Following the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and research purposes late last year, Thailand is now pushing to further develop its cannabis industry.
This move is viewed as a game-changer, primarily because this part of the world is notorious for its draconian penalties for weed possession and use.
In the weeks to come the lawmakers in Bangkok will debate the pursuit of advancing the fledgling medical cannabis industry, led by one of the largest members of the 19 party-coalition that rules Thailand.
The Bhumjaithai Party has made full legalization one of its core campaign promises under the helm of leader Anutin Charnvirakul, who also serves as deputy prime minister and health minister.
“Marijuana has more positive properties than negative,” he said in an interview earlier this year, highlighting that his ultimate goal is to help Thais make money off of the marijuana-growing industry.
A fierce proponent of cannabis, Charnvirakul wishes to enable all families in the kingdom to reap the economic benefits of marijuana. This especially applies for rural areas, and it’s a part of an active effort to obstruct monopolies.
Charnvirakul has proposed allowing every household to cultivate up to six plants, which would be purchased by state agencies.
Currently, only the Government Pharmaceutical Organization can legally grow cannabis for medical products.
However, this organization has stated that it seeks to be a leader in the marijuana business, as the country has “traditional Thai medicine knowledge that’s over 300 years old.”
“The study and technological development of marijuana, hemp, and other medicinal herbs should be sped up for the medical industry to create economic opportunity and income for the people,” a policy document from the government-released ahead of the debate said.
A new powerful market
According to Bloomberg, the legal cannabis market in Asia is expected to surge to $8.5 billion by 2024.
Marijuana has been a traditional medicine for centuries in the Southeast Asian nation, before it was outlawed by the Cannabis Act in 1935.
The new law covering medicinal cannabis is a modification of the 1979 Narcotic Drugs Act, that made the use and possession of this plant an offense worthy of up to 15 years in prison.
As a popular destination for Western travelers, more lenient marijuana laws could boost the economy even further.
Meanwhile, Thailand’s new Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan, also from the Bhumjaithai party, is hoping to incorporate cannabis into the country’s medical tourism industry as well.
“We would like to provide medical tour packages, such as detox, Thai massage and other wellness courses that use marijuana substances,” he said last week.
Meanwhile, other Asian countries are mulling legalization of medicinal weed as well, including Malaysia and Laos, while South Korea’s law permitting medical cannabis took effect in March this year.