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Thailand has decriminalised cannabis, but can you smoke up in public?

Ayaan Paul
Ayaan PaulSep 11, 2022 | 20:00

Thailand has decriminalised cannabis, but can you smoke up in public?

In June this year, Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalise cannabis for medical and research purposes following many years of some of the strictest anti-drug laws on the planet.

According to Time, Thailand has now included cannabis into an existing medicinal law, which means:

  • Growing cannabis plants for personal consumption is allowed, but selling plants or derivative products officially requires a licence. 
  • Cannabis flowers can have unlimited quantities of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but derivatives like gummies can have only a token 0.2%. 
  • Smoking cannabis at home may be legal, but smoking in the public is discouraged by existing laws governing behaviour deemed a “public nuisance” and could mean a Rs 63,000 fine or three months’ imprisonment.
  • Those in prison for cannabis-related offences are now eligible for release.
  • Those convicted of illegal cultivation will have their seized equipment returned to them. 
Street vendors selling cannabis light up the Bangkok streets. Photo: Getty Images

The Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  is in talks for setting up a “cannabis sandbox” that allows tourists to light up freely in designated zones. The Thai Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul however, has had rather contradictory statements regarding the legalisation and use of cannabis,

"Thailand will promote cannabis policies for medical purposes. If tourists come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it's not an issue, but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal or come to Thailand to smoke joints freely, that's wrong. Don't come. We won't welcome you if you just come to this country for that purpose."
- Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul in an interview with CNN
Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. Photo: Getty Images

According to Charnvirakul, Thailand’s low-cost agricultural infrastructure primes it for capitalising on cannabis as a cash crop. The Global Cannabis Report predicts that the global market for cannabis will cross $120 billion by 2026 and that Thailand’s cannabis market is estimated to reach $1.2 billion by 2025.

People purchase cannabis plants at a market in Thailand. Photo: Getty Images

What about India? Though cannabis legalisation legislations have been on a steady rise all over the world, something as radical as the decriminalisation in a country like India seems a fairly distant future. Here is a bit of myth busting on the preconceptions surrounding the much-tabooed substance,

While those advocating for the legalisation of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational purposes steadily grow in numbers with each passing day, the Thai model serves as a shining example towards the scrapping of these archaic laws and capitalising on the market potential of cannabis. 

Now, to answer the question we began this with: You still can't smoke up in public in Thailand, even though cannabis has been decriminalised.  

Last updated: September 11, 2022 | 20:00
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