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Travelers Beware in Thailand

Last month we weighed in on Thailand becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to decriminalize cannabis. We’ve  seen some bad reporting on this since then, along the lines of “weed is legal in Thailand!” The new Thai regime is not that progressive, but we still feel that Thailand has taken a step in the right direction.

In short, the Thai government has stated that it is promoting cannabis for medical use only. Smoking in public could still considered a nuisance, subject to a potential 3-month sentence and 25,000 Thai baht (U.S. $780) fine. Extracted content, such as oil, remains illegal if it contains more than 0.2% THC (this is lower than the “hemp” threshold in many countries).

Still, with its new policy, Thailand joins a short list of nations where weed has been decriminalized or better, including CanadaMexico, and South Africa.

Thailand’s new law reverses a long history of heavily penalizing drug offenses. Cannabis grows naturally there, and the country has an even longer history of using the plant in holistic medicine practices. The Thai government hopes to capitalize on the economic and medical benefits of the plant, and laws will follow on these subjects. It believes cannabis will encourage tourism and increase agricultural production.

Thailand is a well-known travel destination with tons of natural beauty, incredible food, and a rich culture. I traveled there in college. With all the beautiful beaches and delicious curries, feeding elephants and watching Muay Thai boxing, I’m pretty sure weed is the only thing that would’ve made the experience even better than it was.

But before you rush to buy plane tickets to enjoy beautiful beaches and great cannabis, there remain several legal issues for the country to work out before tourists and locals can smoke freely. 

Speed Weed: Thailand’s liberal legalization policy is an instant success

Thailand’s Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, architect of the new law, has crafted one of the most liberal cannabis policies in the world. The public immediately embraced the law. Restaurants already feature cannabis infused foods. Carts selling the plant have cropped up all over the cities of Thailand. The haste with which cannabis became commercially available speaks to both the ubiquitous nature of the plant and its popularity.

However, the government is only just now drafting regulations to dictate the use, production, and sale of the plant. The goal was to beat neighboring countries to the punch by issuing the broad-sweeping decriminalization decree. The Thai government wanted to give its cannabis market a head start over potential competitors. However, it seems like the government may end up playing a game of catch up as the market’s growth outpaces regulation.

Travelers beware

Despite all this excitement, the government of Thailand discourages recreational use (i.e. non-medical) of the plant, as explained above. The penalties in place for smoking in public seem likely to be enforced, at least to some degree. Finally, without extracts and tinctures on offer, Thailand will not have the look and feel of more progressive national regimes, like in Canada, or what we see in many U.S. states. Overall these policies hint at conflicting political opinions about legalization within Thailand’s current administration.

Due to these facts, would-be canna-tourists should approach with caution. We’ll all have to wait to see how Thailand plans to regulate commercial cannabis to ensure both consumer safety, and the equity and diversity of the market. Stay tuned.