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Marijuana is now legal in Thailand. What does that mean for tourists?

Marijuana is now legal in Thailand. What does that mean for tourists?

Visitors can take edibles and smoke pot for medicinal purposes, but lighting up in public is still illegal
Thailand legalized the cultivation and possession of marijuana last week, but the new laws come with regulations and exceptions that could put a damper on the idea of the country as a cannabis haven for tourists.

The Thai Food and Drug Administration officially removed marijuana and hemp from the Category 5 narcotics list, a move that made Thailand the first country in Asia to decriminalize marijuana for medical and industrial use. However, the country is not legalizing recreational marijuana nationally, and the Thai government is setting limits around the new policies. The new cannabis laws were created with medical, economic and health-related objectives in mind, according to a post on the Thai government’s official Facebook page.

Thai people smoke marijuana during a June 12 festival celebrating legalization, at a beach area in Nakhon Pathom. 

Cannabis has been a topic of interest in Thailand for years. In 2018, Thailand approved the use of medical marijuana, making it the first country in Southeast Asia to do so. In May, Thailand’s health minister announced that the Thai government would distribute 1 million cannabis seedlings to Thai households once cannabis was legalized.

So what does this mean for tourists who are interested in planning a trip to Thailand? Will it be a weed wonderland like Amsterdam? Probably not. Here’s a list of what you can and can’t do when it comes to enjoying cannabis in the country.

Thailand legalizes marijuana — with gray areas and caveats

You can grow and trade marijuana and hemp products

If you’re visiting Thailand as a tourist for a short period of time, you probably won’t have the time and resources needed to grow and trade marijuana and hemp. Therefore, this rule is more applicable to Thai residents.

At the beginning of June, Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration launched PlookGanja, a phone app and website that helps people register their cultivation of cannabis and hemp plants, according to the Bangkok Post.

“There will be training and educational courses offered to local residents for transitioning to commercial cultivation and other business opportunities,” Monique Jackson-Fitzgerald, co-founder of cannabis travel platform InnDica, told The Washington Post. “As their supply chain grows and regulations are fleshed out, there will be more growth from the purely leisure travel side.”

A local's guide to Bangkok

You can consume some edibles and infused drinks
Cafes and restaurants in Thailand are allowed to serve cannabis-infused food and drinks, but food and beverage products must contain less than 0.2 percent THC to be legally sold. For context, most U.S. states that have legalized cannabis do not have a cap on potency, Jackson-Fitzgerald said. “However, there have been bills proposed in a couple of states that would limit potency, and it is an evolving issue,” she added. Places like Highland Cafe, in Bangkok, were previously limited to only selling products made from parts of the cannabis plant that do not get people high, but with new rules and regulations in place, the cafe has started selling marijuana, the Associated Press reported, listing varieties such as Sugarcane, Bubblegum, Purple Afghani and UFO.

Thailand allows the sale of food and beverage products that contain less than 0.2 percent THC. 

You can use marijuana for medical purposes. You’re not allowed to use marijuana recreationally
If you’re planning on lighting up a joint in the park, Thailand isn’t the destination for you. People who smoke pot in public in Thailand will be subject to a potential three-month jail sentence and a fine of more than $700. People who are “investigating cannabis for its medicinal benefits or exploring business opportunities are being welcomed,” Jackson-Fitzgerald said. “But I would caution purely recreational tourists to hold off before putting Thailand on their trip list.”

Ultimately, the cannabis-related stipulations might confuse tourists who want to partake. A representative for the Tourism Authority of Thailand did not immediately respond to a request for comment on guidance for visitors who want to consume cannabis.

“When cannabis consumers are making their decisions about where to vacation, it’s important that they take the time to actually understand the local laws so they don’t inadvertently end up doing something that could get them into trouble,” said Tom Angell, a cannabis reform expert who tracks marijuana legalization for Marijuana Moment, a cannabis news site.