Ever since the Thai government voted 166 to 0 to legalize cannabis for medicinal use in Nov 2018, the question “Is marijuana legal in Thailand?” has been a hot topic both online and throughout Thailand.
There were many contradictions between what was promised and what was allowed.
But on June 9, 2022 Thailand eventually legalized cannabis for most uses.
While officially classified as legalized for “medicinal” use, there are no longer any legal penalties for possession of any part of the cannabis plant, including buds.
No prescription, marijuana card, or other approval from a medical professional is required to possess or use cannabis in Thailand.
Some cannabis activists have termed Thailand’s approach as, legalizing recreational use without officially legalizing recreational use.
The only exception to this rule is for THC extracts. Any extract with a THC content of over 0.2% is still considered a Category 5 narcotic substance.
Extracts were not defined in the new law but it’s safe to assume that the following products would be considered extracts:
- THC oils (these are still available via medical prescription by a licensed Thai medical care professional)
- Budder / Badder wax
- Any edibles that do not use the buds or leaves from the plant (i.e. no gummies)
Additionally, Thailand released approximately 4,000 inmates from Thai prisons who were being incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes. This seems to bolster Thailand’s commitment to treat cannabis in a new light after June 9, 2022.
Also, news sources are reporting that the police are actually returning 16 tonnes of confiscated cannabis to people who have had their cannabis confiscated.
The new laws do come with some, relatively, minor stipulations.
Public Smoking of Cannabis Restrictions
The most cited new regulation pertains to smoking cannabis in public places. Any cannabis use that is considered to be a public nuisance will be treated similar to Thailand’s smoking regulations.
If someone is caught smoking cannabis in a public place or their usage has resulted in someone filing a complaint, the person will be given a warning for the first offense. Second offense carries a 2,000 baht (approximately $60 USD) fine and a jail term of up to 30-days. The maximum penalty for multiple offenses is 25,000 baht fine and up to 3-months in jail.
This seems to be pretty easy to avoid. If someone, police or not, ask you to smoke elsewhere, just be courteous.
Persons Prohibited From Using Cannabis in Thailand
The new laws also come with some prohibitions on who can use cannabis in Thailand.
- No sales to persons under 20 years of age
- No sales to pregnant women
- No sales to women who are breast feeding
The government has said that all sales must be taxed as any other sale and they will be producing guidelines which will be available at a future date.
Driving While Intoxicated
The government has stressed that operating a motor vehicle while impaired by cannabis will result in strict punishment as they do for driving under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.
Foreigners And Marijuana in Thailand
There does not seem to be any restrictions on foreigners possessing or using medical marijuana in Thailand other than those outlined above. In fact, the Tourism and Sports Minister has stated that he would like to promote medical marijuana tourism.
Everyone in Thailand, citizen or not, is allowed to grow cannabis in Thailand for personal, medicinal use.
You are required/requested to use the Plook Ganja app to register your grow with the FDA or you can notify your local government agency directly.
Interestingly, there are no published penalties for not registering. Essentially, you are asked to register your grow but there doesn’t seem to be a penalty for failure to do so.
According to the government, on the first day the website/app was announced, the site crashed as over 35 million people tried to access the site.
Commercial Growth of Cannabis in Thailand
Commercial growers must still seek appropriate approvals and licenses.
Importing Cannabis Into Thailand
You may import seeds and cannabis plants into Thailand after receiving permission to do so from the government. This is less about cannabis and more in keeping with the 1964 Plant Quarantine Act and the 1975 Plants Act.
Importing Cannabis Extracts Into Thailand
Technically, this is possible. But extracts containing greater than 0.2% THC are still considered a Category 5 narcotic. You can seek FDA permission to import extracts for personal medicinal purposes. This would be the same procedure for importing any prescribed medication which is highly controlled.
Flying in Thailand with Cannabis
Airports of Thailand (AOT) has announced that passengers are permitted to carry cannabis on domestic flights within Thailand as long as it meets all other regulations such as not exceeding maximum luggage weight.
I personally can confirm this as I emailed VietJet asking about whether or not I could bring cannabis on my domestic flight and they emailed me back saying that there are no restrictions on cannabis other than their normal luggage restrictions.
And, I did indeed fly from Bangkok to Phuket with several grams of cannabis in my carry-on luggage and went through all of the normal security screenings and x-rays and without an issue.
Foreign Cannabis-Related Patent Requests
In Jan of 2019 the Thai government revoked all pending foreign patent request related to cannabis. The reasoning behind this action was to protect Thai interests and prevent foreign companies from creating a stranglehold on the Thai cannabis industry.
Using special executive powers granted to the military government under Rule 44, the Department of Intellectual Property (DIP) was granted to right to suspend cannabis-related patent applications on the grounds that they violate the public order, morality, public health, or welfare of the state.
Why Did The Government Make Marijuana Legal in Thailand?
Considering the fact that Thailand has taken such a hard stance against all drugs in the past and has punished marijuana possession and trafficking as harshly as hard drugs, it’s natural to wonder what brought around such an abrupt change.
