Cannabis in Thailand – Laws, Use, and History

Thailand is known for its tough drug laws. Recreational use of cannabis is illegal, and the punishment is a prison sentence or significant fine. Likewise, CBD is also illegal. However, the Thai landrace cannabis strains are famous around the world, as are ‘Thai sticks’. It’s not surprising, given that the plant has been cultivated here for centuries.

Cannabis laws in Thailand

Can you possess and use cannabis in Thailand?

It is illegal to possess or smoke cannabis in Thailand. It is defined as a category 5 narcotic (under The Narcotics Act) and the penalty for being caught with the substance can be severe. If found with cannabis for the purpose of distributing to others, the punishment is two to 10 years in prison or a fine of 40,000 to 200,000 Baht. The punishment is increased to 15 years’ imprisonment or 200,000 to 1,500,000 Baht if the quantity of cannabis is over 10 kilograms.

If the cannabis is for personal use only, then the prison sentence is limited to five years or less. The fine is likewise limited to a maximum of 100,000 Baht. And, if caught smoking or consuming cannabis, the prison term is a maximum of one year, and the fine between 100,000 to 1,000,000 Baht.

The Narcotics Control Board (NCB) is responsible for preventing and suppressing illegal cannabis use in Thailand. The police have the right to enter and search any home without a warrant (if they have reasonable grounds to believe narcotics are inside). They can also legally search any person or vehicle, and seize any cannabis that they find.

Under the Criminal Procedure Code, the police can also make inquiries if they believe you’re involved in narcotics-related offences, and can summon you to any government agency for further investigation.

Can you sell cannabis in Thailand?

It is also illegal to sell or supply cannabis in Thailand. As with possession, the law is severe in terms of punishment. If you are caught producing, importing or exporting cannabis, you can be sentenced to two to fifteen years in prison, and given a fine of 200,000 to 1,500,000 Baht.

The police have the right to seize all equipment and machinery used in relation to the production or distribution of cannabis. They may also confiscate any proceeds generated from the sale of the cannabis.

Even if you’re not a Thai national, you can still be prosecuted.

Can you grow cannabis in Thailand?

Thailand has been issuing special permits for hemp production since 2014. In 2016, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly approved plans to permit the larger-scale cultivation of hemp. The pilot scheme was limited to six provinces in the north, and its focus was to further explore cannabis’s benefits for medical purposes. Any cannabis produced must not contain more than 1% THC (the component that is responsible for giving the ‘high’).

It is illegal to grow cannabis plants at home, even if the plants are for personal or medical use. If caught by the police, the offender can be sentenced to imprisonment and given a significant fine.

Many countries around the world have a lenient approach to the sale and consumption of CBD. Thailand has taken a tougher stance. It doesn’t classify CBD as being separate from THC, and as such, it is illegal to buy or sell.

However, in 2018, cannabis was legalised for medical use. This means that, from April 2019, CBD may be prescribed for certain health conditions. It may also be brought into the country, provided the user has a permit from the Food and Drug Administration.

Can cannabis seeds be sent to Thailand?

Under the Narcotics Act, the sale or possession of cannabis seeds is illegal. This means that they cannot be purchased in Thailand, nor can they be mailed through the post from another country.

Medicinal cannabis in Thailand

In December 2018, Thailand’s government unanimously approved the use of cannabis for medical purposes. This makes Thailand the first country in South-East Asia to do so. At the National Legislative Assembly, 166 members voted in favour of the amendment to the law, with only 13 members abstaining. No-one voted against.

Although the bill has now been passed in government, it still requires approval from King Maha Vajiralongkorn in order to go ahead. Lawmaker Somchai Sawangkarn commented that the amendment to the law “could be considered as a New Year gift to Thais.”

So far, the government has approved cannabis treatment for three health conditions. These are: nausea and loss of appetite suffered by cancer patients, child epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board will be working closely with the FDA in the US to regulate their cannabis-based research. This means there is also a chance that some FDA-approved medical products will be available in Thailand.

Can you receive cannabis on prescription in Thailand?

