Thailand's Marijuana laws have evolved dramatically in recent times. What was once considered an illegal drug, unsafe for society, is now legal, mostly.
Thailand approved the decriminalization of cannabis, agreeing that the Health Ministry drop cannabis from its list of controlled drugs.
Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul signed an announcement removing the drug from Category 5 of the country’s list of narcotics, which is now in effect.
Previously regulated under the Narcotics Act, cannabis, or ganja (กัญชา – kancha), as it is known in Thailand, can be grown and sold and consumed.
There's still some uncertainty surrounding public use and how much can be grown. But from the buzz seen around the nation, it seems that cannabis is now fully open for personal and commercial use.
To help clarify some of the finer print, here's the answers to a number of common questions.
Is Marijuana Legal in Thailand?
Yes, but with some regulation.
It is legal to grow cannabis, but to do so you need permission.
Home growers must first tell the government via a website or smartphone app. Thus far, nearly 750,000 applications have been received from key growers.
Industrial and commercial marijuana growers must obtain a license from the Food and Drug Authority.
Cannabis can be used by restaurants. But the leaves and roots used in cooking must be supplied by FDA certified producers and the THC level must be less than 0.2%
You can also buy cookies and teas and other snacks in some stores, all infused with the sacred plant.
However, the over-arching rule in the consumption of cannabis is that the THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) content must be less than 0.2%.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the feeling of being “stoned”.
This means that the products aren't very strong, and certainly not on a par with a hash brownie from an Amsterdam cafe.
That said, people don't appear to be sticking to that rule, and this is where the confusion lies. For example, the Highland Café in Bangkok is already selling buds over the counter, which look pretty potent to me!
Can I Smoke Cannabis in Thailand?
Yes, but smoking in public can still be considered a public nuisance, so it's important to remember this if Somchai offers you a joint at a party.
Those caught smoking in public being a “nuisance” can be subject to fines of up to 25,000 baht ($723) and prison terms of up to three months.
This seems a little contradictory, though, considering Thailand just released 3,000 prisoners previously convicted of cannabis offenses, and is set to release more.
Despite politicians claiming there are these restrictions, it appears there will be no effort to police what people can grow and smoke at home, aside from registering with the government and declaring it is for medical purposes.
If Marijuana is Not Illegal, How Can You Be Arrested for Smoking?
Good question, and this is currently unclear. Those who are familiar with the visa system in Thailand will know that this is how things work here.
When a new law is introduced it takes a while to iron out all of the areas overlooked in the development process and clarify what's allowed and what isn't, and why!
My advice, as a foreign national, is to let Thai people pave the way first. Sit back for a few months and wait for things to become clearer. Smoke at home, indoors for now.
What's the Punishment if You're Caught Smoking or Growing Without Permission?
As far as I know the following legal guidelines still apply, but whether they will be amended or enforced is unclear at this point.
- Production, importation or exportation: 2-15 years imprisonment and a fine of 200,000 – 1,500,000 Baht
- Disposal or possession for the purpose of disposal: 2-10 years imprisonment or a fine of 40,000 – 200,000 Baht or both
- Quantity over 10 kilograms: Penalty is increased to a maximum of 15 years and a fine of 200,000 – 1,500,000 Baht
- Possession: Imprisonment not exceeding 5 years and or a fine not exceeding 100,000 Baht or both
- Consumption: Imprisonment not exceeding 1 year and a fine of 100,000 – 1,000,000
Can I Get Prescription Cannabis in Thailand?
Yes. But note that the strength of medical cannabis in Thailand may be much weaker than you are used to back home in California or Amsterdam.
This has been one of the major complaints from those suffering with long-term illness who have historically relied on a blackmarket supply.
Users have been so disappointed with the strength of medical cannabis that many have returned to the blackmarket to get a more potent supply.
This was recently highlighted in a Vice documentary (see below).
Is There Going to Be a Cannabis Sandbox?
This has been proposed but just how seriously is not clear.
Supposedly there will be an area of Thailand designated to ganja enthusiasts.
You'll be able to spend your holiday smoking, eating, and drinking cannabis-based products until your heart's content. Whether you'll actually get stoned or not is a different matter, because all the product will need to be under 0.2% THC.
It would certainly be a novelty feeling, but I doubt it will rival the cafes of Amsterdam. I don't think it will happen, certainly not this year anyway.
Thailand is the most progressive country in the region when it comes to cannabis growth and consumption, but you might want to wait a while before you walk down the street with a big doobie hanging out your mouth and smile at the local bobby.
Do expect to see cafes popping up, and pretty much every dish being advertised with cannabis as a special ingredient.
Will the 0.2% THC be policed? I doubt it. It would waste a lot of police time. Though it could be a good tea-money maker for the BIB.
Most travelers will just do what they've always done: pop along to one of the bars on Phi Phi or Koh Phangan and pick up a sealer bag of the good stuff and smoke away, while the bar pays the local police to turn a blind eye.