What Led to the Cannabis Boom in Thailand?

Stephen Andrews
07 Jan 2023

Thailand has gone totally "baa her," or craaaazy, for Cannabis after the plant was removed from the banned narcotics list in 2022. It has been one of the highlights of the year. The policy change pushed Thailand early in the race to establish a cannabis marketplace in a region world-known for its harsh regulation of drugs.

Thailand has seen a thunderous boom in Cannabis since it "legalized" last summer. From hemp toothpaste, milk tea, soaps, snacks, and sauces, to traditional Thai dishes adorned with fan leaves, gummies infused with terpenes, and pre-rolled joints, it's all the working genius of small businesses. 

The Southeast Asian country removed Cannabis from the list of banned substances on June 9, 2022. The law originally intended to make it easier for growers and users of cannabis to access the plant for therapeutic or culinary benefits. Another highlight of the year was a one-million plant giveaway that authorities announced the month before the law switch. 

The adult use of cannabis or smoking for relaxation and the fun of it has technically remained illegal. The food and drug regulator only approves commercial goods that contain cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive cannabinoid usually extracted from hemp

Despite that, the recreational use of cannabis has also catapulted across the kingdom. The budding business has been armed with all kinds of flower, cookies, and canna drinks that authorities can do little about under current regulations. 

One of the reasons why there has been a cannabis boom in Thailand is that the kingdom has also been badly affected by the pandemic outbreak. Thailand has closed its borders to international tourists, practically ruining an industry that provides for one-fifth of jobs in the country.

Cannabis has emerged as a new source of income, especially among young people who've previously made a living in the tourism sector. It has been a new chance for them to earn a salary. 

Another contributing factor is that Thailand has a long history of using cannabis in traditional healing practice. It has been easier for people to innovate and develop new product ideas and businesses as they've already had some knowledge and grow wisdom passed down the generations. 

For example, the Channherb cannabis shop became famous after it rolled out a unique toothpaste that uses cannabis sativa seed oil rich in CBD as one of the ingredients. This toothpaste helps with gum care, receding gums, and gum infections. 

Another business, Kanomsiam, a dessert shop selling pandan-leaf flavored dishes, has begun to incorporate cannabis leaf to draw more customers. The shop owner says that the cannabis-spiced snacks help their customers sleep well. 

On the internet, #saikiew, or "green way of life," became a popular hashtag to promote various canna products or share tips on growing cannabis plants

Tens of thousands of small-scale farmers have registered to cultivate cannabis legally in Thailand over the recent months. Many more are believed to be trying to set up businesses with unregistered home farms. 

However, a question remains about how long it's all going to last.

Thailand's Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, has repeatedly said that the relaxation of the law was intended for medical purposes. A recreational market was not foreseen with the new cannabis legislation. The minister has been clear that only cannabis extracts or parts of the plant with under 0.2 percent of THC are legal to use in business. 

There are good chances that the Thai government soon adopts a bill that may curb, if not entirely ban, the recreational use of cannabis. And if anything like that happens, it might herald the end of Thailand's golden year of cannabis. 

Stephen Andrews