option for foreign producers. Thailand already boasts a large medical tourism industry and exports an array of traditional medicines.

The Narcotics Control Board’s Deputy Secretary-General Wichai Chaimongkhon hopes to make the country more “international” with the passing of the bill. “If it’s proven that the medicines could cure diseases like Parkinson’s disease, cancer, depression, then I believe it’s a benefit and could create revenue if we export the medicines out to sell in other countries.”