asia: 1st in Asia: Thailand legalises marijuana but smoking pot still illegal
Shoppers queued up at outlets selling cannabis-infused drinks, sweets and other items as advocates of the plant welcomed the reform in a country that has long had a reputation for strict anti-drug laws.
The public health minister’s plan to distribute 1 million marijuana seedlings, beginning Friday, has added to the impression that Thailand is turning into a weed wonderland. The country, which has a tradition of using cannabis to relieve pain and fatigue, legalised medicinal marijuana four years ago.
The decision by Thailand’s food and drug administration to remove all of the cannabis plant from the category of narcotic drugs makes the country first in Asia to decriminalise marijuana for medical and industrial use. But it is not following the examples of Uruguay and Canada, the only two countries so far that have legalised recreational marijuana on a national basis. So far, it appears there will be no effort to police what people can grow and smoke at home, aside from registering to do so.
The government, banking on the plant as a cash crop, plans to give away a million plants to encourage farmers to take up its cultivation. Cannabis growers have to register on a government app called PlookGanja, or grow ganja. Nearly 1,00,000 people have signed up so far. The health ministry said it has approved 1,181 products including cosmetics and food, containing cannabis extracts and it expects that the industry will earn as much as 15 billion baht ($435 million) by 2026.
But authorities aim to head off an explosion of recreational use by limiting the strength of the products on offer. The possession and sale of cannabis extracts containing more than 0.2% of its psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, is not allowed, which will mean smokers of the drug known as “pot” or “weed”, will struggle to get “stoned”. “Buds with 0.2% THC is considered low, so you would need to consume a lot to get high,” said Suphamet Hetrakul of Teera Group, which grows cannabis for medical use. Those who break the law can still face jail and fines.