history of cannabis in thailand

History of Cannabis in Thailand

There is perhaps no plant that has courted more controversy than cannabis.

Referred to as ganja in Thailand, cannabis is a plant species with more than a hundred chemical components called cannabinoids, one of which is the infamous tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.

You can make marijuana using any part of cannabis with relatively high THC, such as its leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds.

It is often used interchangeably with cannabis and is considered dangerous by many law enforcement worldwide because of its psychoactive properties.

Despite this, cannabis continues to gain just as much support from individuals for its medical and recreational use, which has been observed for several millennia.

Older Than the Egyptian Giza Pyramids

Since its discovery in the Altai mountains of Central Asia more than 12,000 years ago, cannabis has been known as more than just a wildly growing weed. Interestingly, this area, which includes China, Russia, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, is where the Hindu kush mountain range, an important center of Buddhism, lies between Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is also home to one of the earliest landrace strains eponymously named the Hindu Kush.

altai mountains hindu kush
Altai Mountains of Hindu Kush

While the early developments of cannabis have not been well documented (perhaps enthusiasts were too high to do so), there were enough historical findings that provided information and anecdotal stories surrounding this potent herb.

During ancient times, many seemed aware of its special characteristics to the point that they cultivated different strains which only had high THC concentrations. The excavated remains of a man in an autonomous region of China corroborate this observation, having found in his person some cultivated cannabis weighing nearly a kilo. Noticeably, the male components of his cannabis were deliberately removed, which are known to have less THC.

You can find one of the earlier proofs of the use of cannabis for its medicinal properties in Egyptian Ebers papyrus, where it mentions its application for inflammation. Assyrian clay tablets also indicate the potential role in treating depression, among other disorders, affirming the advanced knowledge of early peoples on cannabis.

Imagine the ancestors taking advantage of the euphoric effects of heated cannabis leaves while using its hemp fibers to weave ropes and nets. Which is an activity that is no different from how many people still harness its assets to this day. And given the nomadic lifestyles during those times, it was inevitable for cannabis to spread across neighboring territories in Eurasia, figuring in trades and expansion of cultivation that reached Thailand, Africa, Europe, and eventually the US.

Cannabis Arrives in Thailand

It is widely believed that cannabis came to Thailand through India. The basis for this belief is that Indians also used the word ganja to refer to the cannabis flower. Cannabis’ beginnings in India are validated by its presence in their sacred Hindu texts or the Vedas, which is considered a source of happiness. With its high versatility, Indians in the Middle Ages typically used it as a drink before a battle, just as Americans would take a tequila shot to muster the courage.

When it reached Thai shores, presumably anywhere between the 13th and 17th centuries, cannabis was used as a curative medicine and as a food additive with a cannabis-infused Thai boat noodle soup. They probably relished in the high it comes with aside from having a more tasty dish.


During the Ayutthaya period, cannabis took part in religious and supernatural practices. Locals believed that smoking weed opened their third eye, allowing them to see spirits which guided their ability to read the fortune of others. Thai royals are also said to indulge in marijuana, given its wide range of benefits.

Since it was already obvious that cannabis was more than just a food spice or hemp used in textiles, public policies were against its use during the reign of King Rama I in the late 1700s. Despite this, people continued relying on it for medicinal purposes, particularly pain modulation. And besides, it would be such a waste not to get the most out of it, considering Thailand’s agricultural conditions and climate that are ideal for its cultivation and propagation. It benefitted Muay Thai fighters with a cloth made of hemp, a protective shield for their knuckles during fights.

1934 Cannabis Act

In 1912, Thailand became a party to the League of Nations International Opium Convention at the Hague, Netherlands. It signified their cooperation in addressing issues surrounding addictive substances in exchange for international grants and loans. One of the main points centered on export restrictions of opium, morphine, and coca plant.

The treaty organizers saw a connection between cannabis and opium for some reason. Its export was also restricted by amending the agreement in 1928. However, it did not prohibit the use of cannabis. That changed when the first Cannabis Act B.E 2437 was passed in 1934, which criminalized cannabis activities due to its negative effects. This included possession, use, and sale of cannabis. Nonetheless, the penalties were mild, involving a maximum of 1-year imprisonment for offenders, and did not include restrictions on quantities. Hence, it did little to stop the growing popularity of cannabis for medical and recreational use.

In 1952, the Commodity Control Act BE 2542 regulated the volume of items, including cannabis and its variants, allowed in an individual’s possession.

Cannabis Boom in the Sixties

vietnam vets thai stick
US Troops in Vietnam

American soldiers stationed in Vietnam to fight the war in the 1960s would often go to adjacent Thailand, roughly 400 miles separating its border from Ho Chi Minh City. For one, a US military base in Nakhon Phanom launched most of the airstrikes in Vietnam. At this time, the base was still under the Royal Thai Air Force, but the chain of command for the American soldiers remained under US control. The surrounding fields in this northeastern part of Thailand had cannabis growing wildly, making it all the more accessible, Coincidentally.

