Thailand Becomes the Ganja Mecca of Asia with Legalization, When Will the US Do the Same?

Stanimir G.Stoev /
Stanimir G.Stoev /

For decades now, most of the continent of Asia has kept marijuana illegal and issued massive penalties for possession of even a seed. From incredibly long sentences in jail to hard labor, daily beatings, or even death, the litany of potential results from getting caught with a simple plant was too much for many to risk.

This year alone has seen two people executed in Singapore over marijuana.

Now Thailand has changed the face of the continent through its de facto legalization of marijuana last year. With dispensaries as common as convenience stores, the market has thrived, with over 6,000 licenses of cannabis-related businesses being approved as of February. 1,600 of those licenses have been issued in Bangkok alone.

So far, no official numbers have been kept about the consumption rates of tourists, but many industry insiders estimate 70-80 of the market is being made up by tourists.

Many still have to worry about the opinions of their loved ones and government officials back home, though. Singapore’s Central Narcotics Bureau has warned that they will be testing people returning from Thailand at random. Japan has warned that their anti-cannabis laws apply while abroad.

China has gone a step further by warning people that if they consume while in another country and it is “detected upon returning to China, it is considered equivalent to using drugs domestically. As a result, you will be subject to corresponding legal penalties.”

China issues the same warnings to travelers heading to the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands.

Despite their neighbors being entirely against it, Thailand has legalized it and reaped the benefits. Here in North America, both Canada and Mexico have legalized it, although Mexico’s legalization is still murky.

Yet the US has kept it federally illegal and allowed the states to make their own decisions and run their programs for medicinal or recreational at the state level only.

Both countries have their well-known and well-documented cannabis-growing epicenters. Here in the US, we have multiple areas that are already well-established for cultivation. Yet outside of the circles of people already involved in the community and people fighting its emergence, nobody knows they exist.

The windfall of tourism dollars and tax money that places like Colorado and California have seen is magnificent. Even New York and Massachusetts have dipped their toes into the fully legal markets and are already seeing massive tax funding as a result. Getting the rest of the nation on board would unlock the tourism and tax dollars that they are seeing, just on a grand level.

Not to mention the wave of cash that would enter our economy with federal legalization.

Due to the Schedule I classification, companies have been forced into cash only, with very few companies willing to provide “cashless ATM transactions” at incredibly high rates. This leaves them rife for corruption, theft, and cooking of the books and also places them at great risk for robbery and theft.

By taking them out of the dark (in nonlegal states) or the shadows (medical or recreationally legal) into the light (US-wide legal recreational), the US could cease control of the narrative.

As it is now, there is a huge problem with quality across the US. Dispensaries have literally thousands of different strains they can obtain, and many choose some very unique and often dispensary-specific strains. This means simply going a town over means you can no longer find what you’re used to having. For many customers, this can be a problem.

Going legal nationwide opens up the door to having Coors or Yuengling-level cannabis companies and strains. Things can become infamous and gain a beautiful reputation as they are spread from coast to coast. All while contributing significant money to the economy, posing no change to family dynamics, and helping to decrease teen use nationwide.

It’s time for the American conservatives to wake up and get with the program. This is one area we can compromise with the left and still come out profiting better than before. It’s just smart business and a responsible decision.