Cannabis clinic in Thailand | Cr: Anutin Charnvirakul / FB
Much to the surprise of, well, just about everybody, Thailand recently legalized cannabis in the Kingdom. There are several reasons why this is surprising, one of which is the contrast of cannabis’ legal standing before and after. Before legalization on June 9, 2022, punishment could be as harsh as a 15 year prison sentence and a 1.5-million-baht fine. At the time of writing in August 2022, so much confusion surrounds cannabis laws that even the police aren’t totally clear on what they should be letting people get away with.
One thing is for sure, regardless of the level of clarity surrounding current cannabis legislation, growers and sellers see only a bright, shining green light. In Phuket, Bangkok, and many other places around the country, shops were working overtime to prepare signage for the dozens (maybe hundreds) of dispensaries, kiosks, and trucks that were gearing up for business. Although it takes around 3-4 months from seed to harvest, shops were mysteriously stocked up just days after legalization. Now, just a few months later, dispensaries are touting to have more than 30 strains available. You don’t have to visit a dispensary to buy cannabis however. Many bars will sell you a joint, kiosks have popped up at malls, and this author recently saw many jars of various strains for sale at a hardware store.
While many are enjoying the sudden availability and business opportunities (profits), it is not clear if the future of cannabis will remain so unencumbered. The wording of the legislation decriminalizing the plant is vague and legislators have been debating the details ever since. Many politicians claimed the main purpose in the change of law was to enable easier access to cannabis for medical use. Others say it was to support small-time farmers who can utilize it as a cash crop. And the rest think it was a bad idea altogether which will result in addiction, abuse, and underage consumption.
PlookGanja app | Cr: www.appdisqus.com
It’s safe to say that there are good arguments to be made on either side. However, instead of proactively drafting appropriate regulation, the government is now caught on the back foot and will have to reign in what is basically the cannabis wild west. So what can the people of Phuket currently get away with? First of all, it's off-limits if you’re under 20 years old. You are allowed to grow up to 15 plants on your property, but you must register with the PlookGanja app. Only Thai nationals are allowed to cultivate and sell cannabis commercially. You are not permitted to smoke in public and this violation can potentially cost you up to 20,000 baht. While of course it is highly recommended that everyone, especially foreign residents, abide by local laws, the divide between regulation and enforcement is wide and it’s unlikely that these will be commonly targeted offenses.
It is notable that while Thailand has suddenly become far more liberal with their drug laws, other Southeast Asian countries have not. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that anyone traveling from Thailand to another country may be a target for a strict government. It’s important to avoid naively thinking that you are entitled to the same rights in those countries as you would in your own. This means you could be searched without warning or provocation, and possibly even drug tested. Should a test reveal traces of illegal drugs in your system you could face extremely harsh punishment.
* Information in this article is NOT intended to be legal advice and the writer and publisher make no claims to the accuracy of this information.