Following two years of tightening the grip on social freedoms, as a result of Covid, Thailand seems to be pushing for more liberal policies. Soon after allowing bars and clubs in the country to resume operations and announcing an end to some of its most severe pandemic restrictions, the country is now lifting a long-standing ban on cannabis.
Thailand is officially the first destination in Asia to relax the harshest rules on the commercialization of the plant. Though these are exciting news for tourists who are also cannabis lovers, they should take it with a pinch of salt: it may have ceased being illicit across Thailand as of this month, but its recreational use remains outlawed:
Thailand’s Economy To Reach New Highs
On Thursday (June 9) Thailand claimed the title of first country in the whole of Asia to decriminalize cannabis. In an interview with the CNN, Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who has also been behind the nation’s anti-Covid strategy, confirmed ‘it is no longer a crime to grow and trade marijuana and hemp products’.
Effectively, Thai businesses are now free to capitalize on the the rising popularity of cannabis as an additive to food and drink. From this week, bars and restaurants in the country will be free to sell cannabis-infused products, so long as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels are equal or below 0.2%.
THC is the main psychoactive component present in cannabis. On top of that, visitors will also be allowed to use the plant for health purposes, such as treating illnesses, including chronic pain. Conversely, he warned both locals and tourists alike against abusing the new relaxed laws, reiterating the recreational use of cannabis is still illegal.
To put it simply, smoking joints is not yet allowed in Thailand – but munching on marijuana brownies sold from licensed shops will not get you into trouble. As Charnvirakul argued, legalizing cannabis production, while still maintaining a ban on recreational usage, has the power to further boost Thailand’s economy.
Dealing another blow to those who might be hoping Thailand will follow in Canada or Holland’s footsteps in further relaxing cannabis regulations, Charnvirakul bluntly said ‘no’ to joints. According to the Health Minister, strict laws banning the consumption of cannabis in so-called ‘non-productive ways’ will continue being enforced.
Tourists Are Again Warned Against Smoking Joints In Thailand
Charnvirakul reminded the public, and those visiting Thailand, of the country’s harsh penalties under the Public Health Act. Those found to be using cannabis in an illegal way risk being jailed for three months and fined USD 800.00. Tourists in particular have been alerted not to light joints in public as there will be consequences:
‘If tourists come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it’s not an issue‘, the Health Minister added, ‘but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal, or come to Thailand to smoke joints freely, that’s wrong‘. Charnvirakul concluded by telling these tourists not to come.
Despite the big caveat, the move is still being lauded by the international community. After all, Asia as a whole, and especially Southeast Asia, a subgroup Thailand belongs to, has some of the most severe drug laws in the world. By lifting the ban, Thai authorities now expect the value of the local cannabis industry to exceed 2 billion dollars.
In fact, the Ministry of Agriculture is planning to distribute 1 million free cannabis plants to households in Thailand, clearly encouraging people to join in the venture. Businesses and entrepreneurs will still need to register with authorities in order to obtain a permit to farm the plant and sell cannabis-derived goods.
Can Digital Nomads Living In Thailand Also Grow Cannabis?
In recent years, Thailand has proposed a new digital nomad visa allowing foreigners working remotely to remain in the country for a longer period of time. We do not know, a this point, whether foreigners residing in Thailand under any specific visa categories, including as Digital Nomads, will be allowed to grow the plant.
Seeing that Digital Nomad Visas require applicants to have either a majority, or most of their income originating from foreign sources, we can guess those living in Thailand under this permit will not be allowed to grow the plant and start their own Thailand-based marijuana business. When planning to visit Thailand, tourists are advised to:
- Buy products from licensed venues
- Strictly adhere to laws regulation the recreational use of cannabis
- If living in Thailand and looking to build a business, seek a permit in advance
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories