Recreational cannabis use in Thailand faces new scrutiny


Thailand’s incoming Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, has voiced opposition to recreational cannabis use as of September 16, 2023, but has affirmed his administration’s commitment to maintaining regulations favoring its medical use.

Thailand made history by becoming the first Southeast Asian nation to decriminalize cannabis last year. However, just a week later, the government rushed to implement a series of regulations to prevent uncontrolled use, particularly among young people.

Srettha Thavisin, the leader of the Pheu Thai party, which leads an 11-party coalition government that assumed office in August, expressed his stance on cannabis in a recent interview. He emphasized that the focus of the country’s cannabis policy will be on medical use, and he strongly opposes recreational use.

Under the previous administration, Thailand’s largest coalition partner, the Bhumjaithai party, played a significant role in the decriminalization of cannabis. Both parties have consistently supported only the medical use of cannabis.

Over the coming years, Thailand’s cannabis sector is expected to grow and could reach a valuation of up to US$1.2 billion, with numerous establishments emerging in tourist hotspots.

Srettha Thavisin, who also serves as the finance minister, outlined economic initiatives designed to stimulate consumption and expenditure in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy as it grapples with recovery challenges. He highlighted a hallmark policy of providing a 10,000 baht (approximately US$282.09) digital wallet gift to all Thai citizens over the age of 16, which is expected to boost domestic spending significantly. These payments are set to be distributed in February.

Srettha also expressed his desire to attract international investors during discussions with business executives in New York at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly meetings.

Since the delisting of certain components of the marijuana plant as a narcotic last year, cannabis cafes and stores have become prevalent in Thailand.

However, frequent changes in government regulations and ongoing debates about what should be permitted have created uncertainty, leading to what some describe as a “weed Wild West” that could potentially pose legal issues for travelers.

To clarify the rules around cannabis in Thailand:

Cannabis is legal for individuals over the age of 20 who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

It is legal to smoke cannabis in one’s own home and to consume cannabis-infused food in a licensed restaurant. Public smoking of marijuana in places like schools, temples, and shopping malls can result in a 25,000 baht (approximately US$750) fine and a three-month prison sentence.

There are over 5,000 marijuana dispensaries across the country, offering cannabis flowers, pre-rolled joints, low-THC sweets, infused foods, and CBD oil. It’s advisable to purchase from reputable, licensed establishments.

Cultivating cannabis requires registration with the country’s Food and Drug Administration. Permission is also needed to use cannabis flower buds for research, export, or commercial processing.

While there’s no specific limit on personal cannabis consumption, the ministry advises against driving after consuming it.

Tourists are prohibited from bringing any part of the cannabis plant or its seeds into or out of the country. Possessing extracts with THC levels exceeding 0.2 percent requires permission, which is unlikely to be granted to visitors.

Advocates for responsible cannabis use in Thailand hope that visitors will respect local laws and use cannabis responsibly while in the country.

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Ronju Sarkar
Ronju Sarkar
Ronju Sarkar is a Staff Correspondent of Blitz

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