Thailand's Marijuana laws have evolved dramatically in recent times. What was once considered an illegal drug, unsafe for society, is now on a pathway to decriminalization.
Thailand has approved the decriminalization of cannabis, agreeing that the Health Ministry drop cannabis from its list of controlled drugs.
In February 2022. Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul signed an announcement removing the drug from Category 5 of the country’s list of narcotics. This will come into effective 120 days after its publication in the Royal Gazette.
Previously regulated under the Narcotics Act, cannabis, or ganja (กัญชา – kancha), as it is known in Thailand, can now be grown and sold, but it would be a stretch to call cannabis legal just yet.
It's currently an evolving situation, with a lot of uncertainty surrounding what is to be permitted and what isn't. To help clarify where we are at the present moment, here's the answers to a number of common questions.
Is Marijuana Legal in Thailand?
It's heavily regulated, put it that way.
It is legal to grow cannabis, but to do so you need permission.
The growing of cannabis must be conducted by a community enterprise comprised of a minimum seven persons. The cannabis grown must be used for research, medical, or industrial purposes only.
Cannabis can also be used by restaurants. But the leaves and roots used in cooking must be supplied by FDA certified producers.
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.
Can I smoke cannabis in Thailand?
No. Recreational smoking currently remains illegal. It's important to remember this if Somchai offers you a joint at a party.
That said, I believe there's a grey area when it comes to smoking leaves and stems, because as long as the THC content is under 0.2%, then surely that would fall in line with the snacks and food sold at restaurants?
Don't risk it, though.
If Marijuana is removed as a category of illegal drug, how can you be arrested for smoking it?
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!
What's the punishment if you're caught smoking or growing (without permission) cannabis?
It is unclear how the law will change for recreational use when cannabis is officially removed from Category 5 of the narcotics list after the 120-day period.
What is clear is the current laws still in place. Here's how the law looks upon cannabis:
- 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 really 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 there's still a long way to go before you can walk down the street with a big doobie hanging out your mouth while smiling at the local bobby.
Let's face it, whether it's lifting Covid restrictions or legalizing drugs, the excitement is usually squashed by the fine print.
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.
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