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First in Asia: As Thailand Legalizes Cannabis for Wellness, the Big Players Step Up

Companies dive in as nation green lights use for health and rewrites the book on cannabis as a crime – but don’t light up.

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The legalization of cannabis in Thailand on June 9 was ushered in by a World Cannabis Day 420 event in Bangkok, where companies displayed their products and plans for expanding Thailand cannabis market. PHOTO GLOBAL CANNABIS TIMES

Until today, the possession of marijuana in Thailand would have been punishable by a prison sentence of up to 15 years. But on June 9, that changed when the Thai Ministry of Public Health declassified cannabis as a schedule 5 narcotic. Now, Thailand’s government and its leading companies are showing themselves eager to embrace cannabis and CBD as part of Thailand’s future.

Thai officials were quick to point out, however, that the county has no plans to turn itself into the Amsterdam of the east. The recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in Thailand. Trekkers fired up over the plants’ decriminalization should know smoking cannabis in public remains punishable by up to three months in jail and an US$800 fine. Also, don’t pack that vape, as cannabis extracts with a THC content over .2% remain on Thailand narcotics list and subject to pertaining laws.

“It’s a ‘no,'” Thai deputy prime minister and public health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, told CNN. “If [tourists] come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it’s not an issue, but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal … to smoke joints freely, that’s wrong.”

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The public smoking of cannabis is especially frowned upon as a public nuisance and potential health risk, which the health minister made clear is still a guarded area of concern. The government  will also be monitoring possible cannabis-related psychiatric cases and cannabis-related road accidents. According to the Bangkok Post, a bill currently before the Thai parliament plans to ban the sale of cannabis those under the age of 20.

Attendees at World Cannabis Day 420 in Bangkok, Thailand view a display from 88 Canna Tek, an initiative for the commercial development and investment in industrial hemp and medical cannabis. PHOTO GLOBAL CANNABIS TIMES

Freed by cannabis’ new status

Still, the delisting of cannabis is a sweeping change for the legal outlook of cannabis in Southeast Asia. That change was most importantly marked today by Thailand’s freeing of more than 4,000 cannabis prisoners. Inmates in jail for cannabis charges, or held on hemp-related offenses, were unconditionally set free on June 9. Following their release, all criminal records will be expunged. The act of leniency all stemming from a simple sweep of the pen, and the delisting the cannabis plant as a narcotic.

Under decriminalization, it is no longer a crime to grow and sell marijuana and hemp products, or use any part of the plant for wellness, although the .2% THC cap remains on all goods — essentially limiting sale to non-psychoactive CBD. A government license is not required for small operators, but large businesses must register with the Ministry of Public Health. Thais can grow up to six plants at home for medical and health reasons, according to news service Reuters, but they must first register via a government app called PlookGanja or “grow ganja.” The multitude of Bangkok’s cafes and restaurants can now freely serve cannabis-infused food and wellness drinks, as well as add it delicious leaves to its famed repertoire of cuisines.

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Companies eager to enter CBD market

Thailand’s government and industries appear steadfast in their commitment to the cannabis plant and low-THC extracts as a home-grown product. The Thai government estimates the nation’s annual cannabis market will be worth US$2 billion by 2024. Cannabis expos like World Cannabis Day 420, hosted by CISW Internationals, are popping up to attract investors and newcomers. Some of the country’s largest businesses are already investing heavily into cannabis production.

According to Nikkei Asia, the largest, Charoen Pokphand Group, a Thai conglomerate based in Bangkok with multiple holdings in Thailand and China, has entered into a joint venture to produce CBD-infused food and drinks through its food and beverage arm, Charoen Pokphand Foods.  CPF is the world’s largest producer of feed and shrimp and a global top three producer of meat and agricultural products. It also operates the over 12,000 7-Eleven stores dotted across Thailand, second only in number to Japan’s 20,000 stores. CPF will join renewable energy developer Gunkul Engineering in hemp cultivation and extraction efforts. CPF will utilize its vast distribution chain retailing its CBD products.

A selection of cannabis-infused honey from Chalawan Hemp of Thailand is among the products now on shelves in the Kingdom. PHOTO GLOBAL CANNABIS TIMES

Cannabis by the people, for the people

To foster cannabis as a resource for its people — to raise for their own use or sale to the government — Thailand plans to give away one million seedlings to eligible households and farmers in the country’s fertile northern regions. The government has set up a ministry to educate on cannabis health and entering cannabis commerce. The recreational use of cannabis will not be covered as part of the program.

The Thai Food and Drug Administration lists 1,181 herbal products and traditional medicines that use cannabis. Ironically, though hemp has reportedly been used by Thai midwives for centuries to aid in labor pains, the same bill which would raise purchasing cannabis to age 20 also seeks to prohibit the sale of cannabis to pregnant women.

Brad Cheng is the digital editor of Global Cannabis Times, produced by SmartWork Media. Brad's journalism career spans working as an editor for PR Newswire, The Nation and The Santa Barbara News Press, and as Managing Editor of The Katy Courier, and publisher of Now This in Princeton. His career as a screenwriter took him into entertainment advertising, writing major film campaigns for studios and for HBO.

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