Cannabis 101

The Short History of Cannabis Legalization in Thailand

From Ganja to Legal Cannabis 

Moving from illegal Ganja to legal marijuana in Thailand is one of the biggest miracles we can witness in the cannabis industry. Thailand had the strictest cannabis laws, where just possessing marijuana can be a ticket to 15 years in prison. 

The narrative changed in 2018 when the country moved to decriminalize the plant and become the first Asian country to do so. Today, Thailand is a leading cannabis hub with growing markets for cannabis tourism, medical and recreational Cannabis. It has one of the fastest-growing numbers of dispensaries and may likely regain its position as the strongest cannabis hub in the world.  

The benefits of Cannabis are not new to Thailand and its people, as it holds a long history of cannabis use for both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical purposes. Thailand was identified as the birthplace of recreational and medical Cannabis, where the plant concoctions were reported to cure diseases. 

Cannabis was also an important cooking herb and was reported to be amongst Thailand’s 91 most used medicinal plants. Before its ban as a harmful plant, Thais would add Cannabis to stews, soups, and foods to improve its flavor and texture. They mostly utilized the non-THC part of the plants to minimize the possibility of getting high after a meal. 

A lot has happened in Thailand’s cannabis industry over the years. The country has witnessed increased cannabis use, with tourists coming to experience the power of the plant in cannabis dispensaries scattered all over the country. 

How did Thailand move from Ganja to Cannabis? This is a question we seek to answer in this article. 

Before exploring the changes in Thailand’s cannabis industry, we must look at how the country moved from a cannabis hub in the early 17th century to a cannabis death/crime trap in the late 20th century and a cannabis hub in 2018. 

If you are wondering what happened to the cannabis industry in Thailand, then this article is for you. In this article, we will summarize how we got here and what is left to be achieved by Thailand’s cannabis industry. 

Cannabis in Ancient Thailand 

One of the oldest references to early cannabis use in Thailand dates back to the era of King Narai, the Great of Ayuthaya Kingdom. He reigned from 1656 to 1688 and was reported to allow the legal use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes, as reported in King Narai Medicine Book.

During that time, Cannabis was used in various Thai medicines, including Prasaganja and Sooksaiyad. While Sooksaiyad was used for insomnia and sleep-related cases, Prasaganja was mostly utilized as an appetite stimulant. In addition to serving as medicine, Cannabis was also an important cooking ingredient for boat noodles. 

Cannabis was also legal throughout the reign of King Rama (V). while cannabis use was not quite detailed during the time of King Rama, mural paintings dated back to 1800 show soldiers, nobles, soldiers, and ordinary people using Cannabis for treatment. 

During the reign of these kings, they saw Cannabis as a plant with some possible benefits and not as an illegal substance. 

Cannabis during strict rules 

Cannabis was legal in Thailand until 1930, when decisions to ban the plant became more intense. Cannabis rule In Thailand took a stricter turn during the Vietnam War between 1955 to 1975. At this time, the US Army had its military base in Thailand and served as an R&R destination for Americans. 

Cannabis use became widespread among US soldiers and led to a massive demand for Cannabis in Thailand. This led to a booming weed business. By 1960, weed became as easily accessible as beer. Later, the US authorities felt the Thai laws on drugs were too lenient, and this led to toughening the laws in the 1970s with the passing of several acts regarding narcotics.

By the 1980s, the US government joined forces with the Thailand government in their fight against marijuana, ending the illegal drug trade between the two countries. 

On this note, it is safe to say that the cannabis ban was mostly influenced by the US government, which wanted to keep its troops from using the plant. 

How cannabis legalization started in Thailand 

Anutin Charnvirakul proposed the move to legalize Cannabis for two reasons. The first was to decongest the population of inmates in Thailand’s overcrowded prisons. Notably, more than 80% of inmates in Thailand’s prisons were detained for drug-related cases. The second reason was to alleviate poverty by leveraging the power of Cannabis to create new jobs and sources of income. Thailand’s market is projected to reach $9.6 billion by 2030. 

When asked about his view on the cannabis plant, Anutin stated that he sees the cannabis plant as a cash crop that will bring several opportunities to Thailand. He strongly believes the people and economy of Thailand will greatly benefit from the legalization. 

The present situation of Cannabis in Thailand 

Thailand legalized Cannabis for recreational and medical use in 2018, and several important events have followed since then. The government is presently encouraging the personal cultivation of Cannabis by families.
The first cannabis cup in Thailand took place this year, with several other events to come. Cannabis is legal and can be prescribed for several disease conditions, including chronic pain, mental disorders, sleep, and anxiety. 

There is a significant growth in the number of cannabis dispensaries in Thailand. It is a common sight to see these dispensaries scattered all over the street. However, Thailand has also developed a law limiting public cannabis consumption to consumption lounges only. 

Read our article on the dos and don’ts of using Cannabis in Thailand. 

The Future of Cannabis in Thailand 

There is a booming future in cannabis tourism in Thailand. Note that Thailand is home to one of the strongest marijuana strains, and people worldwide are coming to have first-hand experience with these landraces. 

As the first Asian country to legalize Cannabis for medical and recreational use, Thailand is on its way to becoming a major force in the Asian cannabis market. With a projected growth of $9.3 billion in 2030, Thailand is expected to attract more cannabis sales.

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