It was during one of their trips across the border when they caught wind of the cannabis trade. Once they got their first taste, they became addicted to it, whether to cope with stresses from the drawn-out Vietnam war or as medicine to relieve pain and anxiety.

You would find most of them in the country not just to have some R&R in the pristine beaches but also a haven where they can smoke weed in their time off. The Thai stick was a heavy favorite, a marijuana variant in cigarette form. This made the cannabis economy flourish even more because now, they are attracting outsiders.

Although the number of cannabis enthusiasts grew among US military men, that doesn’t mean they are allowed to do so. In fact, they were sanctioning more than a thousand offenders every week but escaping prosecution given the focus on hard drugs, which cannabis was not a part of. A DEA office in Bangkok was installed in 1963, while other branches in Chiang Mai and other Thai cities followed to help curb the proliferation and abuse of cannabis. However, the extent of their authority in Thailand is not made known.

Connections to the US Hippie Movement

While cannabis greatly impacted US troops, the heavy presence of soldiers in Thailand also left a lasting impression. American-inspired hotels sprung in Bangkok and inspired an active nightlife in the city.

When the troops came home, they brought some of their favorite strains. But before they did, they were already illegally sending Thai sticks to their friends in the US via military postal mail. Others got more creative by replacing the tobacco in cigarettes with dried cannabis leaves to avoid setting off the alarm. Thus, cannabis became even more popular in the US, especially among the members of the Hippie counterculture.



The returning military men opened more black market trades for Thai cannabis in the US, making it more available. Hippies who advocated love and peace were also heavily into hallucinogenic drugs like marijuana. They also participated in anti-war marches and rallies because of the Vietnam war, which they strongly opposed.

Meanwhile, the pro-cannabis Thais had their Hippie counterculture equivalent, Peua Cheewit, founded by freedom-yearning students inflamed by the government’s oppressive practices. Severe human rights violations have been committed, resulting in deaths, including a massacre of nearly 50 protesters committed by police forces on October 6, 1976, at Thammasat University in Bangkok. This tragic event may have left such dark wounds on collective memory, yet its survivors and perpetrators chose to remain silent given the alleged involvement of Thai royalty that their law prohibits them from criticizing.

The War on Drugs Rages On

Several laws and amendments were passed to address the mounting problems associated with cannabis use aside from the influence of the US’ tougher policies. Famously, President Richard Nixon declared it public enemy number one in 1971, adding more pressure on the Thai government to fortify its efforts against cannabis and the like.

In 1976, the Narcotics Act BE 2519 was put forth to establish the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB). Eventually, the Thailand Narcotics Act BE 2522 consolidated all laws passed prior. It details the weight of drugs in possession and the corresponding prison time if caught while placing cannabis in Category 5 of the narcotics list. Nonetheless, Thai cannabis sellers continued to cash in with Thai sticks throughout the 80s and 90s by shifting their market to Central and South America.

In 2002, there was a proposal that the legalization of marijuana would divert users from more dangerous narcotics like methamphetamines. However, Thai Prime Minister Shinawatra went full-scale crackdown on drugs a year later, which resulted in almost 3,000 extrajudicial killings. Later, they discovered that more than half of those had no drug connections. At the same time, the Thai DEA presence has exponentially increased, employing over 45 staff and comprising 6% of the foreign operations in 2006. As such, several weed producers moved their cultivation to Laos and Cambodia, while some remained under the radar in Northeastern Thailand.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

Despite the government’s aggressive actions, anti-drug enforcement, and local authorities, the drug war that has spanned decades is lost. Ultimately, it failed in its goal of reducing drug usage by criminalizing it, which instead increased in numbers over the recent years. Logistics-wise, it was also filling up the prison wards faster than they could handle, reaching more than 50,000 new inmates within just a few months.

Thus in 2018, following the legalization of marijuana in many states in America, Thailand took a 180-degree turn and passed the Narcotics Act BE 2562. It finally legitimized marijuana for medical and industrial use, which spurred many clinics to prescribe it for many illnesses. Controls were put in terms of granting special licenses for doctors and clinics when prescribing or administering it and the farms that will grow it. Or at least, the government tried to.

Further changes in favor of cannabis took place after. In January 2022, cannabis as a plant was removed from the list of narcotics. Health Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul supported the full legitimization of cannabis. By June 9, 2022, all parts of cannabis are no longer categorized as narcotics. In short, citizens can smoke marijuana or use cannabis in multiple applications without penalties, positioning Thailand not merely as a weed wellness destination but more as Asia’s Amsterdam.

buy weed in thailand

The Current Cannabis Landscape

As much as Thailand would want to maintain a hardline stance against recreational marijuana consumption, the lack of nuances and regulations on cannabis, or their strict implementation, if any, has caused a major backlash. Some guidelines should include the prohibition of smoking marijuana in public, commercial advertisements, high THC content, and the usage of minors, all of which fall in the legal grey area. It essentially allowed everyone to use cannabis whenever and however they pleased.

