Editor: Akani Ngobeni
Date: June 21st 2022
Thailand has become the first Asian country to decriminalize marijuana. However it is not following the lead of Uruguay and Canada, the only two countries to have legalized recreational marijuana nationally.
Thailand's primary goal is to make a name for itself in the medical marijuana market. It already has a thriving medical tourism industry, and its tropical climate is ideal for cannabis cultivation.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR POT SMOKERS?
Thailand is the first Asian country to legalize cannabis cultivation, possession, and consumption in food and beverages- to boost its agriculture and tourism sectors – but smoking it remains recreationally illegal.
Indeed, Thailand's government has stated that it is only promoting cannabis for medical purposes, warning those who want to light up for fun that doing so in public could result in a three-month sentence and a 25,000 Thai baht ($780) fine.
People imprisoned for violating the old law are among the first to benefit from the change.
"Cannabis-related charges will be dropped for people facing them, and money and cannabis seized from people charged with cannabis-related offenses will be returned to their owners," Gloria Lai, Asia regional director of the International Drug Policy Consortium affirmed. Her organization is a global network of civic groups advocating for drug policies that prioritize human rights, health, and development.
WHERE DO OTHER ASIAN COUNTRIES STAND ON THE MARIJUANA USE?
Following Thailand's legalization of medical cannabis in February, some experts predict that other Southeast Asian countries will follow suit.
According to a 2018 report from California-based market research firm Grand View Research, the global legal marijuana market — including recreational use — was estimated to be worth $13.8 billion last year and is expected to reach $66.3 billion by the end of 2025.
Currently, Canada and Uruguay are the only two countries that have fully legalized cannabis use for recreational purposes. However, piecemeal legalization of medicinal marijuana has spread around the world, most notably in Israel, Australia, and Germany.
In Asia, Seoul and Bangkok appear to be at the forefront of the normalization and legalization of medical marijuana through government licenses. According to Prohibition Partners, an international cannabis industry consultancy, Thailand is the only country that has fully legalized medicinal cannabis, with others actively investigating the plant's health-care applications.
In late June, the Malaysian president affirmed that legalizing marijuana would be a game-changer.
Last November, South Korea became the first East Asian country to legalize medical marijuana, surprising many. The policy went into effect this March to expand treatment options for patients who have epilepsy, chronic pain, and other conditions.
Also, Japan approved clinical trials for the cannabis compound Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution used to treat epileptic patients, the same month.
Many countries are starting to understand that it is way more beneficial to legalize marijuana than alimenting the black market around it, which is an excellent sign of modernity.
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