Thailand’s drug laws are very strict. Period.
There is no slap on the wrist for getting caught with a small amount of marijuana, and unlike some European countries, the police do not exercise discretion on small amounts of class B drugs either.
But still, year in year out, embassies end up being called to Thailand’s notoriously hard prisons to talk with foreigners caught using drugs in the Kingdom, not to mention the amount of smugglers caught yearly coming through the country’s airports.
The conversation always ends the same way: “You’re in a lot of trouble”.
Get caught with a substantial amount and your only hope is a pardon from the King, sometime in the next 60 years.
Keep Your Distance from Drugs
It’s easy to get carried away at a Full Moon Party or club when a joint gets passed round. But get caught with that one joint and you could find yourself banged up with hardened criminals.
Sure, it seems like nothing back home, but no matter how relaxed Thai people seem, the authorities take a very hard line when it comes to drugs.
If people are smoking weed and invite you to sit with them (foreign or Thai), stay away. The police will arrest everyone in the group, not solely those in possession.
The majority of Thais strongly object to recreational drug use, and as such will call the police on a condo, house or group of people where they suspect drug use is taking place.
Drug Classification Law in Thailand:
- Category I: Dangerous narcotics such as heroine;
- Category II: Ordinary narcotics such as morphine, cocaine, codeine, medicinal opium;
- Category III: Narcotics which are in form of medicinal formula and contain narcotics of Category II as ingredients in accordance with rules prescribed by Minister and published in the Government Gazette
- Category IV: Narcotics which consist of chemical used for producing narcotics of Category I or II such as acetic anhydride, or acetyl chloride;
- Category V: Narcotics which are not included in Category I-IV such as marijuana or Kraton Plant.
Anyone caught in violation of the above mentioned laws shall be punished by imprisonment or death, depending on the circumstances as determined by the Thai Courts.
Buying Your Freedom is a Risky Business
While it maybe true that in some cases people buy their way out of sticky situations with the police by offering a fixed sum in exchange for freedom, depending on who you try to bribe, this may work against you as another criminal act.
The bribe is nowhere near as common as it may have been 20 yeas ago, and many foreigners exaggerate these stories too.
Also consider that the police may simply take your money and bang you up anyway, as these African men using fake passports in Hua Hin found out.
You May Be Subject to Stop & Search
Just because you’re a foreigner, doesn’t mean you won’t get searched in the streets of Thailand. I have been stopped and searched in both Koh Samui and Bangkok. I was asked to empty my pockets and verify my identify.
Failure to produce identification may incur a fine, and a trip to the station for further interrogation. Also consider that if, when stopped, you appear to be high, you may be taken to the station for a blood test.
Prescription Drugs Law
You should also be aware of how the law relates to prescription drugs containing illegal drugs.
GUIDANCE FOR TRAVELLERS UNDER TREATMENT CARRYING PERSONAL MEDICATIONS CONTAINING NARCOTIC DRUGS AND PSYCHOTROPIC SUBSTANCE INTO/OUT OF THAILAND:
1. The Food and Drug Administration of Thailand lays down the guidelines to be followed by the travellers in and out the country in cases where they will carry with them medications which contain prohibited narcotics or substances.
The traveler is allowed to carry for his personal treatment medications which contain substance classified in Category II, III, IV provided however that the quantity of which shall not exceed 30 days of usage. The traveler is required to obtain a permit “Form IC-2” issued by the Food and Drug Administration.
1. He is also required to submit the following:
2. Application Form
3. Medical Prescription issued by a Doctor identifying the medical condition of the patient as well as the necessity of the medical treatment, the total amount of the dosage and the name, address, license number of the doctor;
2. Certificate issued by the competent authority that the patient has authority to carry the medication;
3. The traveler is required to declare the medication he is carrying into or out of Thailand. he is also required to present the document or medical certificate upon entry to the Red Channel and upon exit to the Custom VAT Refund;
4. The medical certificate should be kept by the traveler all through his stay in the country;
5. The Medication is required to be kept in the original prescription bottle with the contents clearly marked
6. The traveler is not allowed to sell nor supply medications to another.
The guidelines are ever-evolving, and therefore it is necessary stay on top of new developments to Thai drug laws concerning prescriptions and the use of drugs inside the country.
Using, Buying & Selling Anabolic Steroids
Thailand has a reputation as a steroid haven for bodybuilders, with all sorts of body enhancing drugs available over the counter. But be careful, because steroids could land you a jail sentence, even though you are readily sold the drugs by a willing pharmacy:
Anabolic steroids have a maximum penalty of a jail sentence, as opposed to a maximum penalty under the Narcotics Act of death. While most police couldn’t care less that you are obsessed with making yourself look like the incredible hulk, many will use the opportunity to fine you and take you down to the station.
Get caught with enough to be suspected of selling or exporting (illegally) and you could end up in the slammer – read the story of Richard Crawley and Ashley Vincent Livingston.
Valium, Xanax & Other Related Drugs
Xanax is another drug that can be bought in many of Thailand’s pharmacies, as can Valium, Rohypnol and a host of other drugs. But it’s not legal. The pharmacies can and do get fined, and if you don’t have a prescription, you will too.
Most expats will tell you not to worry, that nothing will happen. But my advice is to exercise caution and know the law on what you are carrying. If you go through customs with the wrong drug, or get stopped and searched and caught with something you shouldn’t have, a great trip could quickly descend into a nightmare.
No doubt you’ve heard the old “you can pay your way our of anything in Thailand’ talk, but the reality is that not every policeman can be bought. Your best bet is to stay away from using drugs and mixing with those who do drugs.
Do not travel in and out of Thailand with steroids, and if you have any doubt over the legality of prescription drugs you are carrying, get a letter from your doctor to verify your prescription and obtain the necessary IC-2 permit.
Important Notice: I will no longer reply to comments asking whether specific prescriptions are allowed into Thailand. Please read the document linked in this post. You can then Google the drug you have been prescribed to determine its ingredients, or ask your doctor for confirmation. You will then know whether you need to fill out the form and get a permit. If you have any problems submitting the form or accessing the website, please contact your local Thai embassy.