The government of Thailand announced this week that it will give away 1 million free cannabis plants for home cultivation, reports the New York Post.
Thailand’s public health minister, who has spearheaded the Southeast Asian nation’s weed decrim, made a Facebook post Sunday with the plans. The government is distributing 1 million of the plants when as most legal restrictions are lifted June 9, reports The Telegraph.
Industry analysts say the moves could help lure more international visitors to Thailand and strengthen medical tourism, reports The New York Times. Tourism accounted for as much as a fifth of Thailand’s pre-Covid economy.
Tourists Should Exercise Caution
But foreign tourists should exercise extreme caution. Current Thai law forbids the non-medical use of highly potent marijuana. Tourists convicted of possessing the herb can, in fact, face a draconian 15 years in prison.
“[Getting high] has never been [legal] and it’s not going to be, even with growing at home,” Kitty Chopaka, CEO of cannabis consultants Elevated Estate and longtime advocate for legalization in Thailand, told VICE.
How, exactly, will officials stop folks from smoking the large amounts of weed they’re legally allowed to grow at home? Well, that’s still quite unclear.
Grow All You Want!
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul added that people would be able to grow as many marijuana plants as they like at their homes.
In February, Charnvirakul signed a measure officially dropping marijuana from a list of controlled drugs. The health minister announced May 8 that Thais will no longer require a permit to cultivate cannabis at home, as long as they declare it is for medical purposes and it does not exceed the maximum THC limit.
Thailand legalized the closely regulated medical use of Cannabis in 2018, with several restrictions gradually relaxed since then. In-home cultivation is only legal for medical cannabis patients who have notified their local government, reports The Health Guild. Plants must be for medical use.
Major New Industry?
Thai officials hope the further easing of restrictions will allow a major new marijuana industry to grow. COVID-19 left a big dent in Thailand’s economy.
Extracted cannabis content containing more than 0.2% THC will remain illegal under the new law, reports Cannabis Business Times.
An unlimited number of plants can be grown once they are distributed next month, reports AP.
Businesses Will Need Permission
Large-scale cannabis businesses need permission from Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration to cultivate marijuana and produce products. The Thai government still views as medicine and food additives, AP reported.
Thai authorities seem eager to contextualize marijuana purely as a cash crop. But there’s great tension between encouraging widespread cultivation of cannabis while criminalizing adult non-medical use. And that tension, some believe, will inevitably come to a head.
Cannabis flowers could even be taken off the Thai government’s list of forbidden drugs? That will be answered when Thailand’s Narcotics Law is updated next month, according to Carl K. Linn. Linn authors a newsletter about cannabis in Thailand.
The Thai Food and Drug Administration had received roughly 4,700 applications as of last month from businesses seeking to import, process, grow and process marijuana. An FDA official said products planned for production include hemp seed oil, dietary supplements, beverages, seasoning sauce, jelly candy and instant food.