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Southeast Asia Marijuana Laws and Practices 2020

Southeast Asia Marijuana Laws

So what is the Southeast Asia marijuana position these days? For many years the idea of doing any drugs in Southeast Asia was anathema to anyone. The region is famous for strict anti-drug laws, many of which carry the death sentence for anyone breaking them. Things are different, however, when it comes to cannabis in recent years. As many countries around the World are decriminalizing and either fully legalizing the drug, so Southeast Asia is definitely adopting a softer stance. 

Here we look at the countries within and surrounding the region and explain the current situation. 

Thailand: Epicenter of Southeast Asia Marijuana For Medical Use

Southeast Asia marijuana laws - Thailand

The country hit the headlines globally in December 2018 when it became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical marijuana. This created huge interest among farmers who recognize the crop’s potential on a financial basis. Chairman of the drafting committee, Mr. Somchai Sawangkarn, said at the time, “This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people.”

Medical marijuana was traditionally used in the country until it was outlawed in 1935. The Bhumjaithai party placed full legalization at the core of its policy commitment in a move that helped it secure victory in the following elections. The new government wishes to speed up the production and development of Southeast Asia marijuana, within the country. The government says that its study and development, “should be sped up for the medical industry to create economic opportunity and income for the people.”

Hospitals have been stocking medical marijuana products since August 2019. Thailand has built a huge medical marijuana facility growing over 12,000 plants. This is the largest in Southeast Asia. They are expected to have produced over 1 million bottles of cannabis oil by the end of February 2020.

It is thought though that recreational use of the drug is a fair way off and penalties are strict. 

If you are in Thailand you should check out Molino Glass Bongs, they make some of the best glassware around.

Vietnam: Don’t See Don’t Tell

Southeast Asia marijuana laws  - Vietnam

On face value, Vietnam still has incredibly strict laws for any drugs. However, in reality, it simply is not applied to cannabis. Hang around the country’s famous coffee shops on any given day and the chances of that tell-tale scent of smoked weed wafting across are very strong. Only yesterday the writer was seated in a small cafe on the banks of the Saigon River and a group of young people was openly smoking marijuana. Nobody batted an eyelid.

The law says that using and distributing any drugs including marijuana is punishable by imprisonment or even death by firing squad. However, the police appear to have taken a completely different view on things. You will smell weed on the streets of Saigon, Hanoi, and Danang daily. Whilst I would not advocate smoking in open society, in the safety of a house or hotel room there is generally nothing to worry about. 

We are not advising anyone to break the law, but you can buy weed anywhere and Saigon, for example, has its first CBD products shop selling oils and other goods openly. Whilst cannabis is illegal, it is certainly grown within the country and is known locally as Can Sa. 

Whilst in Vietnam why not check out Float?

Cambodia: Happy Pizzas on Open Sale

With a huge number of backpackers flooding into the country every year filling up on “happy pizzas” Cambodia has an air of hedonistic freedom about weed. A huge number of restaurants cooking with our favorite special ingredient. The herb manifests itself into many food and drink varieties like ‘happy’ milkshakes. It is however still illegal.

From Cannabis Pizzas in Siem Reap to marijuana on market stalls in Phnom Penh, there is plenty of weed around in Cambodia. Famously, years ago, a marijuana seller at the capital’s Russian Market, Toul Tom Poung reported that she had recently been warned by the police not to sell too much cannabis. She was warned that she should only have a few kilos of weed available for sale to locals who use it to flavor soups and other dishes.

Always remember as you stroll down Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh that when the tuk-tuk drivers offer you “ganja”, you are risking having to pay a hefty “fine” to the police to avoid jail time. Cambodia first banned marijuana in 1996, although locals are allowed to grow small numbers of plants for medicinal or culinary purposes. This law does not apply to non-Cambodians.

As with many things, Southeast Asia marijuana laws, Cambodia style are confusing.

