Thailand’s crazy cannabis laws explained

Photo via Public Health Minister (January 2022)

Thailand’s recent changes to the laws around cannabis have sparked confusion across the country, with many questioning, “Is weed legal now?” Well.. not the weed that will cause a high. There’s a limit on the plant’s psychoactive component, known as THC, so you won’t get stoned when you order a cannabis-infused tea or dish topped with a pot leaf.

Those who smoke cannabis can still be arrested in Thailand. Cannabis extracts with more than 0.2% of the high-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are still illegal. So when you see cannabis products and dishes for sale in Thailand, they have higher levels of the plant’s non-psychoactive component cannabidiol, or CBD, which is known to have medicinal properties, like reducing anxiety.

The country’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charvnikul has been pushing for legalisation before the Covid-19 pandemic. Anutin is also the leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, which ran its election campaign promising cannabis legalisation. But the minister has recently said he’s only promoting the cultivation and production of cannabis for medical purposes.

Here’s a quick timeline of cannabis in Thailand over the past three years…

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February 2019: Cannabis use approved for medical purposes
Cannabis use was approved for medical purposes, but cannabis use for recreation was not allowed.

December 2020: Local cannabis growers given the greenlight
The Thai government approved the cultivation of cannabis and the production of products, but for cannabis with less than 0.2% THC. Certain parts of the cannabis plant – the leaves, stems, stalks, and roots – were taken off the narcotics list, but the THC-rich buds and flowers remained. Under the law, farmers need permission from the government to grow cannabis.

Throughout 2021: Cannabis cafes bloom
Following the delisting of cannabis leaves from the narcotic’s list, cannabis cafes in Thailand have popped up offering teas and dishes made with cannabis leaves.

Pizza Company started offering a “Crazy Happy Pizza” with flavours from Thailand’s famous spicy tom yum soup paired with cannabis. The pizza is topped with a deep-fried cannabis leaf, the cheese crust is infused with cannabis, and the dipping sauce is made with chopped cannabis. Sounds like a stoner pie, but it won’t get you high.

January 2022: Cannabis removed from narcotic’s list
Cannabis – including the buds – were taken off the narcotic’s list, except for extracts with more than 0.2% THC. The revisions to the narcotics laws were intended to lift restrictions for those growing the plant for medical purposes or research.

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Caitlin Ashworth

Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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