Thailand legalized the cultivation and possession of marijuana last week, but the new laws come with regulations and exceptions that could put a damper on the idea of the country as a cannabis haven for tourists.
Cannabis has been a topic of interest in Thailand for years. In 2018, Thailand approved the use of medical marijuana, making it the first country in Southeast Asia to do so. In May, Thailand’s health minister announced that the Thai government would distribute 1 million cannabis seedlings to Thai households once cannabis was legalized.
So what does this mean for tourists who are interested in planning a trip to Thailand? Will it be a weed wonderland like Amsterdam? Probably not. Here’s a list of what you can and can’t do when it comes to enjoying cannabis in the country.
You can grow and trade marijuana and hemp products
If you’re visiting Thailand as a tourist for a short period of time, you probably won’t have the time and resources needed to grow and trade marijuana and hemp. Therefore, this rule is more applicable to Thai residents.
At the beginning of June, Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration launched PlookGanja, a phone app and website that helps people register their cultivation of cannabis and hemp plants, according to the Bangkok Post.
“There will be training and educational courses offered to local residents for transitioning to commercial cultivation and other business opportunities,” Monique Jackson-Fitzgerald, co-founder of cannabis travel platform InnDica, told The Washington Post. “As their supply chain grows and regulations are fleshed out, there will be more growth from the purely leisure travel side.”
You can consume some edibles and infused drinks
Cafes and restaurants in Thailand are allowed to serve cannabis-infused food and drinks, but food and beverage products must contain less than 0.2 percent THC to be legally sold. For context, most U.S. states that have legalized cannabis do not have a cap on potency, Jackson-Fitzgerald said. “However, there have been bills proposed in a couple of states that would limit potency, and it is an evolving issue,” she added. Places like Highland Cafe, in Bangkok, were previously limited to only selling products made from parts of the cannabis plant that do not get people high, but with new rules and regulations in place, the cafe has started selling marijuana, the Associated Press reported, listing varieties such as Sugarcane, Bubblegum, Purple Afghani and UFO.
You can use marijuana for medical purposes
While the medical marijuana policies for tourists are still vague, some of the information that has been released seems encouraging. “In the next stages, both Thais and foreigners will have the opportunity to be treated with medical marijuana,” Marut Jirasrattasiri, director general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, told Bloomberg in an interview in 2020.
“Thailand is metering out the legalization road map, and really doing an interesting, strategic job and guiding it toward wellness and medical,” Brian Applegarth, the founder of Cannabis Travel Association International, told The Post. “With these new laws being announced — which is essentially decriminalizing cultivation and possession — it’s just another baby step in the right direction,” he added.
You’re not allowed to use marijuana recreationally
If you’re planning on lighting up a joint in the park, Thailand isn’t the destination for you. People who smoke pot in public in Thailand will be subject to a potential three-month jail sentence and a fine of more than $700. People who are “investigating cannabis for its medicinal benefits or exploring business opportunities are being welcomed,” Jackson-Fitzgerald said. “But I would caution purely recreational tourists to hold off before putting Thailand on their trip list.”
Ultimately, the cannabis-related stipulations might confuse tourists who want to partake. A representative for the Tourism Authority of Thailand did not immediately respond to a request for comment on guidance for visitors who want to consume cannabis.
“When cannabis consumers are making their decisions about where to vacation, it’s important that they take the time to actually understand the local laws so they don’t inadvertently end up doing something that could get them into trouble,” said Tom Angell, a cannabis reform expert who tracks marijuana legalization for Marijuana Moment, a cannabis news site.
In Thailand, Angell said, “there does seem to be a fair bit of confusion about what the new policies do and don’t allow.”
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