KEY POINTS
  • Countries from Colombia to Canada have legalized marijuana for medical or even recreational use, but the drug remains illegal and taboo across much of Southeast Asia, which has some of the world's harshest punishments for drug law violations.
  • Yet Thailand's parliament voted to amend its Narcotic Act of 1979 in an extra parliamentary session handling a rush of bills before the New Year's holidays.
Hemp plants are grown for medical research purposes in Chiang Mai province, Thailand.

Thailand approved marijuana for medical use and research on Tuesday, the first legalization of the drug in a region with some of the world's strictest drug laws.

The junta-appointed parliament in Thailand, a country which until the 1930s had a tradition of using marijuana to relieve pain and fatigue, voted to amend the Narcotic Act of 1979 in an extra parliamentary session handling a rush of bills before the New Year's holidays.