Updated on January 7, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Cambodia stands apart from many other countries due to its relaxed approach to recreational and medicinal marijuana. While cannabis is illegal, law enforcement and government officials do not enforce the law and permit its use in public, as well as in pizza parlors and restaurants throughout the country’s capital and beyond.
Because of marijuana’s legality in Cambodia, the nation does not maintain a medical marijuana program. Due to this feature, physicians can develop a treatment plan that meets your needs, as well as preferences for administration.
The lack of a medical marijuana program, however, does introduce concerns for patients and caregivers. Legality is one, as it’s illegal to use marijuana in Cambodia — even though the practice is still prevalent. Safety is another, as providers may deliver cannabis that’s poor quality, resulting in lackluster potency.
Due to the prevalence of cannabis, it’s possible the government will shift its policies, legalizing medical and recreational cannabis, as well as establishing a medical marijuana program with a safe, licensed supply chain to ensure patient safety.
Cambodia’s history explains its approach to cannabis. Historians estimate marijuana became a part of the country’s culture during the 1500s. During this period — and even today — Cambodians used marijuana to enhance food dishes and treat ailments.
This relaxed and accepting view of cannabis lasted until the 1960s. The involvement of the United Nations, via the Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs, led to the illegalization of marijuana in 1961. Cambodians, however, continued to cultivate and use cannabis, with law enforcement ignoring the new law.
As a result, the medicine is commonly grown, sold and used in public.
Per Cambodian legislation, possessing and cultivating medical marijuana is illegal. It’s a practice that’s common throughout the area, however, with many farmers and locals growing the plant. Pizza parlors, in fact, advertise the use of marijuana through the well-known phrase, “happy pizza.”
Compared to other countries, telemedicine in Cambodia is less established. However, its capital, Phnom Penh, offers patients access to physicians across the world, such as those at Harvard Medical School, through the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE.
While many countries maintain a medical marijuana program that establishes a list of qualifying conditions, Cambodia does not. Instead, the decision to treat your disease and symptoms with cannabis — or to use it recreationally — is your choice. It’s critical, however, to consider the potential penalties of use beforehand.
As noted, Cambodia does not maintain a medical cannabis program, which is why medical marijuana cards are also absent from the country. If you intend to research the effects of cannabis in a medical setting, you do need to apply for permission from the government.
Some facts about medical marijuana in Cambodia include that the country:
While Cambodia maintains a relaxed policy towards medical cannabis, it also features some of the harshest penalties — a shared trait of many countries in southeast Asia. In Cambodia, penalties can include five years in prison or a life sentence. Fines are less substantial, ranging from $25 to $250.
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