Thailand is on the fast track to legalizing medical marijuana, the country's Narcotics Control Board director, Sirinya Sitdhichai, announced this week. After decades of extreme drug prohibition, the Thai government is now planning to rewrite their drug laws, allowing medical cannabis to be sold to anyone with a doctor's prescription.
"For medical purposes, they will be able to get the marijuana, but only on a doctor's orders. They can't grow it on their own," Sirinya said to Khao Sod. "This is what we have put in the draft." The new laws will only legalize medical use of cannabis, not recreational use, but Sirinya said that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of full legalization in the future.
Current Thai law classifies cannabis as a Class 5 drug, illegal to use or possess for any reason. At the end of last year, lawmakers rewrote the current drug laws to legalize cannabis extracts for medical and research purposes. These changes still need to be approved by the Cabinet and then voted on by the interim Parliament, but Khao Sod reports that there is surprisingly little opposition to the passage of these new laws.
One businessman has already announced plans to build the country's first legal cannabis plantation, but he must first get permission from the country's Public Health Ministry, Sirinya said. If the plantation does get approved, the Narcotics Control Board will closely monitor the production of cannabis to ensure that it does not end up being sold on the black market.
Thailand has earned a reputation for some of the strictest drug prohibition laws in the world, and the current proposal marks a drastic change in policy. Just over a decade ago, the Thai government waged a bloody war on drugs, leading to the execution of at least 2,500 suspected drug offenders, similar to the violent anti-drug campaign responsible for thousands of deaths in the Philippines. Since then, Thailand's stance on cannabis has relaxed significantly. In 2016, the previous Justice Minister declared the war on drugs a failure, and recommended that the country should consider decriminalization and regulation as a more effective alternative.