Thailand relaxes weed laws and donates cannabis plants

Thailand has said it plans to donate one million cannabis plants to households across the country, in a bid to build excitement for a la...


Thailand has said it plans to donate one million cannabis plants to households across the country, in a bid to build excitement for a law coming into effect next month that will allow residents to grow cannabis. the herb for their personal medical use or as a small-scale business. business.

The project, announced this week by the country’s health minister, is Thailand’s latest move to position itself as a leader in Asia’s nascent cannabis industry. United States and other major economies are liberalizing marijuana laws amid growing evidence of its medical benefits.

Industry analysts say the moves could help attract more international visitors to Thailand and bolster medical tourism, in a country where a sprawling tourist sector accounted for up to a fifth of the pre-Covid economy.

But don’t expect California-style cannabis retailers on your next trip to bangkok or one of Thailand’s postcard-perfect tropical islands. Under current Thai law, recreational use of high-potency marijuana is still prohibited, and tourists convicted of possession of the drug can face up to 15 years in prison.

The Thai campaign began with a 2019 law that authorized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, a first in Southeast Asia. The rules now allow the sale of cannabis containing a low percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive compound in the herb.

The mass plant distribution project is set to take place starting next month and will allow residents to grow medical-grade (i.e. low-THC) marijuana without government permission. Larger businesses will need a permit.

The plant donation was to coincide with the new Cannabis Cultivation Act, which comes into effect after June 9, as well as a recent government decision to remove cannabis from the list of drugs considered illegal under its Narcotics Act, starting the same week. of June. News of the project was reported earlier this week by CNN and other media.

Thailand’s Deputy Health Minister Sophon Mekthon said this month that the government plans to promote the idea of ​​a wellness industry that includes recreational cannabis use, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper. . reported.

But it’s still unclear whether the part of the cannabis plant that people smoke to get high – its dried flowers – will be removed from the government’s list of banned drugs when the Narcotics Act is updated next month, Carl K. Linn, the author of a newsletter on cannabis in Thailand, wrote Thursday.

If only Cannabidiol, or CBDand hemp is removed from the prohibited list, he wrote, the government’s plans to promote recreational pot will be “little more than a dream of what might be – one day – down the proverbial road “.

Either way, Thailand’s slow but steady efforts to decriminalize marijuana are notable because the country is in a region where governments have long imposed harsh penalties on people who use drugs. In neighboring Singapore, for example, its possession is punishable by up to ten years in prison, and its trafficking is punishable by death.

Thailand’s decriminalization campaign has a political dimension. The country is ruled by a military government which seized power in a 2014 coupand when the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly voted unanimously in 2018 to allow the use of medical marijuana, some thought it might help military-backed parties gain traction. support in the legislative elections the following year.

One of these parties, Bhumjaithai, is led by Anutin Charnvirakul, who said during the campaign in 2019, small-scale cannabis cultivation could earn each household an additional $13,000 per year. He was then appointed Minister of Health.

Writing about the plant distribution measure on Facebook this week, Mr Charnvirakul framed the country’s new marijuana policies as a business opportunity, projecting that the nation could generate more than $300 million a year in revenue from marijuana and hemp.

“It’s a free market,” he wrote. “Just follow the law.”

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