Thailand Legalizes Marijuana

A marijuana plant in close-up
A marijuana plant in close-up (source)

In a surprising move, the Thai government legalized marijuana. The plant, also known locally as ganja, has a history of use in Thailand, but in recent years, Thailand and neighboring countries have severely punished users and sellers of all illegal drugs. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam, all have the death penalty for certain drug crimes, and Thailand itself underwent a ‘war on drugs’ during the early 2000s.

However, since 2018, medical marijuana has been legal in Thailand, and from early June, Thais and visitors to Thailand have been able to grow, trade, and consume marijuana for recreation. Thai officials warn that smoking ganja in public is still a crime that is punishable by a fine and jail time.

There are several reasons for this startling development in Southeast Asia. For one, Thailand suffered economically during the pandemic, and the government wants to boost their medical tourism industry, as well as profit from the global medical marijuana market. Also, farmers in the countryside can benefit by planting a crop that grows very well in Thailand’s climate. Finally, prisons in Thailand are overcrowded with prisoners that were convicted of drug-related crimes. Changing the law has made it possible to release more than three thousand prisoners.

How the industry will develop is uncertain, but for now, marijuana users are enjoying their new freedom. They have been able to buy various types of marijuana, and some restaurants have begun selling marijuana-infused food and beverages.


For source links, see the article on

Worksheet with activities


Hear the article spoken:

Useful Language

  • Legalize (v) - to make something legal
  • Severely (adv) - very seriously, harshly
  • Undergo (v) - to go through, to experience
  • Consume (v) - to eat, drink, use
  • Recreation (n) - enjoyment
  • Fine (n) - money that must be paid as a punishment
  • Startling (adj) - surprising
  • Crop (n) - a plant that is grown in large amounts
  • Convict (v) - to decide in court that someone is guilty of a crime
  • Infused (adj) - joined with the flavor or effect of something


Discuss the following questions with your partner(s).

  1. Were you surprised to learn that Thailand has legalized marijuana? Why or why not?
  2. Have you been to Thailand? If not, are you interested in visiting Thailand? Why is Thailand a
  3. popular tourist destination?
  4. Do you like to use traditional or alternative medicine? Do you also see a modern doctor when
  5. necessary?
  6. Would you try medical marijuana if a doctor recommended it? Why or why not?
  7. What is the legal status of marijuana in your country or region?
  8. Does your country have the death penalty? Which crimes can be punished with death?
  9. Have you eaten Thai food? What was it like? If not, would you like to try it?
  10. Did your country suffer economically because of the pandemic? How is it doing now?
  11. Are prisons overcrowded in your country? Should we care about the conditions that prisoners are
  12. being kept in?
  13. What crops are (legally) grown in your country?
  14. What do you do for recreation?