Blazing Through History: The Rip-Roaring Tale of Cannabis in Thailand

Oi, fella, have you ever pondered how old Mary Jane made her way into the Land of Smiles? Cannabis, the most intriguing and scandalous green on this planet, has a proper rich history in Thailand. So, buckle up, me old mucker, as we embark on a rip-roaring ride through the ages, digging up the roots of cannabis in Thai traditions and watching it blossom into the modern era as we look at the history of cannabis in Thailand.

History of cannabis in thailand

From ancient medicinal and spiritual uses to Yank policies and the ruckus of the Vietnam War, we’ll reveal the tales that have molded the way Thais see and enjoy this wondrous herb. Pop the kettle on, kick back, and join yours truly, Gonzo Green, for a deep dive into the Thai cannabis world. Ready, fella? Let’s get this show on the road!

Ganja Arrives in Thailand

Imagine it’s the 15th century, and Indian traders, along with spiritually inclined sadhus, embark on a double naughty journey to Southeast Asia, including Thailand. Their valuable cargo? None other than the green gold – cannabis. These trailblazers used ganja for its healing properties, spiritual practices, and let’s admit it, a bit of cheeky fun on the side.

Offerings of cannabis

The name “ganja” itself has roots in the ancient Sanskrit language, originating in India. As the plant made its way into Thai culture, the locals, known for their warmth and friendliness, eagerly adopted the term, calling it “kancha” or “ganja” too. And I’ve got to say, fella, they knew what they was doing!

As the magical properties of cannabis found their way into various aspects of Thai life, there’s one area that I’ve been told in which it made a significant impact, and that was in the world of Muay Thai. My mate Jeab, a Thai grower who’s been at it longer than me, said that renowned for their strength and agility, these fighters discovered the benefits of using hemp to create hand wraps. By weaving the tough and durable fibres into a protective layer, they were able to shield their knuckles and wrists from injury during intense bouts.

The hemp wraps offered the perfect combination of flexibility and support, allowing the fighters to deliver powerful blows without fear of damaging their hands. Moreover, he reckons the natural antibacterial properties of hemp helped keep the hand wraps clean and odour-free, making them an essential part of the Muay Thai fighter’s gear. Allegedly, as the popularity of Muay Thai grew, so too did the recognition of hemp’s invaluable contribution to the sport, which would further cement cannabis’s place in the annals of Thai culture.

Cannabis workers

World War on Drugs I

Now, fella, you might have heard about America’s war on drugs in the 1930s, but let me shed some light on how it rippled across the globe. Uncle Sam’s moral crusade against the green stuff not only rocked the States but also had a knock-on effect in far-off lands like Thailand.

Now, here’s a double naughty fact for you: The chemical giant DuPont played a sneaky part in the criminalization of cannabis. How, you ask? Well, DuPont was all over those synthetic fibers, like nylon, which were direct competitors to hemp. Hemp, as you know, is a type of cannabis plant that’s quite the versatile resource. Conspiracy theorists who have looked into the history of cannabis in Thailand reckon DuPont had a vested interest in the demonization of cannabis, so their synthetic fibres could dominate the market.

So, in a nutshell, 1930s America’s war on drugs – with a sneaky bit of help from DuPont – played a massive part in shaping the global perspective on our beloved plant, leaving a lasting impact on countries like Thailand.

America Shapes the Landscape Again

Fast forward to the ’60s and ’70s, the Vietnam War’s in full swing, and the Land of Smiles was a hotspot for US soldiers on R&R. Now, as a world-class cannabis expert, let me tell you, the green was everywhere, and the Yanks couldn’t get enough of it.

American soldiers enjoy the view

A Love Affair with Thai Stick

You see, during the Vietnam War, Thai cannabis, known as “Thai stick,” became quite the hot commodity. It was known for its wicked potency, making it a favourite among the US soldiers stationed in the region. The Thai stick was so popular as it was tightly bound, high-quality bud wrapped around a thin bamboo stick, making it perfect for transport and sharing among the lads. The primo quality and unique packaging of the Thai stick helped it soar in popularity, catching the eye of the Yanks and locals alike.

So, Johnny ‘the Plank, my Yank mate from prison, told me this story about how they got their hands on those Thai sticks during the Vietnam War.

These lads were proper sneaky, and they knew how to play the sympathy card to their advantage. You see, some of these soldiers who’d lost limbs in the war got fitted with prosthetic arms and legs. And that’s when they had this brilliant idea. They’d stash the primo Thai sticks inside the hollow compartments of their prosthetic limbs. They knew that nobody would have the bollocks to check them, for fear of looking like a right bastard, searching through a war hero’s spare parts.

Piston Shanks

So, when they got back to the States, they’d whip out their hidden treasure from their piston shanks and share the goods with their mates. And guess what, fella? Some even say that the best American strains of today can trace their lineage right back to those very Thai sticks, smuggled inside false arms and legs, all them years ago. Now that’s what I call a double naughty!

Now, the cultural exchange went both ways, with local Thais picking up on the habits of their American guests. You see, prior to the war, Thais traditionally consumed their cannabis in food or as medicine. But as the soldiers toked away, the Thais cottoned on to the old smoke and got a taste for it themselves. So again the history of cannabis in Thailand took a new path.

