Will weed be fully legalized?
Thailand has attracted global attention through its recent delisting of cannabis as a narcotic, which came into effect on 9 June 2022. The country has also been buzzing, and I wrote about how cannabis is being used in cafes, restaurants, spas and clinics in my hometown of Chiang Mai for the South China Morning Post, which you can read here.
From the use of terms like ‘delisted’, ‘decriminalized’ and ‘legalized’, many people understand that cannabis can now be used freely. However, the government has stated that the only legitimate use is medicinal, and that levels of THC in the plant must be less than 0.2%, which won’t get anyone high.
In the couple of weeks since the delisting announcement, this story has changed day by day, and no doubt there will be further surprising announcements.
When I researched my story, the government had said that people would be able to plant a maximum of five plants at home if they registered with their local government authority. Since then, this has been revised so that everyone can plant a limitless number of plants, and they only need to register on an app called ‘plant ganja’.
The government is also planning to set up ‘sandboxes’ where people can get high in certain tourist areas such as Phuket, Ko Samui and Chiang Mai. While people have been warned not to smoke ganja on the street, it seems that what they do at home is their own business.
Police have been told not to arrest people for marijuana possession, and recently four officers who arrested a woman for growing a single plant were transferred to inactive posts. Thousands of prisoners serving sentences for charges related to cannabis have also been released.
Part of the government’s motivation for the promotion of cannabis is that they hope it will become a new cash crop, and thus help struggling farmers to recover from the devastating economic effects of the Covid pandemic.
Yet many people are worried that this liberalization will lead to problems among young people in the same way that methamphetamines, locally known as ‘ya ba’ (crazy drug), have created chaos in Thai schools.
A cannabis control law is currently being deliberated, but until it is passed, nobody is sure what restrictions will be introduced. The only constraints so far are that cannabis products should not be sold to people under 20 years old and its use has been prohibited in schools and universities.
Meanwhile, the wondrous properties of cannabis are being reported in unexpected areas. Chicken farmers in Lampang claim that by feeding their birds with cannabis leaves, they are more resilient to disease, meaning that the farmers do not need to spend money on expensive antibiotics. They can also sell their chickens at higher prices, as they are organic.
It’s anybody’s guess what will be the next revelation about cannabis in Thailand, but don’t be surprised if recreational use of weed is approved, making Thailand the first country in Asia to fully embrace cannabis culture.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.