Indonesia: Confusing Regulations across the Islands

Cannabis was legal until 1927 when it was banned, ironically by the Dutch Colonizers. It became common again before the strict imposition of Islamic law in the 1970s. Possession of cannabis carries a minimum sentence of 4 years in prison. That being said, if users voluntarily report themselves to the police, or is reported by their family, charges will be dropped in accordance with the 2009 Narcotics Act.

The Muslim Province of Aceh is surprisingly leadings the call for legalizing cannabis as leaders recognize the need for the economic boost that it would bring. This is despite the country having extremely strong anti-drug laws that class marijuana equally with crystal methamphetamine and heroin as a type-1 narcotic.

The police torched over 100 tonnes of marijuana crops last year in their drive to eradicate the drug. However, marijuana is everywhere in Aceh and Cannabis coffee is hugely popular. 

Bali is one of the biggest contradictions in Indonesia. Cannabis is everywhere on the island despite it still being illegal. However, don’t let this fool you into a false sense of security. Kerobokan Prison on the island is home to plenty of foreigners who gambled and lost.

Philippines: Strict and Inconsistent

Finally, nat the end of 2019 there appears to be some movement regarding the use of marijuana. The House of Representatives began debating the possibilities of legalizing medical marijuana after three bills on the issue were filed. House Deputy Speaker for Finance Luis Ray Villafuerte Jr. is behind a bid to establish a legal medical marijuana industry framework.

Know as LRay, he stated, “All we need to do is convince the President and the senators that medical cannabis can help with opioid addiction and there’s medical proof to that.” 

This is not a country in which to take risks. President Rodrigo Duterte ran a war on drugs, that is thought to have killed thousands of Filipinos. He actively sought to have the most severe Southeast Asia marijuana lawsHe once admitted that he used weed to stay awake and increase productivity. However, he later retracted the statement claiming it was a joke.

In manila in 2019 “Invest Cannabis Asia 2019” was billed as “the first international cannabis event in the Philippines. It coincided with the International Sustainability Summit Manila 2019 at Marriott Manila hotel. The conference Invest Cannabis Asia was just about seen as a coming-out party, for the new pro-marijuana advocacy movement. They want legalization not just for “compassionate use” but are arguing for a complete embrace of cannabis and its medical, agricultural, industrial and sustainability potential.

Singapore: Zero Tolerance

Singapore has some of the strictest Southeast Asia marijuana laws. Possession or consumption of cannabis here can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison, with a possible fine of S$20,000, and possibly a caning. It is possible that trafficking, import or export of more than 500 gr. may result in the death penalty.

A statement from the Home Affairs and Health Ministries was intended to make the government’s position clear. The statement said, “Our drug-control policies are underpinned by evidence and research. Cannabis is clearly addictive and harmful, and there is no scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of raw cannabis use.c This supports our position that cannabis should remain an illicit drug… We will continue to allow safe and controlled access to evidence-based medical treatment options.”

At the end of 2019, a young girl suffering from refractory epilepsy became the first person in the country to be given legal use of a cannabis-based drug for her treatment as the country strives to ease its strict Southeast Asia marijuana stance. The President of the Singapore Epilepsy Society, Associate Professor Derrick Chan, was quoted as saying that the drug likely to have been requested was Epidiolex.

Malaysia: Strict But There is Movement towards Some Use 

Malaysia has among the toughest Southeast Asia marijuana laws. If you are found in possession of cannabis you can expect a prison sentence and a fine. Until recently, the death sentence was in place for anyone trafficking weed. However, finally, in 2018, the government discussed the possibility of legalizing medical marijuana in the future.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad said in 2019, “Malaysia is about to embark on a significant game-changer policy of decriminalization of drug addicts and addiction. This is not to be mistaken for legalizing drugs, and I again categorically emphasize that decriminalizing does NOT mean that we are legalizing drugs.”

To clarify the difference between Legalization and Decriminalization in Malaysia:


This means that it would not be a civil or criminal offense. You cannot be punished for it because you didn’t break any laws.


