As of 2019, Medical marijuana is legal in Thailand and the intention is for marijuana to be sold legally over-the-counter with a doctors’ prescription.
An overwhelming number of people have voiced support for decriminalizing the use of ganja (marijuana) for research and development for medical purpose, said Somchai Sawaengkarn, a member of the National Legislative Assembly, on Tuesday, based on the results of an opinion survey conducted during October 1-15.
Of the 16,431 people surveyed, 16,264 voted in support of the bid to amend the narcotics law to make it legally possible for ganja to be used for medical research in the hope that medicines can be developed from the addictive drug for the treatment of certain diseases. Of course!
Somchai said over 290,000 had logged into the NLA’s webpage to take a look at the bill to amend the narcotics law. He added that he and fellow assemblymen would hold another public hearing this month to gauge public opinions about ganja decriminalization for medical purpose.
With polls showing 72% of Thai people agreeing that marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes, senior officials are now urging the country’s rulers to hasten the process. Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board has suggested that Prajin Jantong, a Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, work on law clauses to make medical use of marijuana legal using Section 44 – which gives the head of government the ability to override existing legislation and issue new laws at will. Sopon Mekthon, former Health Ministry Permanent Secretary, says it would help a lot of people in need – extracts of cannabis oil can be made into various types of products to treat patients such as body lotions, suppositories, oil and other things. In the meantime, anyone who wishes to plant, sell, import or export marijuana for research or for medical purposes must file a petition with their reasons, the amount and other details to the Ministry of Public Health for approval. Otherwise, marijuana is classed as a category 5 drug and its use is forbidden.
Narcotics Control Board director Sirinya Sitdhichai said, “For medical purposes, they will be able to get the marijuana, but only on a doctor’s orders.” The drug laws were rewritten late last year and the revisions are on their way to the Cabinet. Nobody expects any opposition from lawmakers as interviews with the agencies involved, from public health to law enforcement, have found no public opposition. Officials are expressing a pragmatic approach to what would be the biggest leap toward decriminalization of drugs so far in a country whose policy long been incarceration and execution.
Just over a decade ago fugitive PM Shinawatra ordered summary executions of suspected drug offenders and killed 2,500 people. But the Justice Minister declared the war on drugs a failure in 2016 and said Thailand should embrace decriminalization and common-sense regulation.
As it is in most SE Asian countries, marijuana is still illegal in Thailand. Ironic, when you consider that Thai Stick is one of the most famous brands in the world, and that Thai farmers are among the most skilled. People who use it have told me that the stuff that’s available would be unsalable in California. Until pot is decriminalized, however, we tell our Retire In Thailand clients to either
- avoid using it altogether
- acquire it from a friend, and not a street dealer, or
- be prepared to pay a hefty bribe
- have the number of someone who can handle it for you on the spot.
The Thaksin Drug Drive: Some History
In 2003, then-Prime Minister, billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra declared war on drugs and open season on dealers, using bribes and threats to ensure that regional governors and police chiefs carried out the campaign. Officials who failed to meet their quotas faced dismissal and those who brought in a “major drug dealer”–dead or alive—received a million baht bounty. My friend Richard told me that among the dead was his Thai wife’s cousin, a poor young man who walked for three hours to Richard’s house to borrow 200 baht, then walked back to his village, where a drug raid was in progress. The police were frustrated that they could not find the people they were looking for so they shot the young man on the spot.
The three-month reign of terror left 2,274 people dead. The government and police implausibly ascribed the deaths to gangland feuding, insisting that only 42 drug suspects were shot by police officers—most of those in “self-defence”. In fact, the government openly encouraged the police to carry out extra-judicial killings so that the arbitrary goals of its “war on drugs” could be met on time.
Busted for Pot in Thailand
Here’s a recent letter to the editor that will give you an idea of how first-time farang marijuana offenders are treated in Thailand:
3 weeks ago, 7 policemen came in my house. Knock-knock-knock, “We have a problem with you sir, we know you use drugs, we were told you sell drugs also, are you a drug dealer?” They gave me a glass where I had to pee, in front of all my curious neighbors. I told them I never, ever sold any drugs in my life (the truth) and, fortunately, didn’t have any weed in my house at the time. I smoked my last joint 10 minutes before they arrived (lucky me) so I was very high at this time and was so scared I was shaking.
I was not sure if I could refuse the pee-pee test. Anyway I knew I was screwed so I resigned to my lot and made peepee in the glass. The test was finished 2 minutes after, and without any surprise I was 100% positive to ganja and negative to amphetamines.
I tried a few times to propose some money to them. I tried to speak with the boss of the police squad (in civil suits, unarmed, very polite men), as it’s well known the policemen (on my island at least) are very corrupt. But they refused and told me they didn’t want any money. (a few days later I learnt that the same story happened to some other farangs on the islands, they were tested positive to ganja/ice the same day, before me, and they were able to give them money to avoid any further problems: 50,000 baht each. So I guess their pockets were full already.
They didn’t have a search warrant, so they couldn’t check my house. But I told them they could search my house, only if only one policeman came in, and under my watch, because I was scared that if they all came in my house, they could easily put some drugs somewhere and then accuse me. They accepted my conditions, and the boss of the group searched my house and didn’t find anything. During the 30 minute search he told me that somebody called them and told them I was a dealer.
Then they took me in their car, to the hospital, and proceed to another ganja/amphetamine test. And I was still positive. Then they drove me in the police station, where I had to sign some papers. They asked me some questions about where I buy, who my are friends, etc. but I didn’t tell them interesting facts (in fact they knew already everything). A Thai friend was with me to translate everything and to try to calm me down. Basically, I signed papers admitting that my house was searched and they didn’t find anything and my pee tested positive.
Then they put me in jail, where I spent one night. They let me in with my cellphone, and always stayed polite with me. That was a long night and I couldn’t sleep more than a few hours, on the ground, as you guess.
The next day I was awakened and taken to the mainland in a court where I had to wait, handcuffed, a few hours for my case. I was with other men (all Thai) also waiting for their trial. The majority were ice smokers.
My trial last 2 minutes. The judge told me “Mister you smoke ganja? You are not a criminal, you are sick, and we will help you heal”. I was free to go, and 5 days later I had an appointment in a rehab hospital, where I had to talk for 3 hours with a psychologist who had to decide about my case: keep me in hospital? send me to jail? let me free under certain conditions? My pee was tested again and I was still 100% positive although, by then I hadn’t smoked weed for almost a week.
Yesterday I had another appointment, where I was told that I have to go in the rehab center every two weeks for 6 months and do 24 hours of community service. My pee was tested and I was negative, as I hadn’t smoked for almost a month. I was told that I cannot leave Thailand for six months, cannot miss any of the 12 appointments. I was told also that the next time I’m checked positive, I will be sent directly to jail. I feel very lucky to be free, not kicked out from Thailand, and I will never smoke again.