An Expat’s Guide to Cannabis in Thailand

An Expat’s Guide to Cannabis in Thailand

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In Thailand, we call marijuana gan-chaa (กัญชา), derived from the original Sanskrit term ganja, a favored synonym for the Devil’s lettuce in many countries around the world and an easy one to remember. 

It is hard to believe that as this article in being published, Thailand has had legal weed for exactly eight days and yet there are already a few legal dispensaries open (and selling out of stock), there has already been a major 2-day weed-themed festival, and cafes, restaurants, and bars are already cashing in on the trend by selling THC-laden products along with more innocuous CBD and hemp offerings for various health benefits. Yes, you can get high legally in Thailand now but it is important to know the laws so you do not cross a line that could get you in trouble. 

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Timeline of Decriminalizing Cannabis in Thailand 

Mary Jane was first approved for medical use with a certificate back in 2018 and rumors quickly spread that full decriminalization would soon follow. 

On the 8th of May, 2022, in an unprecedented move, Anutin Charnvirakul, Thailand’s minister of health, announced that the government would distribute one million free cannabis plants to Thai citizens. People across the country signed up and received their baby plants to help them begin to grow and cultivate ganja at home for personal use. 

Two pre-rolled
Two pre-rolled joints, bought in Bangkok, Thailand after decriminalization.

Finally, on June 9th of 2022, marijuana leaves and flowers (of any potency) were completely removed from the narcotics list. 

Another step in the right direction happened almost immediately when Thailand announced they would release prisoners serving time for cannabis related offenses. Prisons were surveyed and viable candidates were elected. At the time of writing, 3,071 men and women were freed from behind bars. 

On the 17th of June, 2022, Thailand woke up to the news that a new law was to be passed which requires all companies selling cannabis must have a medical licence. The actual wording of the bill sets the 20-year age minimum for buying cannabis and states it is not for use by or sale to pregnant women. The bit about prescriptions went under under debate, but after a few days of panic, dispensaries went back to business as usual.

In some more surprising news, Airports of Thailand’s Security Department reported that there was no law against people of legal age flying domestically with cannabis. Though, we personally probably won’t be risking that situation any time soon.

At the time of writing, the Cannabis and Hemp Act of Thailand is still in draft form. As Thailand leans into this cash crop and tourism magnet, things can still change and new laws and restrictions might still come into play. Keep up to date on the current situation, that is your responsibility as a visitor in Thailand. 

Are You SURE Pot is Legal? 

Yes. We are sure. In the beginning, it was thought that there would be a tonne of loopholes for the police to bust you with your doobie. People predicted that the laws would lack transparency, that you would need permission, that it would only include low THC level cannabis-adjacent products. But, when the big day finally came, Thailand was shockingly transparent with the laws and they were far more favorable to stoners than people expected. But there are still limits. Be informed. 

Are You SURE these Laws Apply to Expats and Tourists? 

Yes. We are sure. You are subject to the exact same laws surrounding marijuana in Thailand as Thai citizens, with the exception of various restrictions about applying for import export licenses (see below). Be warned though, that you can’t just become a weed dealer. The regular laws that apply to your job in relation to the type of visa you hold still apply. If you work in Thailand, you must hold a legal Thai visa and work permit for the job you are doing. Please don’t think you can sling herb on the side of your English teaching gig. 

Why The Mixed Messages? 

Basically, the international media has gotten a lot wrong about the Thai laws. Many reputable sites have consistently said that the weed we are allowed to buy now is not potent, that it is low in THC and not the primo kush we were hoping for. The reality is that NO new law has yet been written. The only thing that happened is that cannabis was taken off the narcotics list. This means that things are still up in the air as the government eventually pases new bills to regulate its use. 

Weed brownie
Weed brownie on a Thai beach. But only if the THC is low or you could get into trouble.

People under the age of 20 are not allowed to buy or use it (same as alcohol in Thailand). Officially, extracts are STILL on the narcotics list, so they are still illegal. But weed itself; flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds have no restrictions at all on them. No one is yet regulating weed potency and you can easily buy very strong sticky icky all over the country right now. 

Learn The Laws

Don’t just believe us though, read for yourself and stay up to date on the changing situation. Here are the exact words according to Thai law at the time of writing.  

Laws About Category V Narcotics 

The most relevant law is the law which states what drugs are still “category 5” narcotics according to the Thai Ministry of Health. It is in Thai and the Thai wording is the only legal authority. But the gist of it is that extracts from all parts of cannabis or hemp plants are category 5 narcotic if they contain THC levels over 0.2% by weight. 

This means that extracts like oils, tinctures, and resins are totally illegal if they have pretty much any THC in them (remember that high-quality kush these days has up to 20% or even 30% THC). 

