Thailand decriminalises cannabis but smoking for recreational purposes still forbidden

·2-min read

Thailand has decriminalised the cultivation and possession of cannabis, becoming the first nation in Asia to do so, with the aim of encashing business opportunities in food and medicinal use of the drug.

The law passed on Thursday, however, allows the use of cannabis only for medicinal reasons. Recreational smoking will still be an offence.

Recreational cannabis smoking in Thailand can lead to a jail sentence of up to three months and a fine of 25,000 Thai baht (£578).

Extracted content remains illegal if it contains more than 0.2 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that gets people high. That’s roughly the same amount that might be found in hemp, a cannabis variety mostly grown for fibres that are used for industrial purposes.

However, it is still a major policy shift in a country that is known for its harsh drug control laws. This is the first time people in Thailand have been legally allowed to grow marijuana at home.

With this change in law, Thailand is seeking to get a piece of the pie out of the growing market for medicinal cannabis, whose benefits are generally derived from other cannabinol chemicals in the plant.

Thailand already has a well-developed medical tourism industry, and its climate is ideal for growing cannabis.

“We should know how to use cannabis,” public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the country’s biggest supporter of medicinal marijuana, said recently. “If we have the right awareness, cannabis is like gold, something valuable, and should be promoted.”

Entrepreneurs learn how to grow cannabis plants at a farm in Chonburi province (AP)
Entrepreneurs learn how to grow cannabis plants at a farm in Chonburi province (AP)

But he added: “We will have additional ministry of health notifications. If it causes nuisances, we can use that law [to stop people from smoking].”

He said the government preferred to “build an awareness”, which would be better than patrolling to check on people and using the law to punish them.

“Everything should be on the middle path,” Mr Charnvirakul said during a news conference ahead of the decriminalisation on Thursday.

Mr Charnvirakul took to Facebook last month to declare his intention to give away one million cannabis plants to members of the public.

“It is an opportunity for people and the state to earn income from marijuana and hemp,” he wrote, alongside a photo of cooked chicken seasoned with cannabis.

“Roasted marijuana chicken, 300 baht per piece. Anyone can sell it if they obey the law,” he added.

Additional reporting by agencies

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