Thailand approved the legalization of marijuana for medical and research purposes. This makes Thailand the first country to legalize medical marijuana in Asia, a region known for its strict drug laws.
It is also something of a return to tradition for Thailand – historically, the country used marijuana to help alleviate a wide range of health issues, such as chronic pain. However, in the 1930s a ban was enforced, criminalizing the use and possession of the drug by deeming it a narcotic. Today, Thailand has taken steps toward much looser marijuana laws after amending the Narcotic Act of 1979. The Act now gives citizens the opportunity to seek medical relief by being issued the drug. The Act also opens up new opportunities for those interested in research.
Thailand is an outlier in its region. Many areas within Southeast Asia still consider marijuana to be a forbidden substance. Still, the rise in legalization around the world may have a mounting influence in this area as people around the world begin legally seeking and finding relief through medical marijuana. The prospect of recreational marijuana being legalized in the area is dim. Any citizen found possessing or trafficking the drug is still subject to punishment. Sometimes this punishment can be exceedingly harsh, such as in Malaysia, where traffickers can face the death penalty.
In Thailand, the most pressing issue concerning marijuana is patenting. Foreign firms are sending in patent requests that could result in foreign domination of the country’s own medical marijuana market. This would make it more difficult for Thailand to control its own market, and it could put patients and researchers in a tough spot, leaving them unable to maintain the product as medicine or as a subject of research. To curb this issue, many citizens hope that all foreign patent requests will be shut down. Swift action on this now could prevent the country from severe economic problems later.
Regardless, the recent move to legalize medical marijuana has given many citizens hope that legalizing recreational marijuana may not be an impossible feat.