Skip to main content

A First for Southeast Asia: Thailand Legalizes Medical Cannabis


December 25, Christmas Day, 2018, was a big day for cannabis reform globally. Not only did Israel legalize exports, but Thailand’s legislature also voted unanimously to allow licensed medical use of the drug along with kratom, a locally grown plant used both as a stimulant and painkiller. The move was described as a “New Year’s gift” from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people by the chair of the drafting committee.

Even more interesting, perhaps with Israel in mind, the Thai government will allow the production, import, and export of cannabis for medical purposes.

Thailand now becomes the first country to take such action in Southeast Asia. This is a part of the world with some of the world’s strictest drug laws still on the books. Illegal cannabis traffickers can be subject to the death penalty in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bali. Several tourists currently face the death penalty in Bali and Indonesia for importing both cannabis and cannabis oil.

What Does This Mean Regionally And Globally?

In the short term, this means that Thailand might well become an export hub for a growing medical market in Asia that includes Australia. New Zealand is also now considering changing its medical cannabis laws.

Longer term, however, this move also heralds a potential change in the medical cannabis laws in the biggest Asian country of all – China. The country has begun to develop a thriving hemp business, although it is mostly shut off to foreigners. It is only a matter of time, however, before China changes its laws to take advantage of a highly lucrative international market. And when that happens, the West, in particular, both Israel and Canada, will be facing major competition from the East. Starting with cost.

In the short term, however, Thailand may well become a new source of exotic strains not widely seen or cultivated in the West. In fact, the government is moving to become a medical marijuana hub, with a protected market that caters to tourists. Eleven foreign companies, including GW Pharmaceuticals, have already registered patents. That said, the government is currently considering protectionist measures that would protect the industry from foreign ownership.

There is no better place than the International Cannabis Business Conference to learn the latest about the global industry and to network with top investors and entrepreneurs from around the world. The ICBC heads to San Francisco on February 7-8, 2019, before traveling to Europe for a series of events in BarcelonaBerlin, and Zurich, and then returns back to North America for a Vancouver conference to check in on legalization in Canada. If you are in the cannabis industry, or are thinking of joining, the ICBC is for you. Early bird tickets are now on sale!  

GW Pharmaceuticals, medical cannabis, National Legislative Assembly, Thailand