The new medical cannabis laws (which at the time of writing, still require approval from the king), specify that patients will be able to obtain medical cannabis products, providing they have a prescription or recognised certificate.

Licences for the cultivation, production and sale of these medications will be strictly controlled. At present, it’s difficult to say how readily available the treatment will be in practice.

Industrial hemp in Thailand

Industrial hemp can be used for a wide variety of purposes; from making fabric and building materials, to medicine and food products. In 2014, the Thai government issued a few permits, allowing the cultivation of hemp in certain parts of the country; then in 2016, a larger pilot scheme was launched, permitting hemp farming in six northern provinces.

In January 2018, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health created a new regulation regarding the entire country’s production, distribution or possession of hemp. The regulation permits hemp cultivation, but only after the farmer has received a licence from the authorities.

To comply with the law, the hemp must contain no more than 1% THC. It can only be grown in designated areas and the seeds must be sourced from producers carrying a valid hemp-harvesting licence.

Once the hemp farmer has a licence, they may grow, harvest or convert hemp for:

  • Household use
  • Commercial use
  • Research
  • Producing / distributing seeds or other parts of the plant (as permitted by the Narcotics Control Committee)
  • Other benefits, as outlined by the Narcotics Control Committee

Thailand’s political stance on cannabis

Since the Narcotics Act was passed in 1979, Thailand’s political attitudes towards cannabis have been extremely conservative. In 2003, as part of the Thai’ government’s ‘war on drugs’, 2,800 extrajudicial killings took place; executing offenders for ‘drugs-related crimes’. It was later found that over half of those killed had no connection to drugs at all. Additionally, thousands of people were forced into a brutal ‘treatment’ regime for addiction.

Two years after this, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended a series of investigations into drugs sentencing in the country. In response, the Thai government stated that every unnatural death would be thoroughly examined in accordance with the law.

Despite these tough laws, the country’s politicians are increasingly adopting a more lenient stance.

In 2016, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya suggested that the government decriminalised and regulated cannabis. He stated that his opinion was based on the observation that the country’s strict laws were failing to control the substance’s use.

Historically, Thailand has long been influenced by the US’s approach to drug control. Laws are becoming more lenient in the States, and it seems that Thailand may adopt a similar approach.

Good to know

If you are travelling to Thailand (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:

  • Since the Thai government announced the legalisation of medical cannabis, companies from around the world are looking to enter the country’s market. These include Otsuka Pharmaceuticals from Japan and GW Pharmaceuticals from the UK.
  • Prior to being banned in the 1930s, cannabis was widely used by the Thai population as a muscle relaxant.
  • The word ‘bong’ (which refers to a water pipe used to smoke cannabis) originally comes from the Thai language.

Thai cannabis history

The people of Thailand have historically used cannabis for centuries. Farmers consumed it to ease their aches after a day spent working the fields, and women used it to ease labour pains during childbirth.

The Narcotics Law (1979) and the Psychotropics Substances Act (1975) criminalised the sale, possession and cultivation of cannabis. However, in the 1960s, when US military bases were established in the country, the illegal cannabis industry flourished.

American GIs reported that cannabis was as widely available in Thailand as beer, despite being illegal. In the 1970s and 80s, the trade of the drug supported some of the country’s poorest regions.

In the 1980s, the US government convinced Thailand to join with them in a war against cannabis. This involved the interception of thousands of pounds of Thai cannabis, which was being shipped to the US. The collaboration with the States marked a new phase in Thai’s cannabis history; a strong, anti-drugs stance, combined with stiff penalties for those that flouted the laws.

The government’s recent decision to legalise cannabis for medical use indicates another shift in attitude – perhaps back to the pre-1900s, when its reported health benefits were widely acknowledged by the Thai people.

Thai cannabis – what’s it like?

Thai cannabis, which is a pure sativa landrace, is well-known for its speedy, cerebral high, a result of its high THC content and relatively low CBD/CBN. It features wispy hairs, like a dandelion, and its leaves grow in clusters, which are usually green and brown. Another identifiable feature is its citrus scent, and the ‘high’ it produces is described as lighter than other forms of cannabis.

