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Thailand nips cannabis tourism in the bud with recreational use U-turn

After making global headlines as the first Asian country to decriminalise cannabis in June 2022, Thailand has reversed its decision with moves to ban recreational marijuana use and allow it for medical purposes only.

After making global headlines as the first Asian country to decriminalise cannabis in June 2022, Thailand has reversed its decision with moves to ban recreational marijuana use and allow it for medical purposes only.

Just 18 months after the historic decriminalisation decision, the new Thailand government under Prime Minister Srettha Thavisi is making good on its promise to “rectify” its cannabis policy and limit use to medical purposes only.

Thailand’s health ministry released a draft bill on 16 January that outlined fines of up to 60,000 Thai baht (approximately AUD$2,500) or prison sentences of up to one year for recreational use – or both. It also asked for public feedback on the draft bill amid the country’s booming cannabis industry.

Cannabis and cannabis-related products will be limited to medical and health purposes only and the proposed new laws will also impose fines for advertising and marketing recreational cannabis use.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Thailand since 2018 but decriminalisation made it no longer a crime to grow and trade marijuana and hemp products or to use any parts of the plant to treat illnesses.

However, former health minister Anutin Charnvirakul told CNN that he never advocated the recreational use of marijuana or cannabis tourism, insisting the focus had always been on health and medical use.

RG420 cannabis dispensary on tourist street Khao San Road in Bangkok. Image: Nelson Antoine/Shutterstock

The relaxed laws saw a lucrative cannabis industry worth 28 billion Thai baht (around AUD$1.2 billion) catering to locals and tourists alike boom across the South-East Asian nation.

While smoking marijuana in public was still illegal under the relaxed laws, more than 6,000 cannabis dispensaries and businesses, such as weed cafes and hemp spas, have popped up across Thailand.

Bangkok and Chiang Mai have even held hemp festivals and the decriminalisation of cannabis has been a lure for tourists in a continent known for its strict drug laws and regulations.

For current info about cannabis and tourists in Thailand, visit tourismthailand.org