This year has been auspicious for cannabis in Asia, as governments across the continent have adopted cannabis reforms as a means to achieve new opportunities in health and wealth.

  • South Korea made history when it became the first modern Asian nation to legalize medicinal marijuana in November 2018, with the law taking effect in March 2019.
  • Thailand legalized medical marijuana in February 2019.
  • Malaysia announced in June that it would end criminal prosecution of drug users in what Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad described as a “game changer policy.”
  • Last week, a Philippine lawmaker introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana. “There are already 60 countries that legalized medical cannabis. That shows it has really great potential for medical purposes, at the same time commercial purpose. It’s use for a lot of medical purposes, if you have migraine, anxiety, its anti-cancer, seizure,” Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte stated.
  • China granted permission to Hanma Investment Group in 2017 to extract CBD. China generally permits the sale of hemp seeds and hemp oil and the use of CBD in cosmetics, but it has not yet approved CBD for use in food and medicines.

These recent developments represent a significant and broad-based shift in policy, but also represent a reclaiming of historic practices in the region. The use of cannabis can be traced back to China by recorded medical texts over 2,000 years old, and in India through the practice of Ayurvedic medicine, which is roughly 5,000 years old.

These developments also represent a significant commercial opportunity. According to research by Prohibition Partners, an international cannabis consultancy, only 2% of Asia’s population uses cannabis, which is about half the global average of nearly 4%. Yet even at that low percentage, that still represents 86 million potential customers. Prohibition Partners estimates the Asian medical cannabis market alone will be worth over $5.8 billion by 2024, with the total Asian cannabis market perhaps exceeding $8.5 billion.

We will continue to monitor international trends in cannabis here on our blog.