On December 24, 2018, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly unanimously passed new legislation that will make cannabis legal for medical and research purposes. The landmark decision makes the Kingdom the first in the ASEAN region, where several neighboring nations are known for some of the strictest drug laws in the world, to legalize the substance. 
Cannabis had been historically used in Thailand as a traditional medicine to alleviate symptoms of pain and fatigue. Prior to the ban, Thailand was renowned as one of the world’s top exporters of cannabis, and the strains found in the Kingdom had a reputation of both quality and potency. Lawmakers, medical practitioners, and entrepreneurs alike seek to capitalize on the expanding cannabis industry, not only for economic gain, but also the substance’s broad spectrum of medicinal qualities and benefits.
It is worth noting, however, that the legislation does not legalize recreational cannabis, which, for the time being, still remains illegal.
Guidelines will be provided
According to Thailand’s Justice Minister Prajin Juntong, stakeholders such as growers must “start studying relevant information,” which he said will be provided by government agencies such as the Office of Narcotics Control Board, the Public Health Ministry, and the Education Ministry. The National Legislative Assembly is currently in the process of drafting the legal framework to decriminalize medical cannabis production, distribution, and others, which Mr. Prajin said is expected to go into effect next month.
While the legalization of medical cannabis itself drew little to no controversy in parliament, contention still exists with regard to patents, regulations pertaining to the plants’ cultivation, and fair business practices. Civic organizations have raised concern after it was revealed that patent applications filed with the Intellectual Property Department have been primarily lodged by foreign stakeholders, which may put local operators at a disadvantage once the legislation takes effect.
However, Mr. Prajin reassured the public that the Ministry of Commerce will provide comprehensive solutions to address issues related to patents. He added that other concerns, such as the use of cannabis for Thai traditional medicine and cultivation methods, will be addressed by relevant agencies.
In the meantime, Prajin encourages the public to “keep an eye” on the upcoming legislative process.
 “Use of medical marijuana passes NLA,” The Nation (Dec. 26, 2018) (available at http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30361135).
 “Cannabis growers will be given guidelines,” The Nation (Dec. 25, 2018) (available at http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/303610630).
 “Public urged to monitor legalization of cannabis,” The Nation (Jan. 01, 2019) (available at http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30361411).
 “Public urged to monitor legalization of cannabis” The Nation (Jan 01, 2019) (available at http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/national/30361411)