Who's Next After Thailand? 

Liz Filmer
02 Feb 2023

Thailand legalised cannabis cultivation at home in 2022. Now it looks like other parts of Asia may also be starting to warm up to the idea. 

The Thai decision to dismiss cannabis from the narcotics control list primarily supported its medicinal use. However, it will inherently ease recreational consumption, which may boost the international tourist economy. 

The Thai business industry has not let the opportunity pass. For example, the renewable energy firm Gunkul Engineering committed $57.6 million to construct a cannabis farm and extraction facilities. Similarly, a wide variety of Cannabis snacks and drinks made by Bangkok-listed companies already pack the shelves of Thai supermarkets.

Japan is well known for having strict cannabis possession laws, but they do allow CBD. Japanese E-commerce company Rakuten and Pan Pacific International's Don Quijote supermarkets offer CBD oils and gummies.

South Korea has already legalised medicinal cannabis, being the first country to do so. Japan, Malaysia, and Taiwan are all now contemplating making similar moves. If the American market tells us anything about regulated pharmaceutical use, it is that it inevitably leaks into the recreation market and boosts overall demand.

When it comes to China, however, things are not so clear-cut. The country's complicated past links to its experience with opium, which is associated with imperialism. In contrast, though, the cannabis plant grows naturally in the province of Yunnan. China is also the home of roughly 70% of the world's hemp fibre production.

Extraction of full-spectrum hemp oil, which contains CBD, is legal for export under tight scrutiny. Given the very conservative attitudes in Beijing, recreational and medical use of weed will likely transpire in neighbouring countries but not in China itself.

Weed enthusiasts have lots to be enthusiastic about, though. Lead analysts at Prohibition Partners have estimated that the Asian market will grow at least ten times to roughly $120 million by 2026. Of course, that may only be a tiny sliver of the $100 billion industry that cannabis is evolving into, but it's a positive start. Cannabis in Asia will indeed be a slow burner. Still, like everywhere else, it's expected that things will have to change eventually if Asia wants to keep up with the other big economic powers.

Liz Filmer