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Photo: theogeo

Guide to the laws on marijuana throughout Southeast Asia.

AT MATADOR, WE LIKE to give you the best information we can. More than 200 comments on our Guide Smoking Pot Around the World have made us realize that a comprehensive guide is an important thing for all you heshers out there, but it’s got to be tackled a little at a time. So we’re starting with Southeast Asia.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of what the laws are, let it be said that the ways these laws are enforced are often different in theory than in practice. The well traveled toker will tell you that many countries’ laws are not strictly enforced and that you can escape sentencing by bribing Johnny Law. Check with local smokers upon arrival to get the lay of the land.

Brunei

CannabisCulture.com reports that under Brunei law possession of over 600 grams (about 21 oz.) of pot is punishable by death. In a 2004 case, a man was sentenced to death by hanging after being caught with 922 grams (about 32.5 oz.).

According to the U.S. State Department, “Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Brunei are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences, heavy fines, and, possibly, death.”

As the Islamic nation of Brunei does not appear to be a popular destination spot for marijuana enthusiasts, tales of thwarting punishment are few and far between. As always, we invite your comments and will take your corrections if you find the information here lacking.

Cambodia

According to GoSEAsia.com, Cambodian drug laws are spottily enforced, but punishment can range from between five years to life in prison. A PDF provided by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations outlines Cambodia’s drug laws in a confusing and poorly translated tangle of legal jargon that you probably won’t be able to make sense of if you’re not high (not that you could if you were).

A 1998 Cannabis Culture article outlines the criminalization of the drug in 1996, but deems Cambodia as still being a haven for heshers. How harsh could they be when they’re home a restaurant called Smokin’ Pot?

Weed smokers with Cambodia in mind would be well served to check out a Reefer Smoke blog from July of 2009 that paints a green picture of this “Stoner’s Paradise”.

Indonesia

WeBeHigh.com provides a comprehensive guide to Bali for the pot enthusiast but warns that penalties are severe and strictly enforced. This information is from 2006, so may be a tad out of date, but the site reports that police seldom hassle tourists and can be bribed.

The punishment for trafficking is death while possession could land you with 10 years in prison. Though uncommon, it’s not unheard of for a tourist to wind up serving a long sentence. The famous case of Schapelle Corby who faced the death penalty but is now serving 20 years for trafficking (she was bringing drugs into the country) may serve as an example. Be cagey if you decide you’ve got to get stoned in Indonesia.

Laos

Travelfish says marijuana is the easiest to find drug in Laos, but warns that no drugs are legal. A 2009 post from WeBeHigh.com says that in Vientiane and Laung Prabang, you need not ask for pot, rather you will be approached, suggesting richshaw drivers as being in-the-know should you not find yourself bombarded with pot vendors.

The real problem here is opium, so police are less likely to worry about pot. Still, discretion is advised. Specific details of the laws are pretty hard to find, but the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reports that the death penalty is still on the table there. Finding yourself in prison in Laos could mean enduring incredibly inhumane treatment and possibly rape.

Malaysia

The good news is that if caught with less than seven ounces and you won’t be presumed to be trafficking. The bad news is that trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty. A poorly spelled entry on WeBeHigh warns not to get caught. Even small amounts of weed can land you in prison and we’ve yet to run across accounts of bribe friendly officials.

Looks like word on the street in Malaysia is to be very, very careful if your need for weed can’t be squelched. If you must buy, ask a local in a discreet way. Foreigners trying to buy will have a hard time of it.

Myanmar

Photo and Feature Photo: nicasaurusrex

MyanmarNarcotic.net appears to be a site for propaganda to honor the eradication of narcotics. Perhaps you could attend the latest Destruction Ceremony and swipe a little of your drug of choice.

A document provided by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations seems to indicate a mandatory five to ten year sentence if caught. Actually, that’s the sentence for “[c]ultivation, processing, transportation, distribution, transmission, transfer, forced to cause abuse, misbehaviour on the exhabits of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.” It’s the closest thing we could find to information about the worst case scenario if caught toking up in Burma.

Papua New Guinea

WeBeHigh.com tells us that drug laws in Papua New Guinea are “strictly enforced by the courts” and that even very small quantities can land you in prison for between three to five years. They also say that police can be bribed, so if busted you should ask to be fined or ticketed and that should be enough to help you thwart serious trouble.

Philippines

Philippines instated the death penalty for trafficking in 2002 and then rescinded this policy in 2006. WeBeHigh reports that five grams can land you in prison long term and suggest heavy bribes (in the hundreds of dollars) to escape punishment.

If you are planning on getting high in Manilla, their guide seems to be a rich source for learning where to buy and where to smoke. It seems that despite the penalties, pot is easy to find, and if you’re careful you shouldn’t get in trouble.

Disable the volume before watching this video of how to roll a spleef with a banana leaf in the Philippines and check out the comments on YouTube if you need a laugh.

Singapore

The death penalty is a real possibility for those caught trafficking pot in Singapore. GoEastAsia.com says “400 people were hanged for drug trafficking in Singapore between 1991 and 2004.” WeBeHigh.com recommends not smoking there at all saying, “Even if you smoke you will not be stoned because of the paranoia level.”

We believe them. However, if you must, be extremely careful.

Thailand

Photo from Koh Tao, Thailand: Retinafunk

Check out a few forums and you’ll find that travelers generally recommend not trying to buy weed in Thailand. A blogger on CannabisTV.eu tells a tale of a local being set up trying to make a small buy. She was piss tested by police when they caught up with her, found not to have drugs in her system, and released. The same blog recounts stories of discos being raided and revelers being urine tested on the spot.

