As the markets closed for the Christmas holidays, few anticipated that the cannabis market would find a surprise present in Southeast Asia. According to the The New York Times, Thailand announced that it would legalize medical marijuana use among its citizens.
This decision would make Thailand the first nation in the region to open itself to cannabis usage, a move that some expect to kick-start a trend of other South Asian legalization in the future.
Thailand’s military-led government, which has called for elections in the early 2019, let the world know they will be supporting legislation that legalizes medical usage, once it becomes approved by the nations king, Maha Vajiralongkorn. In a 166 to 0 vote, the National Legislative Assembly approved regulations that would let citizens use cannabis under medical supervision, and is expected to be implemented next year.
“This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people,” said one head lawmaker Somchai Sawanghar during a televised announcement. Although medical marijuana is now a legal treatment option for conditions such as chronic pain, chemotherapy side-effects, epilepsy, glaucoma, and more, Thailand still will be retaining its penalty for recreational use, which can range up to 5 years in prison for possessing less than 10 kilograms of cannabis.
Although cannabis users will be permitted to carry only prescribed amounts as stipulating by their existing conditions, users would also need to show proper certificates to authorities, with both production and retail sales of cannabis will be heavily controlled by the government. This also means that the administration will address the possibility of non-Thai marijuana companies becoming dominant in the sector. With many foreign companies having already filed patient requests to the government, some figures in the government are expected to adopt a more protectionist policy going forward.
Cannabis legalization has been a trend that has been spreading throughout the world. Most recently, Britain started allowing physicians to prescribe cannabis for medical use to their patients last month. Before that, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the country’s existing ban on cannabis was unconstitutional, rendering it void.
However, Southeast Asia remains an area where breaking cannabis laws is met with often draconian punishment. In Malaysia, a man who sold cannabis oil to patients received the death sentence, although the countries Prime Minister later said that the sentence should be reviewed. Another nation in the area, Indonesia, arrested a British man for possessing cannabis oil that he uses to treat his arthritis, who is now facing a potential 15-year prison sentence.
As such, news that Thailand might be taking a more liberal approach bodes well for the regions future cannabis industry. At the same time, many companies in the sector have seen their shares rise in response to these developments. Tilray (NASDAQ: TLRY), Canopy Growth Corp (NYSE: CGC), Aphria Inc (NYSE: APHA), and KushCo Holdings (TSE: KSHB) were just some of the major companies that saw share prices rise multiple percentage points in today’s trading session.
Research is continuing to show that medical marijuana is an effective treatment option for treating conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, and the side effects pertaining to aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy.