You are here
Home > News > Cannabis Legalization Criticized in Thailand as Too Much, Too Soon

Cannabis Legalization Criticized in Thailand as Too Much, Too Soon

One thing is true about cannabis legalization no matter where it happens: Nobody gets it right the first time around—and there are always lots of critics. In every state that has legalized cannabis, this is true. Canada has the same situation. It will almost certainly be the case in Europe, although legislators here are cautious to back most forward moves on the legalization front into “trials.” This is also now being seen in Asia as Thailand becomes the first country in the region to legalize the plant and proceeds with crafting formal legislation to regulate the burgeoning domestic cannabis industry.

Although Thailand is internationally recognized as being the first Asian nation to adopt cannabis reforms, some critics are pointing out that the policies have been criticized domestically and with flawed logic elsewhere.

Two key points of contention are. The first is that critics are lambasting the government decision to move ahead with cannabis reform at all—albeit of the medical kind. Second, the government should have acted more slowly to study the implications of legalization and close loopholes.

One of the most public consequences of the country’s moves to legalize cannabis this year, beyond the global publicity Thailand received for giving away one million cannabis plants or releasing its cannabis prisoners, is to launch a public relations campaign warning tourists that cannabis is not broadly legal in the country.

This is before the official bill for legalizing medical use was formally adopted into law.

Buyer’s Remorse in Thailand?

While Thailand might be approaching reform differently to Western countries, the arguments in favor of reform are remarkably the same, regardless of where they take place.

First, and most importantly, it comes from established doctors. Despite the government’s assurances that they are implementing medical not recreational use reforms, Thai doctors have raised concerns familiar elsewhere. Namely that cannabis supposedly can “trigger” mental health issues. It is ironic, given the rich history of this plant. As in many other countries, Thailand has used cannabis for medical and religious reasons.

A second round of criticism comes from those who worry that changes in law may damage Thai agricultural exports. This includes whether the biomass could be used for animal feed. This attack is ironic in a lot of ways. A recent Thai study suggests that chickens raised on hemp with 0.4% THC may not need as many antibiotics, if any.

Global Stigma Remains

Despite the progress made in cannabis reform over the past decade, situations such as the one in Thailand are stark reminders about how far we still have to go in legalization efforts.

The positive news is that Thailand’s sudden change of heart towards cannabis is already prompting other countries in the region (such as Indonesia) to re-examine their own approach to cannabis.

Thailand’s green conversion, in other words, is particularly disruptive in a region that so far has resisted modern cannabis reform, and further still has some of the harshest anti-cannabis laws on the books anywhere in the world. In many parts of Asia, one can still receive a life sentence if not the death penalty for “crimes” that are considered relatively minor cannabis infractions elsewhere.

China, the world’s largest hemp producer, will monitor all developments. China is still lobbying against the U.N. removing cannabis from Schedule I. Even possession of unapproved hemp seeds at home is a crime.

The remarkable achievements in Thailand and the unusual approach to reform implementation seen in Thailand are just two more signs that the cannabis revolution continues, regardless of any criticisms.