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Drug Research Studies

Thailand Legalizes Medical Marijuana & Kratom –

Medical marijuana and kratom became legal in
Thailand on
February 18 after the king signed a royal decree
doctors, patients, schools, farmers,
entrepreneurs and exporters to
cultivate, possess and
dispense both drugs.

The move raised hopes among many that
it paves the way for legalizing
recreational marijuana

King Maha Vajiralongkorn signed the medical law
February 18, two
months after the military government’s
parliament unanimously approved
it, a legislative
sequence required by the constitution.

The decree was
published, as required, in the Royal Gazette and said
Narcotics Act of 1979 was amended to make medical marijuana

Patients with prescriptions can receive medical
marijuana and kratom.
Farmers need a Narcotics Control
Board permit.

Recreational use of both drugs is still
illegal. Possession of illegal
cannabis is punishable by
up to 15 years in jail under the amended

Most of
Thailand’s medical marijuana and kratom is initially
to be imported from the U.S., Canada, Israel and
other nations which
have professional health standards
for drug manufacturing.

Commercial medical-grade marijuana
and kratom must be produced in
strictly controlled
facilities which cost millions of dollars to
staff and operate.

That makes it difficult for Thailand to
quickly produce enough medical
marijuana or kratom to
meet the needs of this country’s Thai and

Locally grown kratom plants are described as a
way to boost energy,
lessen pain and depression, and
possibly treat heroin addiction.

Every Thai adult could
earn $13,000 a year from six personal marijuana
plants if
the law is loosened to include recreational use,
to Anutin Charnvirakul, an ambitious politician
in next month’s House
and prime ministerial

Recreational marijuana would become Thailand’s
biggest cash crop, Mr.
Anutin said.

Predictions of big
money recently convinced coup-installed Prime
Prayuth Chan-ocha to fast-track legalization for
and kratom — initially for medical use only —
a move popular among

An election on March 24
for a new House of Representatives could
result in Mr.
Prayuth extending his prime ministry which began when
seized power by toppling an elected government in

Pro-democracy parties however hope to win enough
House seats to form a
coalition against Mr. Prayuth. They
may overcome his junta-nominated
Senate and select their
own prime minister.

Mr. Anutin’s modest-sized Bhum Jai
Thai (BJT) party may join whoever
wins, so the BJT can
enact its policies.

Mr. Anutin recently erected street
signs illustrated by a bright green
marijuana leaf,
informing voters about his party’s campaign to
both medical and recreational marijuana.

Mr. Anutin said
Washington’s “political propaganda” during the 1960s
70s tricked Thailand to believe marijuana was “addictive”
thousands of U.S. troops were stationed at air
bases in this Southeast
Asian country while bombing
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Some U.S. soldiers were
getting blitzed on powerful local marijuana
known as “Thai Sticks”.

“During the Vietnam war, the reason why the
U.S. made the announcement
that marijuana was part of the
narcotic drugs, was because once all
the [U.S.] soldiers
consumed this kind of substance, they could sleep.
made people calm down. It didn’t make people become
Mr. Anutin said.

Mr. Anutin runs one of
Thailand’s biggest construction firms,
Engineering and Construction, and directs other
companies. He graduated with an engineering degree
from New York’s
Hofstra University.

He was speaking at
a “Marijuana, For Money or Medicine?” panel at
Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on February

“We have five types of commercial crops — rice, palm
[oil], rubber,
tapioca and sugar cane. Why don’t we just
add one more? The record
shows that this [marijuana] will
override the first five” with bigger

His party
studied “the ‘California model’ on this marijuana thing,”
learn about legalizing recreational cannabis.

Anutin tells voters he will amend the laws so “each
household will
be able to grow six plants. Each plant
will contribute one kilogram,
so each plant will earn
70,000 baht ($2,225).

“If you have six plants, that house
will have 420,000 baht ($13,350)
per family. And when
people [children] become mature, we can split the
[so each adult child] can also grow another six

Legal growing, selling and consuming of medical
and recreational
marijuana should be similar to tobacco,
which is controlled by the
Tobacco Authority of Thailand
(TAOT) corporation, Mr. Anutin said.

Tobacco farmers must
sell to the TAOT which produces cigarettes,
research, determines quality, and works with the
to prevent illegal tobacco trade.

“I always
tell Mr. Anutin, he’s going to bring back Thailand’s
[tourism] slogan, ‘Land of Smiles’,” said Thai
entrepreneur Julpas
“Tom” Kruesopon.

Mr. Julpas is
advising Mr. Anutin about marijuana’s
possibilities and was also on the media

Previously, Mr. Julpas was former Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra’s
adviser before Mr. Prayuth’s coup
ousted her government. Mr. Julpas
said he was former Los
Angeles Major Richard Riordan’s deputy press
during the 1990s.

“Bhum Jai Thai is basically saying, ‘Let’s go ahead and do medical and
recreational at the
same time’,” Mr. Julpas said.

Mr. Anutin’s party was “very
concerned that if only medical
[marijuana] was approved
in Thailand, the price of the medicine would
be so high
because only a few [Thai facilities] will be able
manufacture it,” Mr. Julpas said.

“You might not
know this, for all you foreigners here, if you visit
Thai noodle shop, you’ve probably been having noodles
with marijuana
for quite a while.

“We put marijuana
into our food. That’s why Thai food tastes so


Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based
journalist from San Francisco,
California, reporting news
from Asia since 1978 and winner of Columbia
Foreign Correspondent’s Award. He co-authored
non-fiction books about Thailand, including “‘Hello
My Big Big Honey!’
Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and
Their Revealing Interviews,” “60
Stories of Royal
Lineage,” and “Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News
1946.” Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the chapter “Ceremonies
and Regalia” in a book published in English
and Thai titled, “King
Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life’s Work:
Thailand’s Monarchy in
Perspective.” Mr. Ehrlich’s newest
book, “Sheila Carfenders, Doctor
Mask & President Akimbo”
portrays a 22-year-old American female mental
patient who
is abducted to Asia by her abusive San

His online sites are:

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