Cannabis worker making Thai stick

The war might have been a dark time, but it left an indelible mark on Thai cannabis culture, creating a blend of traditions and influences that still linger today.

World War on Drugs II

The road to legalization in Thailand was a twisty one, full of unexpected turns and colorful characters. After the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961, the US-led war on drugs had a massive impact, pushing Thailand to introduce the 1979 Narcotics Act, which criminalized our beloved plant.

But times change, attitudes shift, and people learn. Activism played a massive part, with campaigners and medical professionals pushing the boundaries, showing the world the double naughty benefits of cannabis for health and wellbeing. Research piled up, with studies demonstrating the plant’s potential for treating conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, and even cancer.

Up Thailand’s Alley

Now, the green stuff ain’t just about feeling good, it’s about the economy too. Thailand saw the opportunity to ride the global wave of cannabis acceptance, eyeing the potential for a booming industry. Legalization meant jobs, tax revenue, and a boost in tourism, which is right up Thailand’s alley.

Assanangkornchai S, Thaikla K, Talek M, Saingam D. Medical cannabis use in Thailand after its legalization: a respondent-driven sample survey

Decriminalization and legalization

In 2018, the Thai government legalized medical marijuana, and by June 2022, they went all in, legalizing recreational use too. This historic decision turned a new leaf for the Land of Smiles, positioning Thailand masterfully as a leader in the cannabis world and changing the history of cannabis in Thailand forever.

Thai Cannabis and Marijuana Laws (as of 13th April 2023)

  • As of June 9, 2022, cannabis is legal in Thailand.
  • The entire cannabis plant is no longer a Category 5 narcotic.
  • Cannabis extracts with over 0.2% THC are still Category 5 narcotics.
  • Growing, possessing, distributing, and consuming cannabis is allowed, as long as it’s not in extract form.
  • Cannabis is illegal for those under 20, pregnant or breastfeeding women.
  • Foreign companies are mostly excluded from the Thai cannabis industry to protect local businesses.


Cannabis extracts with a THC content of 0.2% or higher are still controlled substances and considered Category 5 narcotics.

  • To stay on the safe side, assume anything that involves removing, isolating, or concentrating THC is an extract, like THC oils, hash, waxes, tinctures, and so on. You can buy edibles and brownies in all the dispensaries, so you’ll never get in trouble yourself for buying them, just eat them quick!

Public Smoking Nuisance rule:

  • It’s similar to tobacco smoking laws and aims to protect people from second-hand smoke exposure.
  • First-time offenders receive a warning. A 2,000 baht fine and up to a month in jail and a 25,000 baht fine can be issued for second and subsequent offenses.
  • Best to enjoy your cannabis in private or away from people who might complain.

So, where can you smoke your weed in Thailand?

  • Now, as it’s illegal in dispensaries unless they have a qualified medical professional in attendance, many shops have made ‘arrangements’ with you-know-who. Just make sure you ask, also a lot have found their own loophole with a separate area.
  • Hotel  balconies depend on the hotel’s policies and the people around you. ASK.
  • Beaches may be fine if they’re secluded and not crowded.
  • Use common sense and respect others to avoid complaints.
  • Night-time is your friend!

Public smoking is technically banned in these places:

  • Indoor public areas (restaurants, bars, etc.)
  • Within 5 meters of a public place entrance
  • Indoor workplaces
  • Public transport
  • Exercise facilities
  • Sports competitions
  • Public parks
  • Children’s playgrounds
  • Open markets
  • Beaches (due to littering issues)

However, different places have their own rules, and unless someone complains, the police usually don’t get involved. Reggae bars are a common place to find people enjoying a cheeky smoke.

So, there you have it, fella! We’ve taken a double naughty ride through the history of cannabis in Thailand, unearthing its ancient roots, cheeky wartime secrets, and the twists and turns that led to legalization. From Indian traders and holy fellas to the shenanigans of Yanks and Vietnam War soldiers, the Thai cannabis culture is a vibrant blend of traditions and influences that still linger today. And now, with legalization in full swing, Thailand’s well-positioned as a leader in the global cannabis scene, and I’m buzzing to be part of it!

history of cannabis in thailand
What AI thinks Thai stick looks like

Join the Ganja Gang!

Right, now it’s your turn, fella! I wanna hear your thoughts on this wild journey. Got any cheeky stories or nuggets of wisdom to share? Pop ’em in the comments below! And if you fancy more rip-roaring adventures in the world of cannabis, especially the ones with the quality I was growing back in the day, make sure you give me a follow on social media. That way, you’ll never miss a beat in the ever-evolving cannabis world. And don’t forget my book, ‘Step by Step Guide to Growing the Best Cannabis in Thailand – Indoor

Stay tuned, ’cause next week, we’re diving into the great debate: growing cannabis in Thailand – indoors or outdoors? Which one’s the bee’s knees? You won’t want to miss it! Until then, keep it green, me old fella!

Marijuana users and producers in Thailand have some legal rights and obligations that they should know and respect, such as the age limit, public consumption ban, purchase and possession limits, cultivation and distribution limits, driving and traveling restrictions, and respect and responsibility. Users and producers in Thailand should be informed and respectful of the laws and norms of cannabis use and activities in Thailand, and be responsible for their own health and safety when using cannabis products.

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