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According to the deputy prime minister, Thailand’s easing cannabis laws will bolster the country’s agriculture and tourism sectors. Although not full legalization, Thailand’s easing cannabis laws is different from other nation-states. For example, the government has distributed 1 million cannabis plants among its population. 

Thailand is the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis.

How Thailand’s Easing Cannabis Laws Came to Be

Cannabis connoisseurs will be disappointed to hear that any plant with more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) remains illegal. However, the rest of the plan is already looking better than the top-down corporate regime in Canada, for example.

It is odd for a conservative, Buddhist-majority country known for its tough laws on drug trafficking to take a small-l liberal approach to cannabis suddenly.

Thailand’s easing of cannabis laws began in 2018 with medical cannabis. Then business mogul turned politician Anutin Charnvirakul spearheaded the next move. Charnvirakul, deputy prime minister and health minister, campaigned on legalizing cannabis cultivation specifically so farmers could supplement their incomes.

Details on Thailand’s Easing Cannabis Laws

Thailand's Easing Cannabis Laws

So is Thailand decriminalizing or legalizing? That depends on how you define those terms. For sure, Thailand’s easing cannabis laws look more like an American state like Colorado than the top-down bureaucracy implemented in Canada or planned for Germany.

In Thailand, you’ll be able to use all parts of the cannabis plant without fear of criminal reprisal. Both individuals and companies will be allowed to cultivate cannabis plants in private gardens and commercial farms.

Medical clinics can offer medical cannabis, and restaurants can provide cannabis-infused dishes and drinks. So long as they contain less than 0.2% THC.

Any cannabis that exceeds this 0.2% THC cap is still against the law. Recreational use is also verboten. If authorities catch one smoking cannabis, one will likely need some medical proof or face a hefty jail sentence or significant fines.

Benefits of Thailand’s Easing Cannabis Laws 

Thailand’s easing cannabis laws are in line with the country’s history. Thais have used cannabis for centuries as traditional medicine.

Because of the country’s year-round tropical climate, Thailand was once the “BC Bud” of Asia. During the 1970s and 80s, Thailand supplied the region with cannabis until the US war on drugs went international.

Since then, Thailand, like many Asian countries, has enforced a zero-tolerance policy. So it’s quite a surprise that Thailand will ease up its cannabis laws and send a million plants to households for free (or at the cost of taxpayers).

According to Anutin Charnvirakul’s Facebook page, Thais won’t need permits to grow at home, and there is no limit to how many plants they can grow. So long as it’s for medicinal purposes and the THC remains low. No Thai authorities have been able to explain how they will enforce the medical/recreational dichotomy. If millions of plants are being grown, will Thai authorities have the testing capabilities to check the THC amount?

CBD smoke smells just as pungent as THC smoke, after all.

Commercial enterprises will still need to go through the country’s regulatory bureaucracy to make cannabis products for sale. The Bangkok Post reported that the Thailand government had received over 4,700 applications for a licence to sell cannabis commercially.

Boost for Tourism?

Thailand's Easing Cannabis Laws

In addition to helping farmers, Thailand’s easing cannabis laws are an attempt to bring tourists to the Kingdom. Tourism makes up 6% of the country’s economy. Some estimates have tourism accounting for 20% of the country’s gross domestic product.

The country is also Asia’s number one country for medical tourism. It attracted over 2.5 million visitors in 2018, with 90% travelling for sex reassignment surgery.

Sex tourism is a big part of their tourist industry, estimated to account for 3% of the Thai economy.

Thailand’s tourist economy suffered during the government’s response to covid-19. Facts made worse by the deputy prime minister blaming Western tourists for bringing the bug into the country and for not wearing masks.

Therefore, restaurants are excited at the prospect of infusing foods and drinks with cannabis. Thai farmers are also happy at the opportunity of Thailand’s easing cannabis laws.

While the 0.2% THC cap is discouraging, it is a fact that many jurisdictions begin with medical cannabis before moving on to recreational legalization. Many of the activities associated with Thailand’s sex tourism are illegal (although prostitution itself isn’t), yet, many authorities tend to look the other way.

Will the same thing happen with cannabis tourism? Thailand’s easing cannabis laws may successfully increase tourism and provide an economic boom to the country. How reluctant will Thai authorities be to enforce THC limits if that happens?