A legislation allowing the cultivation of cannabis in Thailand came into effect on Thursday.

The law, also allowing the use of cannabis in food and drinks, is a first of its kind in Asia. 

Although Thailand is not following the Uruguayan or Canadian models of legalizing recreational marijuana, it is seeking to boost hemp agriculture and medical tourism. 

“We should know how to use cannabis,” Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said recently. “If we have the right awareness, cannabis is like gold, something valuable, and should be promoted.” 

A customer talks on his mobile phone as he buys marijuana at a cafe in Bangkok

Some Thai advocates celebrated Thursday morning by buying marijuana at a cafe in Bangkok

Grow but don’t smoke

Thailand is strongly promoting growing cannabis and using it for medicinal purposes, but it is still encouraging people not to smoke pot. 

The government is not allowing the possession or sale of cannabis extracts containing more than 0.2% of its psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. That’s around 20 to 40 times less than modern recreational cannabis designed to influence people’s state of mind would likely contain.

In a warning against recreational use, the government said smoking pot in public could be considered nuisance, due to the smell. That’s punishable with up to a 3-month sentence and a fine of 25,000 Thai baht ($780, €728). 

A million plants for free

Thailand’s Health Ministry is planning to give away 1 million cannabis plants to encourage farmers.

Entrepreneurs learn how to grow cannabis plants at a cannabis farm in Chonburi province, eastern Thailand

Entrepreneurs are learning how to grow cannabis plants and the new rules open new economic opportunities

A Health Ministry official said nearly 100,000 people have signed up to a government app for cannabis growers. 

Registration on the app called PlookGanja (or “grow ganja,” referring to a nickname for cannabis) is mandatory to grow the plant. 

Businesses seeking to sell cannabis products also must get permits from the government. 

Complicated licensing processes and expensive fees for commercial use are raising concerns that big corporations might have an unfair advantage over smaller companies.  

“We have seen what happened with the alcohol business in Thailand. Only large-scale producers are allowed to monopolize the market,” said Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, a lawmaker from the opposition Move Forward party.

“We are worried the similar thing will happen to the cannabis industry if the rules are in favor of big business,” he said, noting that his party is pushing for news laws to tackle the issue.

fb/msh (AP, Reuters) 





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