As the first Southeast Asian country to legalize cannabis, many unlicensed vendors took advantage to offer cannabis beyond the recommended THC levels resulting in a recreational marijuana boom. Meanwhile, several teenagers have been hospitalized from eating cannabis-laced food items and drug overdose. These incidents got Thai conservatives, students, parents, and medical practitioners pushing back and wanting to reimpose restrictions and roll back laws, and tag cannabis as a banned narcotic once again. The pro-cannabis individuals are counter-protesting, but their allies are from the coalition parties whose support is perceived more as a political statement than genuine advocacy.

As of November 2022, the opposition bill has stalled at its first reading in the Thai parliament, and will likely remain as such until the next election.

Come see us inside Royal Garden Plaza to buy weed in Pattaya, or add our Line for delivery, for flowers ranging from Exotic to local Thai strains, or check out our huge selection of delicious edibles.

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ประวัติของกัญชาในไทย คงจะไม่มีพืชชนิดไหนเเล้วที่ถูกพูดถึงมากไปกว่ากัญชา ถ้าหากจะให้พูดถึงกัญชาในประเทศไทย กัญชานั้นเป็นพืชที่มีหลากหลายพันธุ์เเตกต่างกันไปเเละมีส่วนประกอบทางเคมีมากกว่าร้อยชนิดที่เรียกกันว่าสาร cannabinoids เเละส่วนประกอบหนึ่งของสารนี้ที่ก็มีชื่อว่า tetrahydrocannabinol หรือที่เรารู้จักกันดีในชื่อสาร THC นั่นเอง คุณสามารถเเปรรูปกัญชาที่มีสาร THC สูงได้จากทุกส่วนไม่ว่าจะเป็น ใบ ดอก ก้าน เเละเมล็ด ถึงเเม้ว่าการใช้กัญชาจะถูกพิจารณาว่าเป็นอันตราย ผิดกฎหมายเเละถือว่าเป็นสิ่งเสพติด เเต่กัญชาก็ยังได้รับการสนับสนุนจากคนหลายกลุ่ม ว่าพืชชนิดนี้นั้นมีประโยชน์ทั้งด้านการเเพทย์เเละการสันทนาการ ซึ่งเป็นที่รู้จักกันมาหลายพันปีเเล้ว เก่าเเก่ซะยิ่งกว่ามหาพีระมิดกีซาแห่งอียิปต์ ตั้งเเต่การค้นพบที่บริเวณเทือกเขาอัลไตในภูมิภาคเอเชียกลางเมื่อประมาณ 12,000 ปีที่เเล้ว กัญชานั้นเป็นที่รู้จักอย่างกว้างขวางไม่ใช่เเค่พืชธรรมดาที่เติบโตอยู่ในป่าเเต่เพียงอย่างเดียว เเละที่น่าค่นหาไปกว่านั้น ในบริเวณเเทบ จีน รัสเซีย มองโกเลียเเละคาซัคสถานจะมีเทือกเขาหนึ่งที่มีชื่อว่า เทือกเขาฮินดูกูช อันเป็นสถานที่สำคัญในศาสนาพุธ ที่ตั้งอยู่ระหว่างปากีสถานเเละอัฟกานิสถาน รวมถึงยังเป็นต้นกำเนิดของของสายพันธุ์ เเลนด์เรซบริสุทฑิ์ หรือรู้จักกันในอีกชื่อหนึ่งซึ่งก็คือ Hindu Kush นั่นเอง ในขณะที่การศึกษาเกี่ยวกับกัญชาในช่วงแรกนั้นยังไม่มีการจดบันทึกที่ดีมากนัก  ( บางทีคนที่ศึกษาอาจจะกำลังเมาเกินกว่าที่จะจดบันทึกไหว) แต่มันก็ยังพอมีหลักฐานทางประวัติศาสตร์และเรื่องราวที่ให้ข้อมูลแก่เราเกี่ยวกับพืชวิเศษชนิดนี้ ในสมัยโบราณมีผู้คนมากมายที่รู้เกี่ยวกับความพิเศษของพืชชนิดนี้ จนถึงขั้นที่พวกเขาทำการเพาะปลูกสายพันธุ์อื่นอีกมากมายที่มีส่วนประกอบของสาร THC สูง หลักฐานในการเพาะปลูกนั้นถูกค้นพบเเละยืนยันโดยชายคนหนึ่งในพื้นที่ปกครองตนเองแห่งหนึ่งในประเทศจีน โดยเขายังค้นพบอีกว่าพื้นที่การเพาะปลูกหลายๆที่อาจได้ผลผลิตเกือบถึง 1 กิโลกรัมต่อการเพาะปลูกเลยทีเดียว และที่เห็นได้ชัดเลยก็คือพวกเขารู้จักการคัดเเยกกัญชาตัวผู้ออกจากระบบการเพาะปลูกเพื่อที่จะได้ผลผลิตที่มีสาร THC

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history of cannabis in thailand

History of Cannabis in Thailand

There is perhaps no plant that has courted more controversy than cannabis. Referred to as ganja in Thailand, cannabis is a plant species with more than a hundred chemical components called cannabinoids, one of which is the infamous tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. You can make marijuana using any part of cannabis with relatively high THC, such

Read More »
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