Thailand’s drugs laws are famously harsh. Until recently, being caught with weed could get you 15 years – 15 years! – in prison. So the country’s announcement that they’re delisting cannabis as a narcotic, essentially legalising it, is one hell of a U-turn.
Basically, Thailand’s narcotic board has declared that cannabis that has a tetrahydrocannabinol level of below 0.2 percent won’t be classed as a drug. It’s the first Asian country to do so (although it has technically been allowed for medical use since 2018). Cynical onlookers have said the sudden move could be a bid to boost public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul’s election campaign, or an attempt to reinvigorate the country’s tourism industry. Either way, it’s a big deal for travellers who like to get high while they’re away.
It’s not just stoners who are being courted by the new laws. Nearly 40 million tourists visited Thailand in 2019, and an estimated 27.7 million of them were there purely for ‘health and wellness’. The industry, worth £1.9 billion ($2.5 billion) annually, already uses a load of CBD products – but now spas and cafés will likely be able to use other parts of the plant, too. Authorities are also exploring the idea of a ‘cannabis sandbox’ scheme that would allow visitors to use cannabis in certain areas.
As for recreational use among locals, it’s not quite as simple as lighting up and chilling out. People can grow cannabis at home, but only if they notify their local authority. And what it means for people in Thailand already charged with weed-related crimes isn’t clear.
For tourists, though, it looks like it’s time for Amsterdam to move over: Thailand could well become the next big stoners’ paradise.
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