As of today, the Cabinet in Thailand has approved amendments to the country’s narcotics act which would allow for private production and sale of medical cannabis—a huge step in the Thai cannabis market, which until now has been minimal. The amendments, which were proposed last month, have cleared the Cabinet, but still need to be approved by Parliament before they officially become law.  

Thailand has already made major headlines for being the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical cannabis to some degree. However, initially, only the Thai government could grow cannabis, so the industry was very limited and unable to progress further because of all the restrictions. Now, if the five-year ban on private sector cannabis is finally lifted, as many predict it to be, everything will change for the local industry. 

The Current Status of Cannabis in Thailand

Under the current restrictions, only state agencies are able to produce, import, or export cannabis to or from Thailand. No one outside of the government or government-backed farmer groups or universities were able to apply for the licenses to do so. Furthermore, it is not legal to apply for a new license to grow cannabis, and the date for applying for new licenses is currently 2024. This left many frustrated about how the industry could move forward. 

Now, under this new system, if it passes, people from outside of Thailand will be able to get involved with the industry; they just won’t be able to hold shares that exceed one-third of a company. In other words, Thai people will still have to be the chief shareholders in all cannabis companies, but others can finally get involved. International travelers can also apply for import or export licenses now in order to bring cannabis into or out of the country in order to treat an illness. 

“The law will promote the pharmaceutical industry and increase competitiveness, which will be important for Thailand in becoming a leader in medical cannabis,” Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul explained. Those who obtain licenses will now be eligible for selling or producing cannabis, instead of leaving the power only in the hands of a few. 

Additionally, Thailand has finally removed cannabis extracts from its narcotics list and opened clinics for medical cannabis. While cannabis has been medically legal in Thailand since 2017, it took this long for the industry to really get going, and cannabis is still a category-five drug in Thailand, meaning possession can be punished by up to 15 years in prison or hefty fines. In some countries in Southeast Asia, cannabis trafficking can still carry the death penalty, so these moves are still major for Thai people. Even being able to buy and sell legal cannabis in the market is a huge step. 

Thailand still has a way to go before reaching anything like a healthy industry or full legalization, but if this amendment passes, 2021 could see a lot of exciting new possibilities for medical cannabis in Southeast Asia and for the medical cannabis industry worldwide.

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