Criminal Drug Offences in Thailand
The law defines a 'psychotropic substance' as 'such psychotropic substance as is naturally derived or synthesized.' Such psychotropic substances fall into four categories. The most prominent substances falling within the scope of the Act include:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the active ingredient in cannabis); Gamma-Oxybutyrate (GHB)
- Ketamine; Ephedrine; Midazolam (Dormicum, Versed, etc.);
- Triazolam (Halcion)
- Alprazolam (Xanax); Diazepam (Valium;) Lorazepam (Ativan)
The Drugs Act defines the term 'drugs' as 'any form of chemical or substance that is consumed, taken orally, inhaled, smoked, delivered to the body by injection or any other method, causes significant physiological or mental effects, such as the need for continuous dose increases, has withdrawal symptoms in the absence phase, physical and mental addiction and impaired health in general.'
The substances defined as drugs fall into five categories. The most prominent implications falling within the scope of the Anti-Drug Act are Category 1 - Heroin, Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy), LSD; Category 2 - Cocaine, Codeine, Methadone, Morphine; Category 5 - Cannabis (decriminalized in 2022), Psychoactive Mushrooms.
Sanctions for the illicit manufacture of these categories of substances
Psychotropic Substances Act. Penalties.
For Schedule 1 and 2 substances:
- Jail from 5 to 20 years and a fine of 100,000-400,000 baht for manufacture, import, or export
- The prison of 5 years or less and a fine of not more than 100,000 baht for transportation across the border
- The prison is from 1 to 5 years and a fine of 20,000-100,000 baht for possession, use, or consumption.
For Schedule 3 and 4 substances:
- Jail for not more than five years and a fine of not more than 100,000 Baht for manufacture, import, or export
- Prison for not more than five years and a fine of not more than 100,000 Baht for transportation across the border
- Jail for not more than one year or a fine of not more than 20,000 Baht or both for possession, use, or consumption
Drugs Act. Penalties.
For Category 1 substances:
- To life imprisonment and a fine of 1,000,000-5,000,000 baht for manufacturing, importing, or exporting, except where it is intended for disposal, the penalty is death. Intent to "dispose of" is implied in quantities defined in the law.
- To life imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 to 5,000,000 baht or the death penalty (depending on the quantity of the substance or substances found) for removal or possession with intent to dispose of.
- To 10 years imprisonment or a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 baht for possession. Note again that if the amount of substance or substances found exceeds the prescribed levels in the Act, control will be taken out for disposal. It should also be noted that "disposal" is defined in the Act as sell, distribute, give away indiscriminately, exchange or give away'.
- Up to 3 years imprisonment or a fine of 10000 to 60000 Baht for consumption
For Category 2 substances:
- Up to 10 years imprisonment and a 100,000 to 1,000,000 Baht fine for manufacturing, importing or exporting. If the substance or substances found include morphine, opium, or cocaine, the penalty increases to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of 2,000,000 to 5,000,000 baht.
- Up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 baht or both for disposal or possession with intent to dispose of. In the case of morphine, opium, or cocaine, 3-20 years or a fine of 60,000 to 400,000 baht if the amount is less than 100g, or 3-20 years or a fine of 500,000 to 5,000,000 baht if greater
- Up to 5 years or a fine of not more than 100,000 baht or both for possession. If the amount is 100 grams of pure substance or more, it will be considered possession with intent to remove
- From six months to three years or a fine of 10,000 to 60,000 baht or both for consumption
For cannabis under category 5 (decriminalized!)
- From 2 to 15 years in prison, a fine of 200,000 to 1,500,000 baht for production, import, or export.
- From 2-10 years in prison or a fine of 40,000 to 200,000 baht or both for disposition or storage for disposition purposes. If the quantity exceeds 10 kilograms, the fine increases to 15 years, and the fine are 200,000 to 1,500,000 baht.
- Jail for not more than five years or a fine of not more than 100,000 baht or both for possession
- Jail for not more than one year and a fine of 100,000 to 1,000,000 for consumption
For Kratom landings under category 5 (decriminalized!)
- Jail for not more than two years and a fine of not more than 200,000 baht for producing, importing, or exporting
- Jail for not more than two years or a fine of not more than 40,000 baht or both for disposition or storage for disposition purposes. If the quantity exceeds 10 kilograms, the penalty is imprisonment for not more than two years and a fine of not more than 200,000 baht.
- Jail for not more than one year or a fine of not more than 20,000 baht or both for possession
- Jail for not more than one month or a fine of not more than 2,000 baht for consumption
By the provisions of the law, 'competent persons' (in most cases, meaning the police) have the following powers:
- To enter any place or dwelling if they have reasonable cause to suspect that there is a person or people there whom they have reason to suspect of being complicit in drug offenses.
- Stop and search any person or vehicle if they have reasonable cause to suspect that they are carrying or concealing drugs.
- To enter and search premises without a warrant (having reasonable grounds for suspicion) and to detain a person or group of people to conduct an 'on the spot' drug test (under the provisions of the Fifth Amendment to the Anti-Drug Act).
- Arrest any person involved in the commission of any drug trafficking crime.
- Seize any illegal drugs or property used or intended to be used in the commission of drug crimes or as may be used as evidence.
- To conduct searches by the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- To make inquiries regarding suspects involved in drug offenses.
- To issue a letter of inquiry or subpoena to any person or official of any government agency.
- To testify, provide accounts, documents, or examination materials.
Will the property be forfeited?
The above Act provides for the seizure of all tools, equipment, vehicles, machinery, or other devices used in the commission of a drug offense or used as accessories to the production that resulted in the commission of the drug offense. Authorities may also "seize, withhold or confiscate the proceeds of drug trafficking" in any case, provided that:
- The offender or any accomplice is a Thai national or has a place of residence in Thailand.
- The offender is a foreigner, and the Act committed is an offense under the law of the State in whose jurisdiction the crime is executed if the offender happens to be in the Kingdom and is not extradited under the extradition (extradition) legislation.
Specialties of drug cases
Some exceptions exist for drug cases. When a defendant is represented by counsel and is deemed to have willfully missed a court hearing or absconded, and if there is a need to preserve evidence, the court may hear evidence in the defendant's absence. However, the defense must be allowed to cross-examine and present evidence refuting the evidence presented by the prosecutor. If the defendant pleads guilty to the charge, the court may impose a sentence without admission of any evidence. The exceptions are cases where there is reason to suspect that the defendant did not commit the crime or where the crime of which the defendant has pleaded guilty is punishable by at least life imprisonment or the death penalty.
The court may also impose a sentence without admitting any evidence.