This means that it is no longer a criminal offense. It is, however, still a civil offense. You would still be breaking the law and can still be punished. However, you would not face penal punishments like prison, whipping, or death.

Laos: The Usual ASEAN blend of bribes and prison

Marijuana is illegal in Laos and public use can land you a 12 months jail sentence. The Police will regularly take bribes if you are arrested for cannabis in turn for walking free. From 2009, a mandatory death penalty has been applied for certain severe cases. Despite the law, weed is openly sold in many businesses. 

Towns like Luang Prabang and Pakse are being pushed as tourist areas. The police are less likely to crack down here. Use discretion, but tsk tsk drivers, cycle taxis and street vendors are everywhere. 

In 2019 Australian company Cann Global Asia penned the deal with Sun Agriculture Promotion Industry and Commercial to grow, purchase, process and sell hemp products. The Vientiane Times has also reported that the government has formed a task force to study the potential of medical cannabis. It will be led by Health Minister Dr. Bounkong Syhavong.

Myanmar: Extremely Risky

As well as being in what is commonly referred to as “The Golden Triangle” for heroin growth and distribution, Myanmar sees huge amounts of cannabis cultivation. The country is ruled by the Military junta which took control in 1962. Anyone falling foul of the laws on cannabis possession and use can expect to be treated severely.

As long ago as 1961 the country was defending the use of medical marijuana. The change of rulers then saw the country adopt one of the most severe Southeast Asia marijuana laws in 1993. Possession of even a small amount would land you in jail for a term of between 3 and 5 years. 

In 2018 a softer approach was tabled. The new laws seek to:

Build safe and healthy communities by minimizing health, social and economic harm.

Decriminalize drug use and offer voluntary treatment for drug users.

Make controlled substances more readily available for medical and research purposes.

Educate rural communities about cultivating controlled substances, rather than mass eradication efforts.

Stop treating drug users as criminals.

Despite this new approach being tabled, it has not found its way into normal society. Human rights groups continue to fight for a better approach in the country. Smoking weed or using any form of the drug is a high-risk activity here. 

Brunei: Not Worth The Risk

Possession or use in the country is highly illegal. Trafficking is punishable by death. In 2004, Lam Ming Hwa, a Malaysian national was executed for possessing less than half a kilo of marijuana. Don’t even think of carrying the drug into this country. Even if you wish to risk buying it in the country, street prices are the second-highest in the world. 

East Timor: Not Worth The Risk

The cultivation, sale or possession of any form of marijuana products is illegal in Timor-Leste. This is still very much a closed society. Full information is difficult to attain but needless to say, the punishments are severe and it is simply not worth the risk. The cou8ntry has some of the most severe Southeast Asia marijuana laws.


In summation, it is fair to say the Southeast Asia marijuana laws are confusing and generally strict. It is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security as cannabis use is prevalent, especially among the backpacker set. It is though always best to stay vigilant and be cautious and subtle if you do imbibe.

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International News

Albania to Legalize Marijuana

legalize marijuana

Long regarded as one of Europe’s biggest illegal trafficking hub, Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama has just announced plans to legalize marijuana.

Legalize Marijuana and Kill the Black Market

Albania has been one of Europe’s leading producers of illegal weed. It is hoped that by legalizing it,  it will be the end of the black market and all that goes with it.

The country has been taking on the illegal market for years and this is seen as a natural progression. As Prime Minister Rami puts it,  “Illegal cultivation is completely under control. This is the third or fourth year of consolidation. We plan to pass the bill in this session of parliament.”

Check out Maria’s full story on the Merry Jane Website

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International News

The value of the European Cannabis Market is €240 million:

European cannabis market

Unbelievable figures are coming out of the European cannabis market. Sales for 2019 are an amazing €240 million ($260 million). This means that it is feasible that the European market could in the near future overtake the American market.

