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Thailand Decriminalizes Pot, But Its Not Enough

By Hunter Dublin | June 13, 2022

Thailand legalized marijuana cultivation and possession on Thursday, a dream come true for an elderly generation of cannabis users who remember the thrill the famed Thai Stick type offered.

The country's public health minister's declared intention to distribute 1 million marijuana seedlings beginning Friday has added to the notion that Thailand is becoming a pot paradise.

Some Thai marijuana supporters celebrated Thursday morning by purchasing marijuana from a café. Not long ago, this store only sold items manufactured from the plant that do not cause psychoactive effects. The people who showed up at the Highland Cafe could select from a range of buds with names like Sugarcane, Bubblegum, Purple Afghani, and UFO.

"I can declare out loud that I smoke cannabis. I don't have to conceal like I used to when it was labeled as an illegal narcotic," said Rittipong Bachkul, 24, the day's first client.

So far, a little attempt will be made to control what people can produce and smoke at home, other than registering and claiming that it is for medicinal purposes.

For the time being, though, would-be marijuana travelers should exercise care.

Thailand's government has stated that it is only pushing cannabis for medical purposes; this also serves as a warning to individuals looking to light up for pleasure. Law also prohibited smoking in public and deemed it a nuisance, subject to a maximum 3-month term and a fine of 25,000 Thai baht ($780).

And extracted material, like oil, is still prohibited if it contains more than 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component.

Marijuana's legal position is still uncertain because, while it is no longer considered a hazardous substance, Thai politicians have yet to approve laws to govern its trading.

Thailand etched a remarkable part of history as the first Asian country to decriminalize marijuana, often known as cannabis or ganja in local parlance. Still, it is not following the lead of Uruguay and Canada, the only two nations that have legalized recreational marijuana nationwide.

Thailand's major goal is to build a name for itself in the medicinal marijuana industry. It already has a thriving medical tourism sector, and its tropical environment is excellent for cannabis cultivation.

"We should know how to utilize cannabis," said Anutin Charnvirakul, the country's most vocal marijuana supporter lately. "If we raise awareness, cannabis is precious, like gold, and should be marketed."

"We will have extra Ministry of Health Notifications by the Department of Health, and if it creates nuisances, we may utilize that law (to ban individuals from smoking)," he continued.

The government has announced that they will be changing the laws on cannabis. It is expected to benefit thousands of people who have been locked up for breaking this old law. Some immediate beneficiaries include those prison inmates waiting patiently or recently released from incarceration and others seeking relief after surgery-related complications requiring medication management during recovery periods in hospitals.

"People facing cannabis-related charges will be discharged or dismissed. Seized money and cannabis from people charged with cannabis-related offenses will also be returned to their owners." Her organization is a global network of civil society organizations advocating drug policies "based on human rights, health, and development principles."

The potential for broad-based economic growth is at the heart of marijuana reforms, projected to boost everything from national income and small farmers' livelihoods. There has been concern over — whether this will be distributed equitably due partly to giant corporations who may unfairly benefit from regulations involving complicated licensing processes or expensive fees if they're commercialized.

Those premises could handicap smaller producers trying just to make ends meet while paying off debts left behind after struggling through tough times financially.

"We've seen what occurred in Thailand with the alcohol industry: only large-scale manufacturers are permitted to control the market," said Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, a politician from the opposition Move Forward party. "We are concerned that a similar thing may happen to the cannabis sector if the regulations favor big business," his party said. Adding that legislation to address the issue is now being written.

In any case, small businesses are eager to enter the marijuana industry.

Ittisug Hanjichan, the proprietor of Goldenleaf Hemp, a cannabis farm, delivered his sixth training session for 40 business people, farmers, and retirees on a scorching Sunday afternoon in eastern Thailand's Sri Racha region. They each paid roughly $150 to learn how to snip seed coats and care for plants to get great crops.

One of the guests, 18-year-old Chanadech Sonboon, said his parents used to chastise him for secretly trying to cultivate marijuana plants.

He claims his father has altered his opinion and now views marijuana as a medicine rather than a recreational drug. The family operates a modest hostel and café and expects to supply cannabis to its guests one day.


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