Will Thailand allow foreign investors to obtain cannabis cultivation licenses?
Cannabis has been illegal in Thailand for over 7 decades. Meaning becoming a licensed cannabis producer was impossible. But in 2018 medical cannabis was legalized in the country. This was accomplished through an amendment to Thailand’s Narcotics Act that legalized medical marijuana. Medical cannabis in Thailand has rolled out with much excitement and interest. Cannabis was used traditionally in Thailand prior to its prohibition and the country is famous for landrace cannabis strains like Thai Stick.
Most Asian nations have stringent drug prohibition policies and bigger countries like China are nowhere near considering any sort of cannabis legalization. Medical cannabis is gaining worldwide acceptance though. Along with its medical benefits, cannabis legalization can also offer economic opportunities. However, not everyone can prosper in the “green gold rush” that occurs in emergent cannabis markets. It is a highly competitive market, but great successes can be seen in US states like Oregon, California, and Colorado, along with nations like Canada.
According to 2020 Global Cannabis Guide Chapters - Thailand:
“Thailand made history in December 2018 by becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical marijuana. The Narcotics Act BE 2522 (1979) as amended up to Narcotics Act (No. 7) BE2562 (2019) (“NA”) came into effect on 19 February 2019.”2020 Global Cannabis Guide Chapters - Thailand
Cannabis Medical Clinics and Government Run Pharmacies
Al Jazeera News published a fantastic video report explaining the Thai medical cannabis system. The government has rolled out a liberal medical cannabis framework that has garnered fantastic public support and engagement. Obtaining medical marijuana in Thailand is fairly straightforward, according to the report. Patients do not appear to have many options in terms of cannabis strains, however. Cannabis and CBD tinctures appear to be the main option that pharmacists provide Thai medical marijuana patients. Currently, the short supply of medical cannabis is an issue, so developing a stable supply to meet demand is a priority.
Buddhist Cannabis Temples
Along with the government-run medical cannabis program, allowances have also been made for folk healers and traditional medicinal cannabis use. The Al Jazeera News report explains that some Buddhist temples have started cultivating cannabis plants and setting up their own clinics. This is a concern to some because there is no supervision by doctors. There is still some confusion among Thai cannabis patients as to what medical applications the plant really has. Some believe that cannabis oil alone may be an effective treatment for cancer. As a result, some Thai patients are avoiding traditional medical care that could be more effective.
2023 Update: New Thai Government Planning to Rewrite Cannabis Laws to Only Allow Medical Sales
In September 2023, the new prime minister of Thailand announced that he has plans to rewrite Thai cannabis laws to only allow medical use, within a six month time frame. This will stop widespread recreational cannabis sales, and fundamentally alter the industry only a year after Thailand made the landmark decision to decriminalize cannabis.
Addressing Lack of Regulations and Enforcement Mechanisms
Its important to note that the proposed rewriting of cannabis laws is meant to address the lack of regulations, and enforcement mechanisms that regulate the sale of cannabis.
Thousands of cannabis stores have opened up since the decriminalization, due to the regulatory vacuum. These stores, and dispensaries sell everything from cannabis buds, to oil extracts containing less than 0.2% THC. To add to that understanding, Thailand is often considered one of the main drug trafficking hubs, playing a key role in the $130 billion illicit drug market in Southeast Asia (according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
Thai Cannabis Market is Fraught with Oversupply
The Phuket Cannabis Association welcomes regulations, as the current "free for all" industry isn't good for the long-term. The market is oversaturated with cannabis that hasn't undergone proper lab testing, according to Greenhead Clinic. The oversupply has also resulted in significant drops in prices, going down by 50-60% since cannabis was decriminialized. Experts in the Thai cannabis industry say that Cannabis is here to stay, but the status is not yet clear.
Cannabis Cultivation in Thailand
Despite the recent cannabis law updates, Thailand, like Portugal and the Caribbean, is a great place for outdoor cannabis cultivation. Cultivators are eager to grow marijuana in these climates because it is much more economic than cultivating in places that aren’t naturally hospitable to the plant. That’s why you see Canadian and German cannabis firms looking to grow and export cannabis from countries that are naturally warmer with longer growing seasons.
Compared to growing in an indoor warehouse or even a greenhouse, outdoor cultivation is simply cheaper. However, Thailand is taking caution with foreign investment and aims to preserve economic benefits for its citizens. It is expected that after 2024 there will more opportunities for foreign investment in the Thai medical cannabis market. Partnerships with majority Thai ownership are likely to be the most successful business investment arrangements when seeking a Thai cannabis license.
Cannabis Regulation and Cannabis Licensing in Thailand
Thai cannabis cultivation, processing, and distribution are regulated through the Narcotics Control Division of the Thai FDA. The Ministry of Public Health also plays a role in the medical marijuana supply and distribution chain. Thailand’s FDA Narcotics Division has published guidelines for cultivation license applications and other cannabis licenses on its website. However, the PDF files are in Thai so you’ll need to work with a translator if you are seriously considering applying for a Thai cannabis cultivation license.
Getting a Cannabis Cultivation License in Thailand
Regulatory measures in Thai medical cannabis are developing quickly, but the Thai cannabis market is not expected to be fully open to private businesses until 2024. As of January 2020, Marijuana Business Daily reports that the regulatory infrastructure for medical cannabis cultivation in Thailand is still in development. Currently, only Thai-owned businesses and public institutions have licenses to cultivate cannabis in Thailand. The government is leery of overseas investors entering their market and taking away opportunities, but private companies may have some opportunity to work with public institutions and Thai cultivators. Marijuana Business Daily reports that Thailand has granted 442 cannabis licenses as of January 2020, with 416 of those being cannabis distribution licenses. Only 12 cultivation licenses and 14 extraction licenses have been issued.
Final Thoughts on Medical Cannabis in Thailand
Thailand’s medical cannabis market is an exciting new frontier. This is the first Asian medical cannabis market to open and it provides easy access to medical cannabis for a wide array of conditions. While it could be a few years before foreign investors can really get involved, it is definitely worth investigating further because these relationships will take time to build.
The fact that you found your way to this article is remarkable, we're sure that you're an ambitious grower. The oppourtunity in international trade does not end here. We have written guides on getting your cannabis license for more countries, such as Columbia, Australia, Mexico, and South Africa. Check out our guides over here: Cannabis License in Colombia, How to get your Medicinal Cannabis License in Australia, How to Get a Cannabis License in Mexico, and How to get a Cannabis License in South Africa.
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