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Thailand Continues to Set the Pace for Cannabis Reform in Asia

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In 2018, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize medical marijuana. Now, Thailand has become the first Asian nation to decriminalize recreational use. 

Locally known as “ganja”, Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration announced a proposal to remove ganja from the list of controlled drugs. Additionally, Anutin Charnvirakul, Thailand’s Health Minister announced that their narcotics agency has approved and will help the removal of cannabis from the list of controlled drugs. 

Why is Thailand leading the way… and what does it mean for the rest of Asia? That’s what this article explores. 

Thailand’s New Cannabis Regulations

Thais, under the new regulation, will be able to grow ganja plants at home for personal use, they just need to let local authorities know. Cannabis grown for commercial reasons, on the other hand, will need additional permits

With the exception of seeds and flowers, most elements of the cannabis plant were removed from the Category 5 list of restricted substances back in 2020. However, Thailand’s proposal from the FDA now automatically eliminates all sections of the plant from the list, making all of the cannabis plants legal in Thailand. 

The regulatory framework will not allow THC extracts exceeding 0.2% in the public. This provision confused a lot of local ganja-preneurs but as Forbes Magazine explains, for these regulations “extracts” refer to cannabis derivatives that are made from specific methods such as hashish, and THC concentrates. 

Asia’s Cannabis Industry

While the new regulations are coming to pass, Thailand’s Ministry of Health will be introducing another draft bill to regulate many aspects of their ganja industry including commercial use and production. This will help satisfy cannabis consumers in Thailand, which is actually the country with the highest reported use. 

Interestingly enough, while Asia is the world’s most populous region, it’s estimated only 2% of the population currently consume ganja. This is still enough for some serious revenue. In 2021, the medical cannabis market in Asia was valued at $3.75 billion dollars. 

However, it’s estimated that the 85 million people that makeup Asia, will begin to try marijuana either medically, or recreationally as the area begins to soften its opinions on cannabis. Current producers and investors in the industry expect the cannabis market to make $5.8 US billion by 2024. 

Additionally, R&D activities are increasing in the region, especially in the medical sector. In 2018, for example, the Australian government allowed manufacturers to market and ship to a few countries. Some Asian countries were excited to get in on this for their medicinal customers. The region’s doctors and scientists are interested now in clinical studies, particularly cancer treatments.

The rising aging population of Asia is also starting to demand treatments for managing pain, often present in seniors with arthritis and other chronic pain.

The Asia Pacific (APAC) regions are being carefully watched by governments, investors, producers – everybody is interested in keeping an eye on cannabis use and growth in this region. While Thailand is leading the charge, market growth is significantly increasing due to the jump in cancers, arthritis, and other diseases. Specific regions to keep an eye on:

  • SOUTH KOREA is expected to become a top producer in the near future. The country has publicly attributed the industry’s growth to the constant increase in citizens with chronic diseases.
  • TAIWAN has also legalized medicinal ganja, thanks to the enormous amount of research and studies backing its use.
  • CHINA has strict regulations, even against medicinal marijuana. However, there is a current boom in concern for their aging population. Additionally, China produces CBD products, but strictly for export. It is not legal to grow, purchase or use THC or CBD in China. Funny enough, China is the world’s largest hemp producer though.
  • INDIA also has strict laws regarding usage and production, but that’s changing. Some regions in India have been awarded hemp cultivation licenses. Another good sign is that Ayurveda medicine, a tradition practiced for over 3000 years in India, and a couple of decades in North America, requires cannabis concentrates for complete whole-health success. 
  • JAPAN has a legal loophole that allows CBD in the country, much of the population turns to CBD for improved sleep and suppressing inflammation. The New York Times show’s us that Japan expects to make $800 million USD on CBD by 2024. Investors hope with this successful growth, Japan will be willing to open its door to the “green rush”, even if it’s strictly medicinal. 

A complete list of countries and their stance on marijuana is available here. As you can see the APAC region does have a lot of room for growth. While cannabis users across the continent are low, it is increasing. Additionally, the studies and research that is proving cannabis’ place in the medical community are starting to turn heads, with countries now investing their own time and money into learning more about medical marijuana. 

It’s a slow race, but at least there is progress and hope. There’s been a lot of talk about the EU softening its stance on Marijuana, with many countries including France, Spain, and Germany moving forward with legalization efforts. Of course, as always, BeardBros is keeping an eye on the APAC cannabis scene, you can count on us for timely updates and reliable information

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