Thailand wants to be the first Asian nation to legalize medical marijuana

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“Thailand has the best marijuana in the world.”

So claims Jet Sirathraanon, chairman of the country’s National Legislative Assembly’s standing committee of public health, who is pushing to legalize cannabis for medical use. A draft bill to permit medical marijuana had been sent to the legislative body, and will be reviewed within a month, reports the AFP.

According to Sirathraanon, Thailand has long sat by the sidelines as other countries such as Canada and Uruguay have cashed in on legalizing the drug. In 2017, the global medical marijuana market was estimated to have generated $11.8 billion in revenue.

Marijuana was once classified as a traditional herbal medicine in Thailand, with its use in medicine dating back to the 17th century. However, it was re-categorized as a class 5 narcotic under the 1979 Narcotic Drugs Act, which prohibited the production, consumption, sale, and possession of cannabis.

While weed has been outlawed in Thailand for nearly three decades, there may be some truth to Sirathraanon’s testament to its quality. He suggested that cannabis plants seem to flourish in the “Golden Triangle,” the area that borders Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar that has long been a hotbed for opium growing. As the Diplomat wrote in April:

The difference between Thai marijuana and most Vietnamese and Cambodian cannabis, was the difference between bathtub corn whiskey and single malt scotch. In 1967, one amazed DEA agent called it “the Cuban cigar of the marijuana world.”

Drug laws remain extremely stiff in most parts of Asia. In Singaporeand Malaysia, drug trafficking has carried the death penalty, while South Korea has made it illegal for its nationals to use weed abroad in jurisdictions where it’s legal. Thailand, however, has been moving in the opposite direction. Last year, Rangsit University founded a research team to study pot’s use in medicine, and secured permission from the country’s narcotics-control board to create a cannabis-extract spray for cancer patients. In April, the university’s rector called on Thailand’s military leaders to legalize medical marijuana.

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