Positive and negative effects of cannabis legalization

No Asian country has legalized recreational marijuana use until Thailand's landmark policy change. With over 3% of the population reporting lifetime use and growing political momentum, Thailand legalized medical cannabis in 2019. In June 2022 Thailand completely removed Marijuana from the narcotics list, making it fully permitted to grow, smoke and sell without criminal penalty.

So after 2 years of marijuana being legal in Thailand on every level and with barely any oversight of how it is grown and sold, what have we learned?

What are the positive and negative effects of marijuana legalization in Thailand?

Some of the Positive effects

  • Massive increase in revenue
  • Expansion of jobs and business opportunities
  • Real medical patience can get treatment legally
  • Increase in property market sales
  • Less burden on crime enforcement of marijuana
  • Giving freedom to users to not be treated as criminals.
  • Takes the funds out of the wrong hands

Some of the negative effects

  • Increased availability of super high strength marijuana
  • Possible increase in access for young people
  • Increase in those suffering from adverse effects
  • Increase in stoned driving accidents

There is absolutely no denying that the legalization of marijuana in Thailand has led to a massive turnaround in the economy. Is it a coincidence that since legalization, property sales have risen tremendously and the once empty shops in centers are now full and experiencing a bubble in pricing?

The truth is that it is not just cannabis shops that are filling the streets. There are so many more restaurants and bars that have sprung up to cater for the new high level of tourism that is flooding back.

Right now with the weed rush in Thailand the amount of new jobs being created is having a massive affect on the economy. There is such positive momentum taking place on now with an influx of foreign investment and it is not just to sell weed. With the sale of weed comes a whole industry of online websites. With the influx of foreign investment comes well paid jobs and new opportunities for education and training for Thai people.

Most will think making criminals out of innocent marijuana users is a criminal act in itself. One of the most positive effects that outweighs many negatives is that millions of cannabis users can do so now without criminal prosecution.

The increase in funding created from the revenues and tax gained along with the reduction in police burden can now be used to bring even more positivity to the market. There is a valid concern that cannabis is getting into children's hands more easily now and adverse effects are seen more often. The big truth is that making it illegal doesn't really solve this issue as then it will remain on the black market and hidden. If we use just a fraction of the revenue gained from marijuana for medical treatment, education and policing those who display ill character, surely this will be much more productive. The free time now given to police could be used in targeting those who sell to minors and educating youth on the potential adverse effects.

'Marijuana is the gateway drug to hard narcotics'

There is an opinion that is mostly among people without experience using cannabis, that it is a gateway drug to harder narcotics. In my many years of smoking weed, I found that the gateway drug for me was alcohol. When I smoked weed, I never gave any thought to trying other drugs. The times I actually used more powerful narcotics always occurred when I was drunk and never when smoking marijuana. There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana leads to other drugs and this negative really has no substance in the argument for legalization.

Super Strength Cannabis

One issue with cannabis legalization is the increase in super strength weed and extremely high THC content extracts. For some this might be fine and the hardened user can enjoy such strengths without issue, but that is not the case for everyone. Clearly, it is of concern that young teenagers may seek higher strength marijuana and not have the experience to handle the potency. There is no doubt that this is a valid negative. Super high strength marijuana may adversely affect inexperienced users if they are unaware of their own tolerance levels.

Surely what you smoke and how you smoke it should come down to personal preference in any case. I don't think people are so stupid as to not understand the potential for adverse effects. Regardless, those effects will not last long, and it will be an effective learning experience for the user for their own education and understanding.

Maybe in the law there should be some penalty for manufacturing concentrated marijuana. Maybe the law should only allow weed to be created and sold in its natural form as there are reports of concentrates such as dabs exceeding THC levels of 60% which certainly could be dangerous. In commercial retail alcohol has an upper limit on spirits of 40% which cannabis certainly needs to make it more safer.

Increase in Stoned Driver Accidents

There are a few that say smoking weed causes 'stoned driver accidents' and this is a cause of concern. There have been studies that evaluate the effects of smoking while driving and conclude that accidents are more likely. This in popular opinion varies massively from person to person as some are much more careful when smoking weed. At least some reassurance is that stoned drivers will likely not drive as fast as those who drink alcohol. This is certainly less dangerous for weed smokers.

Driving whilst under the influence of any substance of course should be policed and enforced accordingly. Is this a reason to consider weed legalization? If this is the case, then why is alcohol legal and not weed? Alcohol clearly causes more road accidents and kills many more people every year.

Increase in young people smoking weed

While there are concerns around negative health outcomes among young people, cannabis legalization may have indirect benefits on social equity and long-term public health outcomes. Youth who legally obtain cannabis may avoid criminal environments and the potential for arrest. This would harm social determinants of health and mental health.

Legalization of marijuana revenues gained from this could be utilized positively in the education of youth. There are certain risk factors associated with young people using marijuana that maybe better explained through weed being legal.

There does seem to be a concern that cannabis causes adverse effects on mental health, especially in young people. Research suggests that certain people are more genetically predisposed to suffer from such adverse conditions. Those with underlying mental health issues could see an increase in symptoms as a result of cannabis use. One study showed on testing in rats that those exposed to cannabis at a young age under 15 years old had a much higher rate of developing signs of schizophrenia as adults. Those exposed to marijuana after the age of 15 had a much lesser chance of developing such symptoms. Basically the rats that were given marijuana at different stages in early development were introduced to a maze. Those that were exposed at the youngest age found it the hardest to find their way through the maze. Those that were given marijuana after the age of 15 found it much easier to find their way through the maze as adults. A classic sign of schizophrenia is said to be that of navigational ability and memory loss. Scientists concluded that this experiment shows evidence of the association that young people are at a much higher risk when using marijuana.

Revenue gained and in the right hands

One of the major issues with making marijuana illegal is that it puts all of the finance gained back in the hands of the criminal underworld. This surely has to be the highest level of negatives in the case for legalization. If the trade in marijuana is solely left to criminals, this leads to organised crime and the gangs that enforce it. With this crime brings violence and a multitude of problems. All of the generated revenue is in the wrong hands and could potentially be used for much more serious narcotics trades and funding of serious crimes.

By taking the criminal aspect away from marijuana and putting the revenue gains in the hands of every day people crime is reduced by over 90%. The trade can be monitored efficiently and the funds generated go to positive causes and actually helps Thai people.

The real issue is not marijuana, but the really dangerous narcotics such as heroin. Surely the whole debate on marijuana should be left behind. All the freed up resources and police time should be used to fight the drugs which cause serious problems to life.

Surely the positives far outweigh the negatives of marijuana legalization.

We would love to hear your comments on this.


  1. After traveling around Thailand visiting as many shops as possible it would seem people are quite intent on staying. Of course there are risks with any substance to make it as safe as possible. Reality is that legal marijuana or illegal, everyone is going to carry on smoking regardless. I don’t think the law will have much affect on the shops that currently sell weed. The new bill before parliament won’t be approved with a majority vote. There is way to much money coming in and one thing that talks loud in Thailand and solves most problems is money.


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