Thursday 27 December 2018
Thailand legalises medical marijuana. Photo: Ted Rowlands/CNN

In a breakthrough move, Thailand’s interim parliament has voted to allow the use of medical cannabis on Tuesday. The country has also legalised kratom, a kind of drug often used traditionally as a stimulant and painkiller. However, recreational use of both of the drugs remain illegal and is subject to either imprisonment and or a hefty fine.

Lawmaker Somchai Sawangkarn said the passing of an amendment to allow medical marijuana in the country, “Could be considered as a New Year gift to Thais. The amendment (on the Narcotics Bill) was passed the second and third readings today and will become effective once it is published on the Royal Gazette,” he said.

The National Legislative Assembly’s 166 members voted in favour of the change and there were no votes objecting to the motion. There were 13 members, however, who abstained from the vote. This makes Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to allow the use of medical marijuana despite the region being notorious for its hardline approach to drugs and strict penalties for drug-related crimes.

Meanwhile, Malaysia might also be looking to adopt the move, with the government contemplating abolishing the death penalty for drug-related cases. The move followed after Muhammad Lukman, 29, received the death penalty last August for possession, processing and distributing of cannabis oil.

His case sparked public outrage and a petition to free Lukman was signed by more than 70,000 people including ministers and the ruling coalition. The Parliament has since reached an agreement to remove capital punishment for the case. Lukman’s case acted as a catalyst for the reassessment of medicinal cannabis legal in the country.

READ: Malaysia Almost Became the First Country in Southeast Asia to Legalise Marijuana

Other parts of the world are also beginning to see medical marijuana in a different light. The British government has since approved medical marijuana earlier this year, and it became available on 1 November from the National Health System to patients with a prescription.

Elsewhere in Europe, medications derived from cannabis became legal in Germany last year. Medical marijuana is also legal in Australia and Ireland. In the United States, medical marijuana is legal in 30 states, though the laws governing what’s permitted vary from state to state, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But in Southeast Asia, will Thailand’s decision result in a review of how other countries in the region broach the topic? Or does each need its own Muhammad Lukman? Time will tell.

Source: CNN International

Related: Why More and More Governments are Legalising Marijuana