Thai cannabis plants can grow to incredible sizes, and often begin to trail along the ground as the weight of the buds become too great for the branches to support. In fact, some varieties may even begin to exhibit root sites along the parts of the branches that remain in contact with the ground—this proclivity has encouraged some breeders to experiment with true-breeding “vine” varieties, although with limited success.

Some Thai cannabis varieties take as long as twenty weeks to flower, due to the lack of temperature and light variation between seasons. This is a phenomenon that often affects photoperiodism in cannabis in equatorial regions.

Thai landraces are often prone to hermaphroditism, a trait believed to be genetic rather than environmentally-induced. Some believe the extremely high temperatures in Thailand cause the phenomenon, but it also occurs in cooler grow-rooms, so a genetic influence seems more likely.  

Thai Sticks

Thai sticks are a famous form of cannabis that were popular in Thailand in the 1960s. These ‘sticks’ were bundles of buds taken from seedless cannabis, which were skewered on stems. Fibres from the plant were then used to hold the cannabis in place.

Known for their high potency (sometimes because they were also dipped in opium), they continued to be popular until the mid-1970s. When the US troops from the Vietnamese War returned to their home country, the popularity of Thai sticks dwindled.

Modern attitudes to cannabis

Cannabis is regarded by many in Thailand as a traditional medicine, which means it doesn’t have the same stigma as other drugs. However, all other forms of drugs are usually frowned upon and as such, punishments for all drug-related offences are harsh.

The government acknowledges that their approach isn’t achieving results. Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya observed that the ‘war on drugs’ didn’t seem to be successful and that a new approach might be necessary.  Thailand’s prisons are the sixth largest in the world in terms of population, with many being overcrowded. A high percentage of inmates are imprisoned for drug offences. Koomchaya suggested that changes were needed to address this problem, and that cannabis should be decriminalised as a result.

  • Disclaimer:
    While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Comments

47 thoughts on “Cannabis in Thailand – Laws, Use, and History”

  1. Yaspar Kyashred

    “The global clampdown on cannabis that only now appears to be relaxing its grip…” I guess you missed the news reports about how the Obama administration has increased prosecution and imprisonment of cannabis growers by ten times over the Bush Administration. (How’s that Hope and Change working out for ya, libs? LOL) Doubtless the evil government in Washington would like corner the market on cannabis production, so they can control the people by selling them stupifying indica, rather than the fantastic mind-expanding sativa you describe in your article. (By the way, I haven’t seen a Thai stick since 1976. I can taste it still!) Anyways, thanks for the interesting article.

    1. If you’re blind to the great progress Barack Obama brought about then you would seem to know very little about anything.

      1. Falang Thaistick

        The only thing the great divider Hussein did was set race relations back 50 yrs.

  2. When was this written? $20.00 US is about 660 BHT. I would advise extreme caution and trust the taxi guys. It work in other countries for me.

    1. agreed, re find a taxi driver. During the VN war if you stay at a hotel they were always pleased to provide trustworthy taxi drivers. For me it was Bighead, at the World Hotel in Bangkok

  3. Somebody know if I can order seeds to thailand , Sensi seeds ship to thailand ? its legal ?

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Smith,

      Unfortunately, Sensi Seeds does not ship to Thailand at this time as it is illegal. You can find more information about where we ship seeds and other items to here.

      Thanks for your interest!

  4. Hi, The Cannabis act in Thailand was enacted in 1934 (2477) not 1937, I’ve seen this mistake misprinted elsewhere too; fyi, 1937 was when the US enacted the Marijuana Tax Act, if I’m not mistaken. Anyway, in Thai (Buddhist) calendar, you subtract 543. Cheers.

  5. AlleyHashbar-God is High

    INteresting to see the same drug laws were enacted at the same time as in America. Crappy 1935 congress. Ahh yeah Thai Seed Shop where are you??? America is short on Thai seeds as we are subject to same minderape games of possesin and fines. Seriously….. where is the Purple Thai seeds??

    1. thai genetics exist in a much more manageable form in such hybrids as Blueberry, in fact much of DJ Short’s line of strains is based partly on Thai x Afghani hybrids.

