Thailand, which legalized medical cannabis in February of 2019, is leading the paradigm shift, but not without controversy as they proceed to integrate different interests in their jurisdiction. The authorities aim to benefit not only patients, but also researchers, farmers, tourists, and domestic business while protecting the Thai market from big pharma and intellectual property theft, as well as considering international narcotics treaties. This leads to a complex licensing practice and a diffuse schedule of responsibilities to secure strict and safe practices around the medical substance. At the same time, several countries in close proximity also made steps in the direction of legalization. Thailand acknowledges it’s a first-mover advantage and keeps making quick adjustments to the jurisdiction, in order to secure its edge in developing the cannabis sector. This indicates their goals to become a key player in the region. Unsurprisingly so, since Thailand seems destined for good, though competitive cultivation and working conditions and the plant was popular in the traditional Thai medicine for centuries. Further, the unique strategic position as a strong exporting country within the ASEAN Free Trade Area with a widely known medical and tourist sector leaves room for ambition.

  • Thailand has a long tradition with cannabis
  • Prohibition started in the 1930s, strongly fueled by international pressure
  • Thailand was famous for its high-class black market cannabis (“Thai Stick”)
  • Cannabis plays an essential part in Thai Traditional Medicine
  • Thai law differentiates between “mild” drugs like cannabis or kratom and “hard” drugs

Legalization Process

With the publication of the royal decree in the Royal Gazette on 18 FEBRUARY 2019, MEDICAL CANNABIS WAS OFFICIALLY LEGALIZED. The so-called “Narcotics Act of 2019” is a modification of the Narcotics Act of 1979, whereby cannabis was still classified as a class-5-narcotic, which changed in the process. While the recreational use of the substance remains illegal Thai citizens are now allowed to apply for cannabis treatment following the new legislation. However, they have to exhibit one or more of 38 REGISTERED MEDICAL CONDITIONS which are subjected to cannabis therapy.

Moreover, RESEARCH, CULTIVATION AND PROCESSING, IMPORT AND EXPORT are now permitted. So far, however, several months after the legalization, this is only a vision. Currently, only a few dozen patients are in therapy, and to gain approval seems challenging. While the basic framework of the cannabis legislation was published soon after the resolution, there is a lack of regulatory specifications up until now. Many aspects of the legal procedures are just not defined yet, while others were brought on the way. This delays the formation of suitable supply infrastructure.