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Seeking the Green Light: 3 Asian Countries Backing Medical Marijuana Legalization

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Despite the growing evidence showing the various benefits of medical marijuana, many countries still refuse to legalize it. While this plant gets the green light in many nations in Europe, Latin America, Oceania, and North America, it is still primarily banned across much of Asia. Countries in this region have the strictest substance laws that give the stiffest penalties such as death sentence to traffickers of illicit drugs, including weed.

Medical Marijuana in Asia

It is somewhat ironic that the first civilizations who use marijuana for health purposes are the ones opposing its use in contemporary times. Historians say the use of this plant as medicine was first documented by Chinese medical manual as early as 2700 B.C. Ancient Chinese doctors said marijuana is useful in treating gout, rheumatism, malaria, and even absent-mindedness. From China, the plant’s medicinal use later spread to neighboring countries and the rest of the world.

But centuries after, China and other Asian nations fell victims to the harmful properties of marijuana. In 1909, Chinese officials formed a committee that strictly banned substances that can change a person’s mental state, including marijuana. But as western countries discovered multiple health benefits of weed, especially with the CBD hemp oil, many countries in the region are starting to change their outlook on the plant. Slowly, some politicians in these nations are open to legalizing the use and cultivation of cannabis.   

Countries Supporting Medical Marijuana Approval

Here are some countries with governments that have opened their minds to decriminalize medical marijuana use:


This southeast Asian country is among the first to legalize the use of medical cannabis. As early as 2016, the Thai government and private organizations discussed the possibility of lifting the ban on the use of the plant. Some agencies agreed on the removal of the plant from the list of illicit Category 5 substances. In December 2018, the Thai parliament voted to legalize marijuana for medicinal use but still banned its recreational use.


Pres. Rodrigo Duterte might be known for his campaign against illegal drugs, but he is open to legalizing the approval of medical cannabis use in the country. Many lawmakers have already passed a bill that states rules for the proper use of medicinal marijuana that would include the appointment of a qualified medical cannabis physician, issuance of a medical cannabis ID for qualified patients, an eligible medical cannabis caregiver, and a government-supervised medical cannabis compassionate center.


This country is known for its strict implementation of drug-trafficking laws. However, a case involving Muhammad Lukman, a 29-year-old father who was executed for distributing cannabis oil for cancer patients raised public debate on the legality of the plant. Lukman was a cannabis advocate who worked with local organizations in educating Malaysians on medical marijuana benefits particularly in easing debilitating health conditions. Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad later sought a review of the country’s drug laws following Lukman’s unfortunate incident.

Even though Asia lags in using cannabis as medication, some countries are on the process of legalizing the wonder plant that could benefit patients worldwide.