Non-potent CBD products are acceptable. Products which promote sound sleep and tout pain-relieving qualities are okay, but the law specifies domestic products only, meaning nothing imported is legal at all. Thailand wants the profits that come with legalized ganja to stay in Thailand. 

Laws About Edibles 

Sadly, the less-than-0.2-percent rule applies to edibles. The process of extracting the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) cannabinoids from the plant and infusing them into food and beverages qualifies as creating an extract. 

This seems to be a contradiction to what people in Thailand are seeing in the market right now. Everywhere you look, shops are popping up specializing in weed snacks, ads on our social media are trying to sell us cannabis candies, even chain restaurants are cashing in, serving ganja on their pizzas! So what is that about? 

Advertisement
Low THC products
Low THC products are legal in Thailand now. Eat responsibly.

Two options; most commonly they are selling hemp leaf products which contain little or no THC. These products are often just a gimmick, they won’t get you buzzed, and they have no medical benefit. Sticking a single leaf of a dope plant on a glazed donut is not going to do anything but ruin the taste of the donut. 

A second group of entrepreneurs are operating illegally in an area of Thai law that people are still trying to navigate and they are taking a risk in doing so. As Thailand figures out how this whole decriminalized 420 culture is going to play out in the long term, people are risking their livelihoods to meet the demand of their customers. If you purchase these extract products, you are also breaking the law.

Another factor standing in the way of the industry is the FDA in Thailand. The Food and Drug Administration must give approval of any product being consumed and they are not about to start handing out approval for potent weed products. This might change when the laws are more clear in the future, but for now any consumables with THC over 0.2% are illegal. 

Laws About Vaping

Also important to note that vaping is illegal in Thailand. And not just for the wacky tobacky. As vaping is a relatively new practice, the law which pertains to e-cigarettes is section 20 of the Customs Act of Thailand. It prohibits the importation of e-cigarettes and vapes, meaning if you are using one, you must have illegally imported it. If you are caught with one, the fine is up to 30,000 Baht and a possible jail sentence of up to 10 years. 

Vaping weed will give the police the opportunity to double down on your punishment. Illegal possession of mariguana extracts over 0.2% could be up to 5 years in prison and a fine up to 100,000 Baht. Please obey the Thai laws. 

Law Regarding Importation of Marijuana 

Section 26 of Chapter 2 of the Thailand Narcotics act of 1979 is still relevant to the importation of marijuana extracts. This law states that no person shall produce, dispose of, import, export or possess narcotics of category IV or category V. Please do not try to bring edibles, oils, or any other cannabis product into Thailand from abroad. 

There are certain conditions under which a Thai citizen can request a license to produce, import, export, dispose of, or possess narcotic substances under the category 5 narcotics list. But the licenses are tightly controlled and not a viable option for a foreigner in Thailand.

Laws About Growing Marijuana 

Thai authorities are encouraging people to grow their own plants at home, they are even giving them away to Thai citizens. Their official reason for doing this is to encourage people to use their homegrown marijuana for personal use to treat various health conditions. This is the official line, and this is why some people have been suspicious. Some of the things the government representatives have said publicly seem to condemn smoking for fun. 

Laws About Smoking Bud 

You can smoke weed in private places anywhere in Thailand. This means your home or designated spots like bars and cafes that have made a “private” space for smoking weed. BUT you may not smoke in public places. 

Smoke
Smoke a perfectly rolled legal doobie in Thailand, but only in private spaces, like your own garden.

While there is no official law about this right now, police are ready to implement the law of public nuisance to clamp down on public blazers. The fine for this crime is up to 25,000 baht and/or three months in jail. Even the famously diligent Thonglor police made a public statement that they would not bother people possessing, buying, or selling weed. Just be cool, man. Smoke inconspicuously. 

Laws About Medical Marijuana 

The FDA in Thailand approved all hospitals of the Public Health Ministry to prescribe medical marijuana. On top of this, at least 25 specialist cannabis clinics were set up in 2020 to treat people in Thailand. So, if you have one of the approved conditions such as chronic pain, migraines, or insomnia and you talk to your doctor, you could score all kinds of oils and products that are technically not available to the public. Just keep your medical marijuana card on you at all times. 

Laws About Driving or Riding Stoned 

Common sense should tell us not to go around operating heavy machinery, cars, motorcycles, or anything else while high. But people still do these things, so let us reiterate that just because you are allowed to be high DOES NOT mean that you are allowed to partake in reckless endangerment. Just because the Thai law specifically relating to weed and driving has not been written, does not mean it is legal. 

