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Legalization of Marijuana in Thailand

  Thailand has become the first country in Asia to legalize marijuana, potentially paving the way for a regional industry market around marijuana products and services. However, experts warn growers and entrepreneurs must exercise caution.

  The Drug Control Authority of Thailand has removed marijuana and its components from the drug list. This amounts to de facto decriminalizing marijuana for personal use. The centrist Thai Pride Party, the smaller coalition government partner in the Thai government, has been pushing for full legalization of marijuana in Thailand since Saudi Arabia legalized medical marijuana in 2018.

  The Thai Pride Party has proposed draft legislation that provides a potential framework for regulating the marijuana market that could lay the groundwork for the development of the marijuana-related products and services industry in Thailand. The decision made by the Drug Enforcement Authority of Thailand is in line with government-backed draft legislation that is currently being finalized by the Thai legislature. Until then, however, the regulations surrounding the commercialization of marijuana remain unclear, so experts advise any entrepreneurs, start-ups and growers focusing on the space to exercise caution.

  According to Tom Julpas Kruesopon, a policy adviser to the Thai Pride Party, the Thai marijuana market will not grow like parts of Europe and North America. In fact, the proposed legal market is for hemp (industrial hemp) for its industrial, material and medicinal value, not for recreational THC-containing hemp. For small farmers in Thailand, trying to grow hemp without the right knowledge or funding would be a financial disaster, meaning fences, cameras, traceability, etc., all of which many small farmers cannot afford condition.

  Whether it’s a technical solution for industrial hemp, or agtech more broadly, it could help the budding Thai hemp industry get off the ground. This crop cannot be grown directly and the industry must be supported by basic technical measures. Infrastructure alone will allow the industry to become more efficient, and technology will play an important role in cultivation, as well as manufacturing, distribution and monitoring throughout the supply chain.

  Given these restrictions, cosmetics, cannabidiol oil (CBD) and related products may be categories that could flourish under Thailand's new regulations, as well as hemp and CBD-infused foods and beverages. From a trade perspective, Thailand must develop a solid domestic hemp industry and explore regional opportunities before attracting interest from outside buyers and producers.

  Judging from the current market situation, the health field related to cannabidiol and hemp oil products is a market segment that is relatively easy to commercialize. The Southeast Asian region has a large population and is accustomed to plant-based herbal medicine; however, this still requires a lot of consumer education, as the previous "war on drugs" has had a big impact. So, don't expect a full-fledged marijuana industry in Thailand all at once.

  With the passage of this law, it means that there will be no arrests and jail time in Thailand if marijuana is used for personal use only, and it can even be grown. It will free people from the traditional perception that marijuana is a "drug" and facilitate the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The commercial side will also follow, making it easier to sell food and cosmetics.

  The expected next step in Thailand is to fully legalize marijuana for commercial use. The current law doesn't quite do that yet, and it's not known how long it will take, as the relevant bill still needs to pass through the Thai Food and Drug Administration and all the legislative links. At the very least, the decriminalization of marijuana by the Thai Narcotics Control Agency is one of many steps, but probably the biggest, to help eradicate marijuana's notoriety.

  As the dominoes of marijuana legalization in Thailand fall, it is reported that the governments of Malaysia and Mongolia may also follow up the reform of marijuana legalization. It is conceivable that when other countries see Thailand's medical tourism pick up and increase taxes, more countries in the Asian region will follow suit.