Thailand set to legalise weed for medical use

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Thailand is readying to become the first Asian country to legalise marijuana, albeit just for medical use as the country does not want to miss out on cashing in on a multi-billion dollar industry that is expected to reach a volume of $55.8 billion by 2025.

Several nations have embraced the use of medicinal cannabis, including Canada, Australia, Israel, Chile, Colombia, South Africa, Jamaica, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sri Lanka and more than half the states in the US. In Thailand, a draft bill to permit medical marijuana had been sent to the legislative body, and will be reviewed until November, AFP reported.

In Thailand, which claims to have some of the world’s best-quality marijuana, the plant was once classified as a traditional herbal medicine, with its use in medicine dating back to the 17th century. However, it was re-categorised as a class 5 narcotic under the 1979 Narcotic Drugs Act, which prohibited the production, consumption, sale and possession of cannabis and sets stiff penalties for drug trafficking even though the country remains a key regional transit hub and producer of narcotics.

Jet Sirathraanon, chairman of the country’s national legislative assembly’s standing committee of public health, insists that marijuana would be “for medication only, not for recreation.”

The idea of medical marijuana has long been more acceptable to broad swathes of society in the Buddhist-majority country, and junta officials have previously mooted the need to reform drug laws.

Sirathraanon said Thailand has delayed making the change for far too long while other countries such as Canada and Australia have seized the moment, including legalising exports. He cited the revenue-generating possibilities that amending the laws would provide for Thailand as well as the beneficial effects it could have on patients in pain.

He also praised the quality of the Southeast Asian country’s plants, which thrive particularly well in the Golden Triangle borderlands of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. The quality of Thai weed is also often referred to by supporters as the “Cuban cigar of the marijuana world.”

However, there are also critics who see legal relaxation as a potential slippery slope to widespread abuse of the drug. Thais were “not as educated or well-informed of the potential dangers as Canadians,” they say, and relaxing the law could come back to haunt the country. Other opponents cite as an example the poor discipline of Thai drivers. Police already have trouble dealing with drunk driving, goes the argument, and the situation could get a lot worse if marijuana is thrown into the mix. 

There are also fears that an increasing commercial cultivation of the plant would bring with it a hardly controllable black market and encourage drug trafficking within the region.

A sensitive issue is also that Thailand’s neighbours in Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar, mandate the death penalty for drug trafficking, while drug possession and trafficking carries lengthy prison sentences in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. In the Philippines one might get just shot by police for carrying any sort of narcotic.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thailand is readying to become the first Asian country to legalise marijuana, albeit just for medical use as the country does not want to miss out on cashing in on a multi-billion dollar industry that is expected to reach a volume of $55.8 billion by 2025.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thailand is readying to become the first Asian country to legalise marijuana, albeit just for medical use as the country does not want to miss out on cashing in on a multi-billion dollar industry that is expected to reach a volume of $55.8 billion by 2025.

Several nations have embraced the use of medicinal cannabis, including Canada, Australia, Israel, Chile, Colombia, South Africa, Jamaica, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sri Lanka and more than half the states in the US. In Thailand, a draft bill to permit medical marijuana had been sent to the legislative body, and will be reviewed until November, AFP reported.

In Thailand, which claims to have some of the world’s best-quality marijuana, the plant was once classified as a traditional herbal medicine, with its use in medicine dating back to the 17th century. However, it was re-categorised as a class 5 narcotic under the 1979 Narcotic Drugs Act, which prohibited the production, consumption, sale and possession of cannabis and sets stiff penalties for drug trafficking even though the country remains a key regional transit hub and producer of narcotics.

Jet Sirathraanon, chairman of the country’s national legislative assembly’s standing committee of public health, insists that marijuana would be “for medication only, not for recreation.”

The idea of medical marijuana has long been more acceptable to broad swathes of society in the Buddhist-majority country, and junta officials have previously mooted the need to reform drug laws.

Sirathraanon said Thailand has delayed making the change for far too long while other countries such as Canada and Australia have seized the moment, including legalising exports. He cited the revenue-generating possibilities that amending the laws would provide for Thailand as well as the beneficial effects it could have on patients in pain.

He also praised the quality of the Southeast Asian country’s plants, which thrive particularly well in the Golden Triangle borderlands of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. The quality of Thai weed is also often referred to by supporters as the “Cuban cigar of the marijuana world.”

However, there are also critics who see legal relaxation as a potential slippery slope to widespread abuse of the drug. Thais were “not as educated or well-informed of the potential dangers as Canadians,” they say, and relaxing the law could come back to haunt the country. Other opponents cite as an example the poor discipline of Thai drivers. Police already have trouble dealing with drunk driving, goes the argument, and the situation could get a lot worse if marijuana is thrown into the mix. 

There are also fears that an increasing commercial cultivation of the plant would bring with it a hardly controllable black market and encourage drug trafficking within the region.

A sensitive issue is also that Thailand’s neighbours in Southeast Asia, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar, mandate the death penalty for drug trafficking, while drug possession and trafficking carries lengthy prison sentences in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. In the Philippines one might get just shot by police for carrying any sort of narcotic.

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