Alfredo Pascual an International Analyst for MJBizDaily states in his report “This report provides industry leaders and investors interested in the European markets with a realistic estimate of current market sizes and a detailed analysis of the countries where the most opportunities exist.”

Exciting Figures For the Cannabis Market in Europe.

The signs are that the initial market trends are mainly medical but recreational cannabis use is bound to follow. Pascual again, “While the long-term expectation of Europe being a massive medical and, eventually, recreational the cannabis industry continues to show promise, this report highlights the reality of the market today, including the actual sales and the regulatory frameworks that exist in the main European markets.”

Check out the full story on Marijuana Business Daily

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Dr Jane Goodall Launches CBD Range

Dr Jane Goodall

In quite amazing news the legendary anthropologist, Jane Goodall is so convinced of the benefits of cannabis that she is launching her own CBD brand. Her 60-year career has helped to change the way in which people view nature. Her message of love and hope is a beacon to all on how to treat animals. 

Jane Goodall was born in London some 86 years ago and has made primatology and anthropology her life’s work. Now she has joined forces with Canadian Neptune Wellness Solutions who are based out of Quebec. They originally were known for Antarctic krill oil production. However, they now operate a huge licensed cannabis processing plant in Quebec, CA, and a hemp processing facility in the U.S. in the state of North Carolina.

Dr. Jane Goodall and Neptune Wellness Solutions

Jane Goodall and Neptune have joined forces to co-develop a range of CBD products from which parts of the proceeds will do towards rainforest conservation work. One of the products they are marketing is a range of hand-sanitizers to help limit the spread of Covid-19. 

In a press release issued on April 21st, Dr. Goddall says, “I am very pleased to partner with Michael Cammarata and the team at Neptune Wellness Solutions to develop natural, plant-based products that support health and wellness in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner. This marks my third partnership with Michael and reflects our mutual goal of enabling consumers to make ethical purchasing decisions to create a better world for all living things.”

Jane Goodall and Michael Cammarata

Dr. Jane Goodall and Michael Cammarata

Michael Cammarata, of whom she spoke is the Chief Executive Officer of Neptune Wellness Solutions. He added in the press release, “In light of COVID-19, we believe there will be a renewed focus and emphasis on personal self-care. The purchasing decisions consumers make to support their health and wellness will have a lasting impact on the environment and our collective health and wellness. I am delighted to partner with Dr. Goodall again to bring natural health and wellness products to market that will support our mutual goals of environmental conservation and reforestation, while at the same time delivering healthier consumer solutions.”

Donations to Environmental Causes

Neptune made an initial donation of $25,000 and will further donate 5% of all sales from the products to the Jane Goodall Institute. Anyone purchasing products will be able to further direct an additional 5% to help Jane Goodall’s work. They can do this by entering a promotional code “DrJaneGoodall” as they purchase. 

Speaking of our relationship with animals Dr. Goodall made this very timely point, “The health of people, animals, and the environment are interconnected; this pandemic demonstrates this. However, if we all make ethical choices, every day, our collective power for change is great.” 

The partnership between Dr. Goodall and Neptune is through the Forest Remedies™ brand DNA and ongoing support of One Tree Planted. This is a non-profit business that focuses on global reforestation. For every item in the product range that is sold, Forest Remedies will contribute to the planting of a tree. The aim is to assist in the rebuilding of the world’s forests to create a much more sustainable environment in the future.

Cattle raising alone has led to the earth losing an unbelievable almost 20 million acres of rainforest each year. This is why hemp production is so important. Hemp accounted for 128,000 acres of land throughout the United States in 2019. That is just 0.6% of the amount of Amazon rainforest that we lose each and every year. We all know the importance of our rainforests, they not only support a myriad of wildlife they help to control entire weather systems. 


This is a hugely significant partnership for the further acceptance of cannabis products. Jane Goodall is one of the most important figures in the world of environmental understanding. Her approval of CBD products will have a massive impact on how they are viewed across the globe.

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