Thailand Becomes First Country in Asia to Decriminalize Marijuana

(BANGKOK) — Thailand on Tuesday became the first country in Asia to approve the de facto decriminalization of marijuana, though authorities have left a grey area around its recreational use.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced that the Narcotics Control Board had approved the dropping cannabis from the ministry’s list of controlled drugs.

The delisting by the ministry’s Food and Drug Administration will now need to be formally signed by the health minister and enters into effect 120 days after its publication in the government gazette. It follows the removal of cannabis — a plant species to which both marijuana and hemp belong — last month from the list of illegal drugs under Thailand’s Narcotics Law.
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The Associated Press contacted police and lawyers to determine if possessing marijuana will no longer constitute an offense that can lead to arrest. Because of the many laws that regulate marijuana production, possession and sale, recreational marijuana is still legal.

The Health Ministry measure retains on its list of controlled drugs parts from the cannabis plant that contain more than 0.2% by weight of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gives users a high.

Thailand was the first Asian nation in 2020 to make marijuana legal for medical purposes.

Under changes made in 2020, most parts of the cannabis plant were dropped from the “Category 5” list of controlled drugs, but seeds and buds, which are associated with recreational use, were retained. FDA is now removing all of the cannabis plant parts from this list.

Anutin is the health minister and was instrumental in decriminalizing cannabis. He is the leader of the Bhumjai Thai Party, a major partner in the country’s coalition government, and campaigned in the 2019 general election for legalization of marijuana production to aid farmers. This latest initiative is seen to help promote marijuana products in Thailand as a major business.

Anutin said last week that the FDA’s delisting “responds to the government’s urgent policy in developing marijuana and hemp for medical and health care benefits, developing technology and creating income for the public.”

His party declared that it would propose to Parliament Wednesday a draft Cannabis Act in order to clarify marijuana’s legal status.


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