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Thailand’s Druggy Biz

In 1999, two young women were found guilty of drug smuggling in the Land of Smiles and were both given hefty sentences. In the midst of the trials, appeals, and sentencing, one of the girls took the entire blame for the events along with taking the remaining sentence of her soon to be free friend. 95 years she would have in prison. Yes, while this is a work of fiction by director Jonathan Kaplan, Brokedown Palace is the norm for when it comes to drug-related crime in Thailand (Sidenote: the movie is banned in the Kingdom, but the soundtrack is well-worth the streaming).

Movie poster for Brokedown Palace

Movie poster for Brokedown Palace

“Their graduation present was a trip to paradise, but they never thought they would land in hell” BP’s tagline (IMDB)

The recent news is direct evidence of how strict the laws are concerning drug-related crime in Thailand, throughout Southeast Asia for that matter. The very recent story that brought up  BP is that of the Australian DJ and Briton co-hort (life sentence and 50 years) that have been rejected for their joint court appeal this week (the story can be read here at Music Feed  or here at The Guardian ). Now, personally, these immense prison times are not news to many of us, but it still does seem that enforcments are hammering down. While these laws may not directly affect us, today I wanted to take a quick peek into Thailand’s drug laws. Because “ignorance is never an excuse” let’s take the time to inform ourselves with the real deal of drug laws.

Class V Drugs: Marijuana and Shrooms

As we’ve seen on Locked Up Abroad, being on the other side of the law in another country is never fun. Most of us that will find ourselves on the wrong side of the law will be dabblers of the green: marijuana. Many travelers that end up calling Thailand home come from places where weed is no big deal. While Europe is mostly tolerant of said substance and cards are available for the ready and willing stateside, it is no joke in Thailand. Stemming back from 1937 Thailand saw its first law targeting cannabis throughout the Kingdom; and while this will continue throughout the decades it will remain a no-no for everyone (great historical account of marijuana laws in Thailand here at Thailand Law Forum).

The only way off the hook when it comes to drug use is if you turn yourself into a medical clinic, before law enforcement gets ya.

If you do choose to toke with the devil, obviously be aware of your surroundings and remember that undercover law enforcement is very normal. I still find it pretty unbelievable that flash-packers light up at places like Koh San Road or the Chiang Mai equivalent Zoe in Yellow. Assuming that most of you aren’t going to have more than 10 kilos, or an intent to distribute, if tested positive for Class V drugs (marijuana, kratom, or shrooms) the offender faces up to one year imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 20,000. Thai Law Forum recommends checking into a medical facility if ever feeling unsafe/at risk or disoriented after having taken drugs–where if having not broken any other laws, further penalties are excusable as there are laws to protect in said situations. (ThaiLawForum).

Cocaine, Ice, Meth, K, Heroin, etc

Cocaine, Ice, Meth, K, Heroin, etc

Class I & II: The Big Boys

And sometimes, just sometimes, people (not us, I’m sure) will need more than just a little green to get the party started. Enter Class I & II Drugs which include heroin, ecstasy, coke, yaba, ice, special-K, codeine, and opium. As the upper echelon drugs take the high even higher, the penalties also rise greatly. Again, assuming most reading this aren’t into trafficking, if tested positive for this class the offender is facing 6 months to 3 years imprisonment and/or fines from 10 thousand – 60,000 baht. Damn!

It is obvious Thailand takes her drugs seriously! And these are for testing positive–not the ones that we see in the news repeatedly. The stories that make headlines are the LARGER quantities. The two unlucky fellas whose appeals were rejected this week were for 61 pills of ecstasy. Or the Hmong woman just north of Chiang Mai that was arrested with over 100,000 pills of yaba! I’ve seen a few episodes of Locked Up Abroad, and can only guess the dire need some of these people were in or thought they were in, to sign up for such a dangerous job.



What gets to me is the blanket statement “they are getting what they deserve”. I’m not sure these people “deserve” their punishment. What I do know is that they broke the law in the country they call home. They thought they needed to do what they did, and/or thought they would get away with it. They were caught and face the penalties that Thailand has set forth, which sometimes includes the death penalty. On par with Singapore, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, we now have the radical Filipino president Duterte in office, who is definitely opposed to drug use–to put it mildly. Before he was elected, he stated his stance very clearly, “All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you”. 

Know the risks you are taking, in the country you are taking them in. Drug usage is definitely not taken lightly in Asia and will continue on this route.


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