This year, Thailand became the first country in Asia—and only the third in the world—to legalize cannabis nationwide. Despite a patchwork of confusing laws, shops selling weed, hashish, and gummies have proliferated. Even our 7-Elevens sell drinks and beauty products infused with some form of cannabis. But the cannabis business in Thailand has a “Wild West” air hanging around it, and its promise as a valuable cash crop for the country is still materializing, even though Global Cannabis Report has projected it will be a $1.2 billion market within a few years.
In Thailand, cannabis flowers can contain unlimited quantities of THC, but public recreational use is not legal—punishable by fines and potential imprisonment—and therefore cannabis tourism is indirectly discouraged by the government. Laws in surrounding markets, which can result in serious charges for tourists who return from Thailand with traces of cannabis in their systems, are intimidating. Meanwhile, any form extract or consumer products like topicals and edibles can contain only a token 0.2% THC.
Thailand’s cannabis laws can whiplash from one end to another. In July, a government official ordered that dispensaries were illegal. Arrest orders were rescinded almost immediately, though, when a health official acknowledged that proper permitting did not yet exist and it was still impossible to prosecute supposed wrongdoers. The ambiguity around the specifics of legal cannabis selling and use pose challenges to major Thai enterprises and smaller proprietors alike, albeit ongoing attempts to impose suitable laws and regulations by the government and FDA.
What’s needed and what’s next? For Eastern Spectrum Group to thrive as a business, we are taking new steps for our own business while advocating for further actions by the Thailand government. These include:
- Diversifying our own offerings from B2B to B2C products, to spur local market interest with high quality and meaningful Cannabis-derived products, whilst continuing to structure our farming business as a cooperative in which local farmers can participate and from which they can learn and profit.
- Calling for a well-regulated and standardized Thai cannabis industry with a consistent and well-defined legal framework.
- Making information readily available to protect tourists from unintentionally breaking Thai laws—or falling afoul of the laws in other countries when traveling on from Thailand.
While the Thai cannabis industry is emerging in fits and starts, it is essential that clear regulation be brought to it for the sake of its potential to contribute to the Thai economy in a long-term and sustainable manner.