Will Thailand soon become as cannabis-friendly as Amsterdam? Not entirely, but it’s getting there. In a momentous decision, the Thai government took marijuana off the narcotics list, meaning people can grow however many plants they want at home, and restaurants can cook with cannabis. But because the law still has lots of grey areas, both citizens and businesses have to be careful.
When you think of Thailand, what comes to mind? Beautiful temples, stunning scenery, and delicious food? In addition to that, on June 9th 2022, the Thai government made a groundbreaking decision to remove all parts of the cannabis plant from their narcotics list. This makes Thailand the first country in Asia to decriminalize weed.
1,000,000 cannabis plants were distributed by the government on this momentous occasion to elated citizens who love cannabis. 4,200 prisoners placed behind bars for nonviolent cannabis offenses also had their freedom restored due to the change in long-awaited legislation.
Thailand’s recent policy shift on cannabis has been met with shock and awe by many, who view the country as a weed-loving utopia. However, there are some important things to know about these new laws before getting too excited.
New Weed Laws in Thailand: A Quick Glance
Despite what the headlines might have led you to believe, Thailand has only decriminalized cannabis use. However, there are certain laws that users must obey to avoid getting into trouble. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the biggest changes caused by Thailand’s new weed legislation:
- The Thai government de-criminalized the plant mainly for medicinal purposes. Those caught smoking weed in public though will face a €686 fine and up to three months in prison.
- Cannabis extracts with a THC percentage higher than 0.2% are still illegal.
- We don’t want you to get too high while enjoying our food, so we only use 0.2% THC or less in all of our cannabis-infused dishes.
- As long as citizens smoke cannabis in the privacy of their own homes, they will not face any legal penalties.
- Homeowners in this state can cultivate an infinite number of cannabis plants.
- It is legal for citizens to distribute cannabis plants.
You can see that Thailand has lenient cannabis laws, but due to public health risks, there are still some rules in place regarding THC-containing products and extracts.
Why Did Thailand Legalize Weed?
Although it may seem like the government is promoting cannabis use by giving out plants to the public, the reality is that people are still not allowed to walk around with lit joints or potted plants.
- The government decided to legalize for three primary reasons, including:
- For medical purposes
- For economic benefits
- To give citizens another option when it comes to their own health
As shown, recreational use is not one of the objectives. In some cases, it is still a crime. However, this change allows for a whole new section in the economy that could help with the post-covid slump. Minsters are hopeful that businesses like cafes and restaurants will be able to cannabinoid-infused food–but there are several limitations faced by these types of enterprises.
Can You Grow Weed in Thailand?
The Bangkok Post published an infographic outlining the rules surrounding the cultivation and smoking of cannabis in Thailand. According to the Royal Thai Police, citizens can:
- Legally own and grow an unlimited amount of plants
- Distribute cannabis plants
- Legally smoke cannabis
Thai citizens are now legally allowed to grow plants in gardens, indoor rooms, and on balconies. However, growers that elect to develop their green thumbs are encouraged to register with the government app PlookGanja. On top of this promises privacy for at-home growers without fear of repercussion.
While the freedom to grow cannabis is a cause for celebration among many Thai citizens, some members of the cultivation industry are worried. Suphamet Hetrakul, of Teera Group, has commented on concerns regarding new growers’ abilities to produce high-quality cannabis flowers.
Of course, as cannabis becomes more popular, big businesses are turning their attention toward the market. While citizens can grow at home without restriction, corporate entities must first obtain a licence from the Food and Drug Authority before they can begin to cultivate a profit-making crop.
Did Thailand Legalize Recreational Marijuana?
The Thai government’s objectives for legalizing cannabis concentrate on medicinal use. Although the Royal Thai Police have allowed cannabis users to consume the herb at home, recreational use is still in a grey area. For instance, smoking cannabis in public could result in a 25,000 baht (€686) fine and a three-month prison sentence under the public nuisance offence.
In addition, there are still very strict laws surrounding cannabis extracts and other preparations. These products can only contain up to 0.2% THC, which is the same as the European Union’s rules for hemp that is used for agricultural purposes. This means that businesses selling these goods will have to try harder to attract customers by marketing the non-psychotropic cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in cannabis plants.
Are Restaurants and Cafes Allowed to Sell Cannabis-Infused Products in Thailand?
If restaurants and cafes want to make more money, they should capitalize on the legal cannabis industry in Thailand. For a while now, places like Bangkok have been offering CBD-infused dishes–and now that THC concentrations are legally allowed to not exceed 0.2%, these establishments can incorporate cannabis into their menus. Anutin Charnvirakul–Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister of Thailand–publicized this when he posted a picture on Facebook of a chicken dish garnished with cannabis leaves.
What Does Legal Weed Mean for Tourism in Thailand?
While prospects in Thailand look good, underlying legal barriers will prevent the country from becoming Asia’s Amsterdam anytime soon. In an interview, Charnvirakul advised against tourists visiting solely to access recreational cannabis. He said, “If you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal … (or) come to Thailand and smoke joints freely, that’s wrong.”
How Thailand Legalized Weed: A Brief Look at the Past
Although it may look like a sudden change, Thai politicians have been promising to legalize cannabis for years. In 2016, Thai Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya called for the government to decriminalize the drug. And in 2019, the newly elected cabinet followed through with that promise by implementing a policy to alter the Narcotics Act–legalizing cannabis solely for medicinal purposes. The Bhumjaithai Party, during 2018, promised to legalize cannabis in order to have more people vote for them during an election. The new legislation not only allows for this but also private large-scale cultivation across the nation.
Despite this, Professor Sarana Sommano of Chiang Mai University has vocalized her apprehensions and called the move hasty. She went on to reprimand the government for their lack of specific regulations surrounding project implementation and usage limits. Furthermore, she believes that cannabis legalization will give a few powerful companies monopoly over the industry; similar to what occurred with alcohol. Local lawmakers are proposing preventative actions be put in place to avoid this from happening. Only time will tell if these efforts prove successful!