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In an effort to garner support for a law that takes effect next month and will allow citizens to grow marijuana for their own personal therapeutic use or as a small-scale business, Thailand has announced that it plans to give away a million cannabis plants to households across the country.
The initiative, which the nation’s health minister announced this week, is the latest step in Thailand’s efforts to establish itself as a leader in Asia’s emerging cannabis market at a time when the United States and other major economies are liberalizing marijuana laws in response to mounting medical marijuana research.
In a nation where a vast tourism industry once made up as much as a fifth of the economy before the advent of Covid, industry analysts think the reforms could help Thailand attract more foreign tourists and strengthen medical tourism.
However, if you’re planning a trip to Bangkok or any of Thailand’s picture-perfect tropical islands, don’t expect to find cannabis merchants in the Californian way. High-potency marijuana is still not permitted for recreational use in Thailand as of right now, and foreigners found in possession of the drug might spend up to 15 years in jail.
A law passed in Thailand in 2019 was a first for Southeast Asia by allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the primary psychoactive component of weed, and the regulations now permit the sale of cannabis with reduced THC levels.
Beginning next month, the bulk plant distribution operation will let locals cultivate low-THC (medical-grade) marijuana without getting permission from the authorities. Permits are necessary for large-scale businesses.
The free plants were timed to coincide with the new cannabis cultivation law, which will go into effect on June 9, as well as the government’s recent decision to remove cannabis from the list of substances that are outlawed under its Narcotics Law, which will take effect the same week in June. CNN and other news sources broke the project’s news earlier this week.
The government intends to push the idea of a wellness business that includes recreational cannabis usage, according to Sophon Mekthon, vice minister of health in Thailand, who made this statement this month, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper.
When the Narcotics Law is revised next month, it is still unknown if the dried flowers of the cannabis plant, which are used to get high, will be removed from the government’s list of prohibited substances, wrote Carl K. Linn, the creator of a newsletter about cannabis in Thailand, on Thursday.
He stated that the government’s attempts to promote recreational marijuana will be “little more than a dream of what might be — someday — down the proverbial road” if only Cannabidiol, or CBD, and hemp are removed from the list of prohibited substances.
In any case, the fact that Thailand is making a modest but consistent effort to decriminalize marijuana is noteworthy given that it is located in a region where governments have historically placed severe penalties on those who use it. For example, trafficking it is punished by death and possession of it carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence in the neighbouring nation of Singapore.
The campaign to decriminalize in Thailand has a political component. When the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly unanimously voted to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes in 2018, some speculated that it might help military-backed parties gain support in parliamentary elections the following year. The nation is governed by a military government that seized power in a coup in 2014.
Anutin Charnvirakul, the leader of one of these parties, Bhumjaithai, claimed during the 2019 election season that small-scale cannabis production could give each household an additional $13,000 per year. Later, he was made minister of health.
This week, Mr. Charnvirakul wrote about the plant-distribution policy on Facebook, presenting the nation’s new marijuana laws as a business opportunity, estimating that the country might make more than $300 million a year from marijuana and hemp.
He wrote, “It’s a free market.” Just abide with the law.