Positive cannabis law reforms have been taking hold all across the world, while Asia with many of its nations still maintaining draconian cannabis laws, has lagged behind North America, Europe, Africa, and South America. But the times may be a-changin’ and Thailand is leading the way. If Thailand is going to continue its lead and maximize its current competitive agenda, the nation will need to adapt, starting with moving beyond just medical cannabis and embrace legalization for all adults. There’s good reason to be optimistic for Thailand to lead a projected $8.5 billion regional market (by 2024) with key political figures are lobbying for expanding the country’s medical program and ending prohibition for all adults, as Bloomberg reports:

The country last year legalized medical marijuana with the approval of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who then led Thailand’s junta and now heads the civilian government following a disputed general election in March. A key member of his coalition is pushing for full legalization of Thailand’s marijuana market, projected to grow to $661 million within five years, according to cannabis industry researcher Prohibition Partners.

Anutin Charnvirakul, the millionaire leader of political party Bhum Jai Thai, helped Prayuth form a ruling coalition and is expected to use that platform to try to deliver on his campaign promise of legalizing marijuana. The prospects of such a move increased on July 10 when Anutin was named deputy prime minister and public health minister in the newly formed cabinet. He’s seeking to remove restrictions that have made it difficult for even those approved for medical marijuana to easily access cannabis, he said in a June 21 party statement. Anutin’s two key positions make it easier for him to submit regulatory changes to legalize the crop. Thailand’s tough anti-trafficking laws aren’t expected to change even if recreational weed becomes legal.

It’s not the only nation rethinking cannabis. Malaysia and Laos are considering legalizing medical use of the crop, and the Philippines’ lower legislature has passed a medical cannabis measure. “For Thailand to become the Asian leader in the cannabis space, it would most likely require that neither China nor Japan legalize cannabis,” says Alexandra Curley, Prohibition Partners’ head of insights.

Thailand has already branded itself rather well in the old-school, underground cannabis community as Thai Stick has a legend of its own. In addition to becoming a major exporter, Thailand should embrace cannabis tourism to bring more freedom, jobs, and revenue to the nation. I’m a extremely proud of Thailand’s progression on cannabis (my mother is from there) and I hope that this trend continues and the country will embrace liberty for the betterment of their hardworking people that have been subject to a lot of political and cultural turmoil.

If you want to stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and to network with top investors and entrepreneurs, the International Cannabis Business Conference is the event for you. Next up: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, this September 15-16. Discounted, early bird ticket sales end August 21st.