Cannabis is undergoing a process of re-liberalisation in Asia, where the outdated and harmful drug control policies are receding in favour of more sensible, supportive and economically sound policies.
The health and financial benefits of cannabis legalisation in North America are serving as an example to governments in Asia, and across the world, that the prohibition of cannabis is no longer a politically justifiable position to maintain.
Prohibition Partners projects that the total sales of medical and non-medical cannabis in Asia, will total just US$14m (~£12.44m) for 2022 – though this could grow to over US$140m by 2026. In addition, the export market could vastly increase the overall value of domestic production, if competition from international suppliers is dealt with appropriately.
While Prohibition Partner’s report covers all Asian geographies, Thailand is of particular importance due to being at the leading edge of cannabis liberalisation in South East Asia. The region decriminalised medical cannabis in 2018 and the country then decriminalised cannabis plant parts in a push towards commercialisation in June 2022.
From June 2022, households in Thailand are allowed to register and grow cannabis at home for medical purposes, or as ingredients at home through the Plook Ganja mobile application.
In the Market Sizing supplement available alongside this report, the authors explore the future of adult-use cannabis in Asia, using Thailand as the prime example. It is shown that due to the existence of an extensive legally grey market in the country, the adult-use sector in Thailand would have a head-start and could develop quite quickly if legislation is implemented.
Crucial to this would be to deal with the legally grey market and illicit markets while integrating as much as possible the legacy growers whose lives depend currently on production.
The Ministry of Public Health has said it strongly discourages recreational use at the moment, but welcomes medical and industrial applications of cannabis.
Thailand medical cannabis landscape
Thailand’s medical cannabis landscape is split into two; modern medicine and Thai Traditional Medicine. Modern medical cannabis focuses on the applications of CBD and THC isolates or tinctures to treat various conditions.
Use of cannabis in Thai traditional medicine, however, combines cannabis parts or CBD oil with ingredients like other herbs or natural oils, and has been a part of Thai history for centuries.
Prohibition Partners and Teera Group Ventures obtained exclusive data showing some key metrics in the prescription of medical cannabis in Thailand, which can be found in the new Asian Cannabis Report and supplemental Business Insights into the Thai Cannabis Market, showing that cannabis medicines are being prescribed often, especially those with high balanced CBD:THC and high THC concentrations.
The report also shows insomnia, muscle pain and hand and feet numbness as the three main causes for prescriptions of traditional medicine recipes containing cannabis.
For example, in 2019, 19,003 medical cannabis oil prescriptions were filled. By 2020, the number of issuances increased to 719,362, highlighting the massive increase in demand.
Thailand is at the leading edge of a process of re-liberalising cannabis in a region with a deep history of traditional use for health and wellness purposes. In the near future, we expect that other countries will follow suit such as Nepal and Malaysia. In high-income countries like Japan and South Korea, licensed pharmaceutical cannabis is leading the way ahead of unlicensed medicines.
All of these nations have the chance to be at the forefront of the Global cannabis revolution, and this will depend on how governments navigate their internal policies and also how businesses navigate international competition for exports.
This report is designed to give readers a cutting-edge understanding of these developments in Asia.
The Asian Cannabis Report is now available to download for free via the Prohibition Partners website.