Following the relaxation of cannabis laws in Thailand, the expected – albeit not government-mandated – rise in mainstream recreational sales in the country is already burgeoning, as a number of cannabis cafes have emerged in the capital, Bangkok.
The changes to cannabis laws in Thailand were initially aimed at widening access to cannabis medicine domestically, as the country became the first in South-East Asia to permit certain uses of the plant for patients.
However, further decriminalization initiatives were accelerated earlier this year to increase patient access – and to resuscitate the beleaguered tourism industry, “which accounts for about a fifth of GDP and 20 percent of employment”, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
How will cannabis laws in Thailand change?
Speaking to Reuters, the national tourism authority’s Deputy Governor, Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, said “The law does not cover recreational cannabis use… and so tourism promotion is focused on medical (aspects)”.
Moreover, Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, perhaps the biggest proponent for the recent change in cannabis laws, said that “we still have regulations under the law that control the consumption, smoking or use of cannabis products in non-productive ways”, in conversation with CNN.
He continued: “We [have always] emphasized using cannabis extractions and raw materials for medical purposes and for health.
“There has never once been a moment that we would think about advocating people to use cannabis in terms of recreation — or use it in a way that it could irritate others.
“Thailand will promote cannabis policies for medical purposes. If [tourists] come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it’s not an issue but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal … [or] come to Thailand to smoke joints freely, that’s wrong.
“Don’t come. We won’t welcome you if you just come to this country for that purpose.”
As it stands, a parliamentary committee is debating new cannabis regulations that could impact recreational availability in Thailand with new zoning laws, with the bill expected to be finalised in September.
For a country where recreational cannabis has been synonymous with its tourism industry for decades – and for an industry which Charnvirakul believes will be worth over $2 billion to the Thai economy – a cynic couldn’t be condemned for thinking that much of the recent political rhetoric is all smoke and mirrors.
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