Once, cannabis was linked with stoners playing video games and eating pizzas. There are many Hollywood teen movies depicting stereotypical skateboarding, Vans wearing kids sucking on a doobie, and watching videos through a cloud of smoke. Times have changed, however.
Nowadays, cannabis is legal in many states in the US and countries across the world. CBD is believed by many to have medicinal properties and help with a number of ailments including stress and pain relief.
It is, however, still illegal in many countries and some states in the US. The legality differs from region to region and in some places, it may be ok to use cannabis recreationally and in others, it is only ok for medicinal use. Asia is an emerging market so how is the situation there?
History of cannabis in Asia
In the swinging 60s and well into the 1970s many young men and women traveled through Asia seeking adventure, enlightenment, and well, marijuana. The hippy trail became a rite of passage, and although these days students take a ‘gap year’ to see the world before committing to study and a career back then it was a freer time. In many countries, it was possible to smoke cannabis in cafes and restaurants without any problem.
In 1972 an English couple traveled from the UK to Singapore and on their return wrote a book about how to travel through Asia cheaply. Later editions were narrowed to specific regions and given titles like ‘SouthEast Asia on a Shoestring’. That first book was the start of the Lonely Planet books and with it, the backpacking boom began and the hippy trail was firmly set.
Back then hippies and travelers visited places such as Afghanistan, India, Nepal, and Iran. Some countries that seemed normal to visit then are not on many people’s holiday lists now sadly. They also included other places like Thailand which now has very strict fines for cannabis offenses plus prison sentences.
Is CBD legal in Asia now?
Unfortunately, CBD is still not legal across Asia and it is important to know the laws if you are traveling or live in an Asian country. The legal uses of CBD differ from country to country with some allowing medical use or in cosmetics but many prohibiting it.
Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines allow CBD to be used in certain circumstances. Other countries have a more clouded legal view and in Japan and India, it is less clear what is or isn’t allowed. In Laos hemp is being grown but only for export. Other countries including Cambodia, Butam, Vietnam, Singapore, and the old hippy hang out, Afghanistan prohibit the use of CBD.
Smoking in Asia
Unlike North America where you can buy weed online and some European countries, Asia is still far behind as far as cannabis smoking is concerned. Many countries still carry severe prison sentences for cannabis possession and some have the death sentence as mandatory for trafficking.
It can be quite confusing for travelers in SouthEast Asia as they might encounter restaurants with ‘happy menus’ leading them to believe that cannabis is legal. These restaurants typically sell pizzas and shake with marijuana on them and also pre-rolled joints. The reality is that while you may be safe in one of these establishments the minute you walk outside with a joint in your pocket you are at risk of being arrested. Cambodia and Laos still have bars that sell weed but they also have very high fines if you are caught by the tourist police.
Medical marijuana in Asia
This is where the law is starting to change. Although the continent is behind America and Europe it is indeed waking up to the realization that marijuana can be used for medical purposes. Countries like Singapore that have long had very strict drug laws are pouring millions into research. There is the real science behind using CBD in medicine and there is also the potential for a multi-billion dollar industry.
Ironically although it is only now that CBD is being looked into for medical purposes many Asian countries have been using marijuana in their food, namely soup, for centuries as a herb or for medicine. Unlike tourists who can be nabbed for a joint, some countries allow their citizens to grow a limited number of plants for personal use.
What are the arguments for legalizing CBD?
CBD is used in oil and other products across the states. Although research is still ongoing there are millions of people who swear that CBD oil relieves many symptoms and ailments. It is known to help with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, stress, and pain. Athletes and gym enthusiasts use CBD for pain relief from a workout or an injury.
It can help combat insomnia and inflammatory pain. CBD can be used to moisturize skin, relieve itching and help with problems such as acne and psoriasis. For any minor side effects, there appear to be far more positives to using CBD for medical uses. Currently, the FDA has approved one CBD-based medical product but this is likely to change as research continues.
How big is the world market?
The global market for CBD stands at around a billion US dollars a year in 2020. However, it is one of the fastest-growing industries, and with Asia beginning to join in it is likely to grow massively over the next 5 years. In the states or Canada buying CBD or cannabis is as simple as searching online for a dispensary near me. In Asia, it is still a bit trickier but with such a huge financial incentive it is likely that the laws will start to be relaxed in more countries in the near future.
Although Asia and backpackers had a love affair with cannabis back in the hippy days, strict laws came in to stop all the fun and make marijuana illegal. Now that more is known about the medical and indeed, recreational uses for cannabis it has seen Thailand and even the Philippines relax laws on certain uses. The next few years should see Asia opening up more to the potential uses of the plant and its properties.
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