Thailand’s Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, rather famously discouraged tourists from visiting Thailand to enjoy cannabis to get high, ever since Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize cannabis.
We’re certainly not arguing with Thailand’s Health Minister who, in the long run, will be a strong proponent of cannabis for medical purposes and for whom Thailand’s cannabis industry is a serious business indeed.
But Does Thailand Really Hate Pot-Smoking Tourists?
When the Thai government made their Southeast Asian country the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis for medical use, they did not do so with the intention of legalizing cannabis for recreational use.
In fact, recreational marijuana use is strongly discouraged.
However, the cannabis regulations here now leave cannabis in something of a “grey area” legally.
It’s one we are sure will eventually be resolved at a higher level but for now, the use of cannabis in certain circumstances is entirely legal.
This includes smoking and eating the product in most forms, with some legal limits on the strength of THC permitted.
No Public Consumption
You cannot smoke cannabis in public as you face a fine of up to 25,000 Baht plus up to 3 years imprisonment for doing so (and a three-month jail sentence in Thailand is no joke at all).
A Massive Market For Medical Purposes
And while the Health Minister may have discouraged tourists from visiting Thailand for the use of cannabis, he has helped to oversee a cannabis promotion program that gave away 1 million cannabis plants for free so that locals can get in on the cannabis market.
It’s worth noting that this has been a huge success and more than 1.1 million Thais and others have applied to plant cannabis in Thailand under license!
A Change Of Heart?
Anutin Charnvirakul has also, recently, softened his stance on cannabis tourism and has said that it is possible the country might legalize and promote such tourism, if the Thai public were to accept this.
One interesting argument in favor of recreational marijuana becoming accepted is that the Ministry of Public Health has seen no adverse impact on public health since the legalization of cannabis products in the nation since the plant stopped being considered, from a legal standpoint, a narcotic back in June.
It seems that Thailand was simply not ready to welcome those kinds of tourists as they developed their marijuana culture here, but that recreational use of marijuana may one day become more acceptable.
We somehow doubt that there will ever be laws allowing smoking weed in public, anyone who knows Thailand’s strict alcohol laws will know that the country dislikes overt drug use of any kind, and those “kinds of tourists” will need to be careful to ensure their use of weed doesn’t conflict with that.
We congratulate the Thai Health Minister on his pragmatism.
He is entirely correct to weigh up the consequences of changes in marijuana legislation on the Thai people and while it is entirely possible that one day the country will welcome those kinds of tourists, it is equally possible that the data will suggest a different course in the long-term.
Of course, Thailand doesn’t hate the idea of tourists of any kind, the Land of Smiles has built its reputation on generous hospitality but it also has a duty of care to the people whose home it is and for the moment, that is, rightfully, the priority.