But, it’s important to remember that marijuana was once a major crop for Thai farmers and was used in Thai traditional medicine.
The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) pressured the Thai government during the 1960’s and 1970’s to join in its War on Drugs, which led to marijuana being banned in Thailand and for local law enforcement to crack down so severely.
With the US loosening its own restrictions on marijuana and many other countries already having legalized or decriminalized marijuana, Thailand wanted to be the first country in South-East Asia to relax it’s drug laws on cannabis.
Somchai Sawangkarn, the chairman of the committee that drafted the 2018 legislation heralded it as a “New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people.”
It also didn’t hurt that Thailand’s economy relies heavily on agriculture and legalizing a new cash crop for the farmers was seen as a savvy move by the government.
Thai officials have stated that they would like to become a major exporter of marijuana and attract new types of tourism to the country based on the legalization of medical marijuana.
There are many news sources and plenty of barstool experts that are claiming that the only thing that was legalized is cannabis with a THC content of 0.2% of less.
This is false. If one reads the law, it specifically mentions the 0.2% only in relation to extracts.
Additionally, prior to June 9, 2022, cannabis with less than 0.2% THC content was already legal. There were even restaurants on the grounds of government hospitals selling cannabis infused drinks and food flavored with cannabis.
It’s important to view things within the context of the Thai legal system, not the laws in another country.
Many people, especially westerners who come from countries where laws are very precise, want it written in black and white. You can do X. You cannot do Y.
But that’s, generally, not how Thai laws work. Laws are often written very broadly and interpretation is left to the courts and law enforcement.
It’s understandable that people can’t believe that Thailand has made such a radical shift. They’re looking for a gotcha.
But, as of the moment, there are no gotchas. Buds are being sold openly, police are giving people back their weed, and the police have been told not to arrest anybody for cannabis.
In fact, I attended the Highland 420 Festival in Bangkok shortly after cannabis was legalized and people were openly smoking weed in front of police who were providing security for the event.
There was also a story by Coconuts Bangkok where they asked the Thong Lor police, who notoriously are known to shake down foreigners looking for drugs, whether or not they had made any arrests for cannabis since the new law came into effect and Col. Duangchote Suwanjaras, chief of Thonglor Police had this to say:
“For now, we will accommodate people who possess, buy, and sell buds.”
“Just do not smoke in the public,” he repeated. “We’re waiting for the [Cannabis Act] to be effective and from then we’ll know clearer guidelines of what you can do or cannot do.”
There are even photos of uniformed military officers allegedly buying weed from a cannabis vendor on Khao San Road.
What’s Next for Thailand?
Thailand seems to realize after removing nearly all restrictions on cannabis that it may have gone too far, too fast.
Immediately after it became legal, various government agencies began either proposing or implementing restrictions.
So far, most of the proposals seem reasonable.
For instance, the military has banned cannabis from military facilities. The national government has likewise banned the use or sale of cannabis from government buildings.
Others have raised issues about minors and have proposed banning sales on or around school grounds.
The health department has issued guidelines about how restaurants should inform their customers about cannabis in foods with suggested signage.
There was also quite a bit of worrying in the media when it was reported that several people had to be hospitalized after getting “too high” and one person died of heart problems which was reported as a death caused by cannabis by some journalists.
The hysteria has since died down a bit as medical examiners concluded that the man died from pre-existing heart disease and the other patients were treated and sent home.
And, some in the government have expressed concern about people using cannabis recreationally when they’ve repeatedly told people that it is for medicinal use.
Perhaps I’m a pessimist but I was expecting much worse. I was expecting the media to be filled with conservative Thais staunchly opposed to cannabis calling for it to be made back into a Category 5 narcotic, but most of the calls for more regulation seem like common sense.
Not that everyone is happy. Islamic representatives have express their disapproval and some government figures have openly questioned the decision.
But, overall, legalization was broadly popular with the Thai people.
Fortunately, it seems like they may take an approach similar to how alcohol is handled. For instance, no advertising, restrictions on who can purchase (no sales to minors, pregnant or breastfeeding women, etc), limits on where dispensaries can be located, perhaps even requiring dispensaries to obtain a license, a limit on how many plants can be grown for private use (they’re already floating the number to be capped at 10), etc.
The government has announced that it will be putting forth additional rules at a later date. They have put together a group who is monitoring how things are developing and they will make recommendations on further laws regarding cannabis.
But the good news is that, at least for now, most of the additional restrictions being discussed in public seem responsible rather than a reversion back to the old attitudes towards cannabis.
This seems to also be in keeping with other changes by Thailand in regard to drug laws in general. For instance, Thailand has announced that they want to move the focus of drug enforcement away from punishment and more towards treatment (at least for drug users). Mandatory minimum sentences are being slowly replaced with fines and treatment options.
Thailand has been battling amphetamine (yaba, ice, etc) issues for many years and this is a massive change in how Thailand enforces drug laws.
THIS PAGE LAST UPDATED ON 25-JUN-2022