Thailand: a new cannabis paradise?

De: Contributor Ativismo

In addition to its idyllic beaches, millenary culture, and delicious cuisine, Thailand has chosen to add some ‘sex appeal’ to its tourist charm: the legalisation of cannabis. However, everything that glitters isn’t always green, and many restrictions still remain in place. In this article we discuss everything you need to know before travelling to the country of smiles with your backpack full of cannabis dreams.

On 9th June 2022, Thailand announced the decriminalisation of cannabis in the country, thereby becoming the first Asian nation to remove this plant from the list of prohibited substances. It was then moved to the list of ‘controlled herbs’ under the 1999 law on the protection and promotion of traditional Thai medicine. As both the Thai population and the rest of the world were astounded by this change in policy, the Thai government went even further by distributing a million plants for citizens to grow in their own homes.

This new policy includes companies, independent farmers, dispensaries, and restaurants, all of whom will be able to offer cannabis on their menus as long as it contains less than 0.2% THC. Unfortunately, though, this rush to liberalise the cultivation of marijuana, along with the lack of necessary control measures, has led to many legal ambiguities and loopholes. This has generated widespread concerns about the illicit cultivation and trade of marijuana, as well as the potential for abuse among young Thais.

The dark past of marijuana in Thailand

This paradigm shift in this Asian country seems even more radical if we take into account that, up until now, the possession of cannabis was punishable with up to 15 years in prison. This means that over 4,200 prisoners on cannabis-related charges will be released following this new law. What’s more, the Government announced a halt to the investigation of cannabis-related cases that are still open in the country, with the confiscation of marijuana no longer being carried out. In fact, owners of property confiscated in detentions prior to 9th June 2022 will be able to request its return.

But with such a hard approach to marijuana in the past, we can already guess that the legalisation of the plant won’t be easy, or take off like a rocket overnight. Let’s see then what this policy consists of.

Legalisation of medical cannabis in Thailand

That’s right: the Government of Thailand now allows the cultivation, use, and sale of marijuana, but only for therapeutic purposes. This allows citizens without a permit to freely grow marijuana and hemp for personal and medicinal use, but only after registering with the Ministry of Public Health’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), via its ‘Plook Ganja’ (marijuana cultivation) app. By 6th December 2022, the FDA had received around 1.12 million applications, and 1.08 million permits had already been issued. This doesn’t apply to tourist and recreational use, which is subject to certain limitations.

In order to restrict cultivation to medical cannabis only, Thailand has limited THC levels to 0.2% in cannabis extracts and foods sold throughout the country. There are currently more than 5,000 stores that sell cannabis flowers, pre-rolled joints, and edibles with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) level below 0.2%. This psychoactive compound is responsible for the famous cannabis ‘high’, so this restriction means that the use of recreational marijuana is forbidden across the country.

However, high-THC cannabis will still be sold, but only to a government agency that will be established for the marijuana trade. The export and import of marijuana are also highly regulated and aren’t an option for ordinary people.

Therefore, as a traveller you’ll be able to try yummy cannabis-based drinks in restaurants and cafes, or buy CBD joints in a dispensary, but getting that psychoactive kick will be more challenging, since marijuana extracts with more than 0.2% THC remain illegal in the country. Besides, smoking cannabis in public is not allowed, and access to cannabis is not quite as easy as it may first seem.

How to buy marijuana in Thailand

The Thai Government permits its citizens to legally distribute marijuana plants. However, the laws on buying and selling have not yet been clearly established since the reform. As much as its cultivation has been decriminalised, if you’re a tourist and you’re going to spend a few days in the country, there’s no point in planting some seeds on the terrace of your hostel. It’s also never a good idea to walk the grey area of legality in a foreign country. And on top of all that, tourists can’t enter or leave the country carrying any part of the plant or its seeds.

For this reason, some tourist guides advise playing it safe and going to a medical centre, where a doctor can prescribe cannabis, so that you can then buy it on prescription at a dispensary. At the end of the day, there are still many restrictions in place, and the penalties for not complying with them can be quite considerable.

Cannabis restrictions still standing in Thailand

Recreational marijuana remains illegal in Thailand, and the Government wants to keep it this way and off the streets. Smoking marijuana in a public space, even if it’s medical, is punishable with a 25,000 Baht fine (about 750 €) and up to 3 months in prison. As a general rule, cannabis users should be aware not to ‘invade’ other people’s space.

A more recent amendment to the Act has also prohibited the use of cannabis by minors under 20. The amendment also includes a ban for pregnant and breastfeeding women, unless they have a medical prescription. This also affects the Thai Buddhist monks, who cannot enjoy this plant unless they are under treatment for some disease.

However, this new law has opened the doors to massive marijuana cultivation, and not everyone follows the rules to the letter.

For every law there is a loophole

According to a study by Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), 30% of the products sold in the country’s dispensaries exceed the permitted THC levels.

Although recreational cannabis is illegal in Thailand, the truth is that this new law has blurred the boundaries between medical and recreational cannabis, both in marijuana dispensaries and restaurants. Let’s face it: once it’s been liberated, trying to control this plant is like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands.

All of this means that many of the products and behaviours that would be strictly illegal in the country are currently being tolerated, so there are many who hope that Thailand will eventually regulate the recreational use of cannabis.

The future of marijuana in Thailand

In August 2022, two months after the decriminalisation of marijuana, Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced that the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use might be happening in the future.

“We are ready to reach that point when people have a better knowledge of how to use it correctly”, the Minister said to the Bangkok Post.

Mr Charnvirakul believes that the legalisation of cannabis has not been harmful to the Thai society, a statement which is supported by data. Since the legalisation of medical marijuana and up until his comments, only 60 cases of hospital admissions due to inappropriate use of cannabis were reported, which is a very small figure for a country with a population of 70 million people.

But the Minister, along with the Bhumjaithai Party (BJT), have also been blamed for promising too much regarding ‘free marijuana’ during the 2019 election campaign. After 9th June 2022, when marijuana and hemp were no longer considered narcotics under Thai law, there was serious confusion and legal ambiguities regarding this. However, everything seems to indicate that cannabis will continue to flourish in this Asian country, and we will follow it closely so we can keep you up to date.

Kannabia Seeds Company sells to its customers a product collection, a souvenir. We cannot and we shall not give growing advice since our product is not intended for this purpose.

Kannabia accept no responsibility for any illegal use made by third parties of information published. The cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption is an activity subject to legal restrictions that vary from state to state. We recommend consultation of the legislation in force in your country of residence to avoid participation in any illegal activity.

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