Thailand Legalizes Medical Marijuana and Kratom
In an unexpected move, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly recently voted to approve the use of marijuana and kratom for medicinal purposes. Lawmakers are dubbing the vote a ‘New Year’s gift’ to the people of Thailand, after public hearings showed overwhelming support for the amendment.
Harsh Drug Laws: Some Stay, Some Go
Thailand and neighboring countries in Southeast Asia have had notoriously strict drug laws for decades, which makes today’s decision a surprising one. Southeast Asian countries are known for doling out extreme punishments for drug offences, and that’s not entirely going away. Recreational use of marijuana and kratom is still strictly prohibited, and trafficking these plants or possessing quantities that are too large will still carry heavy jail sentences, or even the death penalty, both in Thailand and surrounding countries.
Nevertheless, lifting restrictions on medical marijuana and kratom is still a huge ‘win’ for Thailand. In order to be compliant, those interested in growing and selling medical marijuana or kratom must obtain a license to handle the plants, and people patients must obtain a prescription for medical purposes.
The amendment to Thailand’s Narcotics Act passed without a hitch, with 166 ‘yes’ votes, 0 ‘no’, and 13 abstaining. Despite the huge success, the amendment won’t officially become law until it’s printed in the Royal Thai Government Gazette, which could take several months.
Making medical marijuana and kratom legal will also open doors for research into the two substances, another promising part of the new amendment. It’s not entirely clear who all will qualify to produce the plants, and who will qualify to import, export, or prescribe them, although the National Legislative Assembly has stated that doctors, medical professionals, and a wide variety of government bureaus, organizations, and ministries all qualify. We’re not sure, but it’s possible this may be clarified once the amendment is printed in the Royal Gazette.
The laws surrounding drug offenses are still extremely strict in Thailand and surrounding Southeast Asian countries, however, this is a huge step forward for drug law reform, and it seems to be a promising sign of shifting ideas among Thai people.