It is a privilege for MASA to be partners with the Highland Network movement in Thailand since 2015 and to have witnessed their progress towards the legalization of Cannabis. Now in 2022, Cannabis has been re-introduced to their citizens as a herb that can be purchased easily in its many variety of products.

Cannabis is an ancient herb that was used and is still used in most parts of the world to treat diseases that are otherwise unresponsive to existing pharmaceutical prescriptions. In the documentary “HIGHLAND: Thailand’s Marijuana Awakening” by Coconuts TV, Mr Guide Sanrak and his team bring viewers on a journey to understand Thailand’s history and their efforts in Bangkok to bring patients, politicians, doctors and advocates together so that Cannabis can be made available legally. With the right evidence and support, the country first began to promote the use of Medicinal Cannabis through campaigns and making the herb extracts available in hospitals and licensed dispensaries across the country. Unlike the common assumption that Cannabis is the gateway drug that would lead to a rise in illegal drug consumption and crime rates in the country, legalization has actually benefited Thailand in surprising ways.

The University of Thai Chamber of Commerce reported that the country will see an expansion of 15% annually from 2023 through 2025 in the medical marijuana and hemp market that will eventually reach United States Dollar (USD) 1.2 billion. New businesses and jobs to fulfill the demand of upstream to downstream products have empowered the local community and contributed to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that suffered a 6% drop in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions towards the tourism sector. The war on drugs have destroyed countless number of lives and added more cost to governments around the world due to over-populated jail cells with young adults (criminals) that could not contribute to the society. In 2017, 56% of Malaysian prisons were filled with drug offenders while Thailand prisons held 70%. To put into perspective how much the country is loosing, let’s look at Malaysia prisons. It takes Ringgit Malaysia (RM) 50 to keep on prisoner in jail, and with an approximate of 62,000 prisoners that were in Malaysian jails in 2017, it costs RM 1.7 million to keep 56% of the drug offenders in jail. That adds up to a whopping RM 20.8 million annually lost without helping those convicted to become better citizens and contribute to the country. New jobs from the cannabis industry could be filled by drug offenders so that they could reintegrate to society. It’s time for change and MASA looks forward to that following our newly elected Prime Minister.

There is no need to fear Cannabis and to understand how it has impacted the society in legalized countries, MASA contacted Mr Arun Avery from Highland Network earlier this month to share a little about the recreational aspect of Cannabis. Arun says that all forms of cannabis products are allowed to be sold in the market except for Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrates for food or smoke ingestions. The threshold for THC in recreational products is set to 0.2% for safety reasons while products with high doses of THC is available for medicinal use only. Foreigners who would like to invest in the cannabis industry in Thailand should know that 2/3 of the company must be owned by Thai locals. Although Cannabis is legal to be sold, purchased and consumed, the import or export of Cannabis without a permit will still result with jail time or a fine. Tourists are allowed to purchase and consume cannabis products in the country (only in closed spaces, not in public). Highland wishes to continue their education and community support efforts for years to come. Below is Highland Café in Bangkok where Cannabis buds are sold together with great food and drinks. A sure place to visit when in Bangkok.

As a neighboring country to Thailand, Malaysia should take the opportunity to study and develop the Cannabis industry to save the lives critically ill patients and to structure a sound foundation that would contribute to and strengthen the country’s economy.