  6. Erwin Alber

    Thank you for this Alan!

    I just came across this:

    Thai Cabinet approves hemp farming in Thailand in Secret. A crop worth its weight

    Do you know if hemp would grow between Pranburi and Hua Hin in Prachuap Khirikhan?

    I would also love to know where I can get some hemp seed from to try to grow a few plants.

    1. I would also like to find a source for seeds. I live in N. Thailand close to a couple of Hmong villages, but have been reluctant to approach them for hemp seeds. Good article above.

  7. This article and comments are clueless…what a waste of web space, seriously. The landraces that cone from Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam are all the same. The “Thai stick” is not a particular strain, it is simply a STYLE of wrapping the flowers around a stick with “good luck threads” blessed by a Buddhist monk…. I married a Thai national, AND lived in the heart of cannabis country in Nakhon Phanom, so i smoked these amazing strains daily… let me tell you, the potency is thru the roof, blows ALL strains that roll through the medical mj clubs of SoCal…and they are couch-locking as they are cerebral…US has a lot to learn about cannabis…check out Steep Hill labs, they say the same thing…no such thing as “indica” or “sativa”….only AMBER trichs and MYRCENE…. check it out…even better? GROW IT OUT

    1. Yes, NKP was boring. I was was BKK from ’65 to ’69. Guncha wasn’t cheap ,it was free. I would walk down the street and holler ” guncha” and all kinds of Thais would come running with bamboo water pipes.

  8. Hello!! I’m Thailand , I was living in Bangkok, Thailand. You’re right about this article , In the story that marijuana is the most wonderful , so-named for the tell-tale red thread which binds the buds together and has spawned Today, it is still widely used. You put them together to Thailand I will provide care for you. But you do not to speak loudly.
    I will teach you how to pass a marijuana bong bamboo In the traditional way

  9. I think hemp in Thailand would be great. I have several thousand rais ready to farm in the northeast region , but i able to contact any for help.

    Can you diret me to the proper agency, or someone who is interested in a massaive project please contact me.

    1. Hi BIGGS, i have also been interested for quite some time…but unable to find the needed info on how, where, who, etc. Just wondering whether you have found something since your comment…cheers

  10. Can anyone tell me if CBD (low or only trace amounts of THC) is legally available yet in Thailand?

    Google doesn’t seem to want to play when I search.

    Paul

  11. Mr. Youngtai Cho

    Dear Sir,

    Could you let me know where I can buy a pack(500 gr) of Hemp Seed.
    I need to buy it right a way. I am eating this hemp seed together with
    fresh milk as dinner on every evening in repalce of regular meal.
    I have checked it Bic-C, Rimping super market in Chiang Mai./
    I arrived at Chiang Mai for 2 month healing vacation, we are 80 years old couple.
    Thank in advanc for your help

    Yours Sincerely,

    Youngtai Cho

  12. Enjoyed the article. I am very grateful to the USA taxpayers for ensuring our ship and crew received two-weeks R&R in Thailand. Moored at Sattahip and took the taxi to Pattya Beach. Had a wonderful time, met wonderful people and reveled in the local culture and thoroughly enjoyed the dirt-cheap Thai stick and the Buddha Weed was an amazing experience. That visit was well-worth all the trials and tribulations we went through to be allotted that much R&R time.

  13. Please do inform me how a disabled chronically ill (ex-pat) ‘TBI’ sent here for their health condition can obtain some relief without exposing his/her freedom while residing in Thailand. Including full medical reports for the past 10 years + MRI’s.
    I’ve crossed swords with the mafia/police, and even with knowledge of ones condition the infantile uneducated race took pleasure in making ones life painful including hacking and shadowing, while they were moving and using ya-ba, cocaine and pot. Big difference between corrupt and non corrupt (family) police officers; the facts are very clear, political start “just say no” was one of the biggest hypocrites $. Something needs to turn the country around from complete disaster. An original thought perhaps?

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi there,

      I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to this question, but I will forward it to Alan.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  14. Alan Dronkers

    Dear readers,
    Hereby a little update. It has been decided here that first government related companies can start production of the crop. I understand that the Thai Tobacco Monopoly is one of the organisations that is looking into this. As far as genetics go, it is the seed (industrial low THC variety) from the royal Highland institute that will be allowed to use. At the same time possible tests of EU registered hemp varieties is also discussed here. I have not heard of public tours around hemp projects here in Thailand but there is many Hmong communities in the mountain areas that grow this crop traditionally. Thank you all for your comments!
    Greetings,

    Alan Dronkers

    1. Hi Alan Donkers, I am Dagta the founder of this underground movement here in the PH called HIBLA HempMovement

      I was just wondering if there are any possibilities for a fellow ASEAN-residing neighbor(PH) to fly to Thailand and grow Industrial hemp there as a ‘self-imposed exile’? I cant think of any better way to live my life, I just want to farm hemp, that is ALL. Please pm me if you have any leads or if you know of any farm looking for farmers to help out. I have no experience growing any Cannabis but Im fond of other vegetables and mushroom growing.. If you may check our page, all the original posts there are also authored by me..

      Please consider. Thank you!

      HEMP FOR VICTORY
      HEMP PARA SA TAGUMPAY

  15. I was over in SE Asia in 73 thru 75 one of the strongest strains I’ve experienced The other was Panama Red 1968 two deferent strains both equally strong Asian is more narcotic high and the Red is got to be the best.I it is the only cannabis that made me hallucinate. I grow Asian genetics Fromm Thailand and Vieitnam. I’m in heaven.

  16. Lawrence Westfall

    Was in Bangkok from 73-74 – there was NO red thread. Thai sticks were wrapped in threads from banana leaves. Cost was 10 cents per stick or $2.00 per brick – 20 sticks

  17. Is there any possibility for a fellow ASEAN-residing neighbor(PH) to fly to Thailand and grow Industrial hemp there as an ‘exile’? I cant think of any better way to live my life, I just want to farm hemp, please pm me if you have any leads or if you know of any farm looking for farmers to help out. thank you!

    1. Alan Dronkers

      Dear Dagta,
      As far as I understand there is only government companies at this point allowed to grow and process Cannabis and this is not yet happening also. So apart from seed development by the Highland institute we still have to wait for products for patients or industrial applications. I don’t expect at this point that this will develop in a very free market.
      Wish you success and good luck with everything at HIBLA and I hope people in the Philippines also will have access to Cannabis based medicines soon.

      Salamat

      Alan Dronkers

  18. I am from Malaysia. I been following industrial hemp news with keen interest quite sometime and grown a few plant at home but made the mistake of not keeping the seed to propagate it for continuation. Now that the govt have made it illegal to bring the hull hemp seed in for health market. I no longer able to grow it with the intention to work in liaison with a NGO hemptech malaysia to exchange data with a university.
    Is there a way I in which I can obtain some seed here in Thailand to make it possible for me to buy it.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi there,

      Thank you for your comment, I am sorry to hear about your situation. Unfortunately I do not know the answer to your question, perhaps one of our readers does? I wish you the best of luck with your projects!

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  19. Kelly Brown

    Can anyone help please as we are looking for companies and for hemp farmers as we are very fond of hemp clothing. We need a list of names and contact details off all Thai companies and farmers who are involved with hemp for fibre.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m afraid I don’t have the information that you are looking for, but perhaps one of our blog readers does? You could also try contacting the Hemp Industries Association (https://thehia.org/) as they have many international partner associations and may be able to help you. For hemp clothing generally, I do suggest you have a look at Hoodlamb and also THTC . I wish you all success with your project!

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  20. Dear Alan, dear Scarlet,

    could you let me know your source for that:
    “Since 2014, the Thai government has issued special permits allowing the cultivation of hemp.”

    All the information I find points toward 2016, when the government permitted hemp cultivation in six provinces.

    Thanks very much!
    Rosalie

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Rosalie,

      Thank you for your comment. I have reached out to Alan, who wrote this article, for a source. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

    2. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi again Rosalie,

      I have received a reply from Alan, in which he says that the first law change was in 2014 and it’s possible that the six provinces came in in 2016. I hope that this answers your question.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

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