WeBeHigh.com suggests asking taxi or tuk-tuk drivers in Pattaya for a hook up and that you won’t get a good deal unless you buy a brick. GoSEAsia.com points out that trafficking is punishable by death but that the death penalty hasn’t been enforced since 2004.

Vietnam

According to StopTheDrugWar.org, pot use in Vietnam is typically punishable by confining users “in mandatory drug detoxification centers for up to two years, or in some centers, up to five years.” Dealing of large quantities is punishable by death.

As of 2006, WeBeHigh.com was recommending checking with local expats about the climate as the method of punishing public use was changing rapidly. Sound advice in any country.

Community Connection

We really want to hear from you on this one, guys. Did we get something wrong? Any great stories from Southeast Asia? Let us know what you know below.

Drug Laws

 

About The Author

Kate Sedgwick

Editor-at-large, Kate Sedgwick, works from Buenos Aires where she organizes her live storytelling project, Second Story Buenos Aires. Read more about her than you might want to know at her blog YesThereIsSuchAThingAsAStupidQuestion.com, and follow her infrequent tweets @KateSedgwick.

  • http://www.aellearoundtheworld.com/ aelle

    I’m glad the information is being shared. Also keep in mind that if you do get in trouble with the local authorities, your embassy will be way more reluctant to help you if you’re on a drug charge than for any other problem!

  • joshua johnson

    Solid info Kate! Thank you so very much for tackling this issue, a sensitive one for sure, but the fact is there are scores of travelers like like to enjoy ganja on the road.

    • http://yesthereissuchathingasastupidquestion.wordpress.com/ Kate Sedgwick

      Thanks, Josh. If you’ve got to smoke, it’s probably better to know before you go!

  • Paul

    It might be advisable to get more recent information about toking in Thailand. Not that Thaksin’s war on drugs is entirely a thing of the past but the postings on Aardvark.com are over six years old. Anyone know the up-to-date scuttlebutt in the Land of Smiles?

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  • ThaisChalencon

    I’m brazilian and I love to smoke a pot and all my travels I found a way to found it. I would like to write about it if you are intrested, of course. I also intrested in write about the marijuana brazilian laws. How a brazilian musician says: “Legalize ja”

  • ali

    Your going to find it hard to find marajuana writers as by nature they are going to chilling out rather than writing.

    Generally your not going to get into trouble for smoking weed/dope/hash around the world unless you,ve got a kilo in your pocket.

    The Arab nations are more strigent becuase they want to make an example out of Western tourists, the Asian and Latin countries are generally not bothered or their police are open to bribes.

    Europe: at worst a slap on the wrist

    • Paul

      I beg to differ somewhat, Ali. In Thailand recently there was the case of a farang getting busted with THREE grams and that was cause for a media event. It was called a “crime” which the foreigner “confessed” to “committing.” Another big deal was made of an American found with 20 grams in the north. You probably won’t get a long jail sentence but you might be detained, fined, and deported. If you do manage to encounter a cop who will accept a “fine” on the spot, be prepared to empty the bank account. The Po-Po boards buses all the time and I’m not saying they are targeting foreigners, but…Besides, the quality is terrible. Not at all what we used to call “Thai stick.” Peace.

  • Bob

    In Thailand, just use your head. Its available but you have to be discreet. The southern islands (Phi Phi) are relaxed. However, unless you really want to, I would wait until you are in Laos.

    Laos is another world. In Vang Vieng, they openly sell it along with everything else at the bars. There is nothing like smoking a spliff then floating down the river to the next bar. The bar owners have the cops paid off so you are fine as long as you smoke in the bars or on the river. Happy Shakes may have mushrooms so make sure you check before you get yourself in over your head.

    Cambodia has no laws and they have “happy pizza” places that sell pot openly.

    • Bustami78

       dude, you the man.
      im planing for 10 days Myanmar, 10 Days Laos, 10 Days Cambodia.
      any suggestions to easily find places as you mentioned.
      thanx

  • Earth Moonstar

    If anyone such a interested in buy a marijuana,cannabis drugs and party pills;so!  this suggestion give you a interesting information to buy a dagga,weed,seed and other marijuana drugs you can visit the great site that the link here and visit of that; also,you can give suggestion about    

  • Hlubkoj131

    anyone knows were to get weed in laos? imma in need of trying it

  • Laurent Coq

    When in Kashgar (or Kashi) from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, I was walking in a old typical area of this town.  (100% sure) I saw little packs of weed openly for sell that a guy had on display when selling cigarettes, razor blades, lighters, old watches, incense, pure tobacco  and chewing gums… 
    Being the only foreigners, I was certainly the attraction of the day. However faces quickly changes when they realized that I was staring at the weed. Fun enough, I then saw two old men making a deal :))
    That said, I am strongly advising you all -NOT TO- touch any kinds of drugs in China… You will be jailed + fined + deported.That said, you can buy Hashish all nights long in Sanlitun (Beijing) for example… 08/2011

  • Shards

    The only foreigners with a chance of getting weed in Singapore are residents. Otherwise, with no hook-ups you’ll definitely be dry, and it’s really for the best IMO. There’s absolutely no “fines” or slipping bills into passports.

    Saw a comment bemoaning the quality of Thai weed. Yeah, it’s definitely not “Thai Stick”, but the bag weed (which is what most foreigners get) definitely gets you stoned make no mistake. And Bangkok is lovely at night.

    If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Weed is fun as sh*t, but it shouldn’t make or break a holiday.

  • David Dorn

    It`s really a shame…Laos could be a nice place to live, but SEA is a bad place to smoke. Get caught and ANYTHING can happen. Well, off to Argentina then!

  • Yo Johnson

    Everything i have ever been told points to staying away from ANY drug in ANY amount while in Singapore very strict country with drug use being very rare and among locals. You do not want to be cained!!!

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