In Thailand, the seeds of a cannabis awakening are beginning to grow as restrictions on the plant lessen. While the country has been one of America's biggest allies when it comes to the War on Drugs, the conservative military-run nation is beginning to peel back the harsh anti-pot laws and opening the doors to medical research. Thailand has a long history with the plant, where the words “bong” and “ganja” originated, which is also very much intertwined with our own American history with the plant. In December, it became the first country in Asia to legalize medical marijuana. Citing the success of the western push to legalize cannabis both monetary and medically, Thailand is currently in a race with Malaysia to become the center of marijuana in Asia.
What is Thailand Doing?
While steps are being made toward legalization, they are baby steps. Almost every country in Asia has been firmly against cannabis for decades, with many countries following the lead set by America for the War on Drugs. Being caught with the drug can mean a hefty fine or serious jail time depending on the amount. Thailand has walked toe to toe with America in the War on Drugs, with the country having the largest prison system in the region, and 70 percent of the inmates jailed on drug crimes. While methamphetamines are seen as the biggest problem in the country, ganja smokers are considered to be cut from the same cloth. The official word for marijuana in the region is “ganja,” where it is a class 5 drug, which is the most severe ranking in the country. In Thailand, not only are police allowed to stop and search anyone, but they can also “force people to pee in cups, right on the street, and test their urine for drugs,” according to Public Radio International.
Will Recreational Cannabis Come to Thailand?
In July, an even bigger push was made with the introduction of a bill that would allow citizens to grow their own plants and begin setting up a recreational market. While it will most likely be a few more years before a full recreational system will be put into place, the enthusiasm behind the plant is growing. At the time, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha set out the ground work to begin looking more into the issue, which has become a top priority for the Bhumjaithai party, one of the biggest parties in the country’s 19-party coalition.
Source: Wikipedia Commons
What About The Rest of Asia?
Most of Asia has a relatively harsh stance against the drug, with some countries having death penalties if caught. One of those countries, Malaysia, downgraded the punishment for being caught with the drug last year and have quietly moved toward enacting their own cannabis programs in the country. China, South Korea and the Philippines have also made baby steps toward a more marijuana friendly world recently, with the countries beginning to look into more research and medical programs. While the driving factor for many of the countries may well be profit, the lesser restrictions and punishments for marijuana are a sign of the times.