Tourists visiting Thailand have had to be extremely careful not to fall foul of its rules on cannabis and other drugs. Possession of even small quantities of marijuana can result in long prison sentences, with many Britons among those sent to jail.
Things are changing now, with the country’s authorities deciding to legalize the cultivation and possession of the recreational drug, which also has medical uses. Visitors from the UK, however, are being reminded that Thailand still has some of the toughest drug laws in the world.
A total of 184,416 Brits traveled to Thailand in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic struck, according to the Visit Britain tourism website. They contributed a massive £278.87million towards the country’s economy, which has experienced a tourism boom in recent decades.
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The country’s public health minister has declared they would be handing out one million marijuana seedlings earlier this month. The drug has also gone on sale at cafes in the capital Bangkok. However, Thai authorities have warned visitors that Thailand will not be turning into a weed wonderland.
The law change has led to some confusion with the process for policing what people can grow and smoke in their homes unclear at this time. But tourists are being told to exercise caution when visiting the country.
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Legislators have yet to pass any laws that regulate the buying and selling of cannabis. Meanwhile, the Thai government has said its decision was to promote cannabis for medical use only and to support local farmers.
Authorities have also warned that sparking up a joint in a public place will still be regarded as a public nuisance, punishable by a 25,000 Thai baht (£580) fine and, potentially, three months in jail. Despite the changes, exactly what people can and cannot do is still regarded as being in a state of limbo.
That is because the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in cannabis that gets people high, is being limited to just 0.2% – including for oils and other extracts. This is an amount which will not produce any noticeable psychoactive effect.
Updated travel advice for Brits traveling to Thailand is available on the UK Government website. It states: “As of June 9, 2022, private recreational use of cannabis is legal if THC content is below 0.2% by weight, but cannabis use in public places remains illegal.
“Cultivation, consumption, distribution and sales of cannabis products are legal, although some restrictions remain in place. You should check with the relevant local authorities if you are unsure.”
More information on the usage and registration of cannabis can be found on the PR Thai Government page, on Facebook. The law change makes Thailand the first nation in Asia to decriminalize cannabis, which is referred to as ganja by locals. The Thai government has indicated that it will not be following Canada and Uruguay, where cannabis has been legalized for recreational use.
Thailand already has a medical tourism industry, with its tropical climate ideal for growing cannabis to be used for purposes such as pain relief.
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“We should know how to use cannabis,” said public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul. “If we have the right awareness, cannabis is like gold, something valuable, and should be promoted.”
He added: “We will have additional Ministry of Health notifications, by the Department of Health. If it causes nuisances, we can use that law (to stop people from smoking).”
However, some 4,000 people imprisoned for cannabis offenses linked to the old law will now be released. People currently facing cannabis-related charges will also have them dropped. The Thai health minister said the aim now was to “build awareness” rather than punish people.