Other laws exist to cover your behavior if you are being irresponsible. Section 43 of the Land Traffic Act of 1979 states that a driver can’t operate a vehicle if they are incompetent to drive or if they drive with carelessness or recklessness. Just don’t imbibe and drive. 

The Good Stuff – Where Do We Get It? 

Okay, now that you are all brushed up on what you can and can’t do, how do you get your hands on some of that rockin’ reefer? 

There are new shops popping up every minute in Thailand. There are several major dispensaries in Bangkok and just today there was a pop-up shop in the Market Village Huahin Mall on the ground floor, right there between Stabucks and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels were a dozen huge jars full of dank nuggets being openly sniffed and sold with names like Sky Walker, Godfather, Kalifah Kush, and Mobi Dick. 

Weed sellers
Weed sellers at a pop-up in a Hua Hin mall Thailand six days after decriminalization.

As the need for weed grows in popularity, our friends over at the Thai Weed Guide have created an awesome website with an evolving list of shops and suppliers for your convenience.

Other than in person shops, there are also a whole bunch of Line and Facebook shops for you to choose from, though we can’t speak to the legalities of these shops, whether they are licensed businesses or just people selling on the side is unknown, but until the laws are rewritten no one seems to care. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon as fast as they can. 

Shops & Dispensaries 

Here are a few places you can shop in-person for all of your weedy needs: 

Online Shops 

Here are a few options for those lazy days when you need your high delivered: 

  • Candy After Dark is happy to send their kushy products right to your home with free delivery if you live near Chiang Mai.
  • Line Shopping. If you have a Line account (everyone in Thailand should) then you can simply put key words like “kush” into the search bar and get excited by the amazing selection of choice. 
Line Shopping
Line Shopping is a platform many weed suppliers are using in Thailand right now.

Strains, Varieties, Potency, and Prices 

Cannabaceae is the family of plants, then cannabis indica and cannabis sativa are the two main subspecies of plants, hybrid is named as such because it is a new strain created by combining both indica and sativa. These are the three main cannabis strains available in Thailand. 

In general indica is said to give a more relaxed and mellow effect, and sativa is said to be more energizing for daytime use with hybrid types being anywhere in the middle. 

The thing is, these plants have been subject to so much crossbreeding, cultivation techniques and hybridization that the lines are becoming less clear. Cannabis experts are starting to see no difference between some strains and naming new varieties is becoming a bit of a branding exercise more than anything else. 

Cherry Bomb
A single gram bud of hybrid called Cherry Bomb bought in Bangkok after decriminalization.

The names of varieties are endless and reading them can sound like the menu for a delicious ice cream shop: Bubblegum, Orange Cream, Cherry Bomb, Girl Scout Cookies, Grape Diamond, Gelato, Truffletini, Mandarin Cookies, Sage n’ Sour, and Strawberry Banana Cream just for a few examples. There are at least 700 of them around the world. Each one has been created to give the user slightly different experiences.  

There is no real way to know how weed will affect you, your mood and surroundings as well as what else you have consumed, and even the people near you will affect your experience, someone might feel sleepy on sleepy on sativa, another might feel energized on indica, the best way to figure out what you like is to try a bit for yourself. 

In Thailand, quality buds are going for 400 THB to 650 THB per gram on average, and you certainly get what you pay for when it comes to the ganja. 

Now, on to You

This is just the beginning for cannabis in Thailand. The news is changing daily, people are very excited and some are getting a bit carried away. When you suddenly remove all restrictions in a country that has had very strict drug laws for an eternity, there is going to be a settling-in phase. 

As the first couple of days of decriminalization passed, Thailand saw kids who ate too many edibles freaking out and checking themselves into hospitals, scaremongering began, rumors of immediate restrictions being enforced popped up in the news and were refuted hours later by someone higher up. This is normal, and we will still have to wait and see where Thailand will land when all the new laws are in place. 

But for now, as of mid June 2022, you can come to Thailand, blaze up a jazz cigarette, rip bongs, pass the dutch, and enjoy your 420 moment… or should we rephrase “420” to better represent Thailand’s special day? Yes! Henceforth, “96ing” is the new euphemism for the good herb in The Land of Smiles!  

Phoebe has traveled throughout Asia for twenty years and spent more than ten years in China. She is an accomplished writer, artist, and photographer. She is now based in Thailand where she spends her time painting, writing, designing, hanging out with fish, and taking photos of stuff.

2 thoughts on “An Expat’s Guide to Cannabis in Thailand”

    • Haha! Thanks!

      Thailand is having so much fun, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to fit as many ridiculous euphemisms in there as possible. I’m also personally a big fan of the term “Devil’s Lettuce”.

      Go get you some of that sticky icky, friend!

      Reply

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