Is Weed Still Legal in Thailand? What Tourists Need to Know Amid Govt Reversal Plans
Is Weed Still Legal in Thailand? What Tourists Need to Know Amid Govt Reversal Plans
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Last week, pro-cannabis protesters gathered to oppose Thailand's move to relist cannabis as a narcotic. Dozens of advocates rallied at the health ministry against the government’s plan, just two years after the plant was decriminalized.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin recently announced his intention to reverse cannabis legalization by the end of the year. Thailand, the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis in 2022 for medical use, now faces public backlash due to what many see as an unregulated market. Neon weed signs and cannabis-infused menus have become common in Bangkok's tourist areas, raising concerns over misuse and crime.

Why Are Thailand’s Cannabis Laws Changing?
Following the May 2023 general election, a new conservative coalition government led by the Pheu Thai Party is pushing for stricter cannabis regulations. Pheu Thai campaigned on banning recreational use, citing health risks and potential substance abuse among young people. Prime Minister Thavisin reinforced this stance, stating that drugs "destroy the future of the nation."

Anutin Charnvirakul, former Health Minister and now Deputy Prime Minister, played a key role in the 2022 legalization under the previous government. On legalization day, over 3,000 inmates were released, and the industry quickly grew, valued at 28 billion Thai baht (€728 million) in its first year, with projections of reaching 336 billion baht (€8.7 billion) by 2030.

Despite regulations requiring licenses for cultivation and sales, cannabis is easily accessible, with over 1.1 million Thais registering to grow it and over 6,000 dispensaries operating, often without proper oversight. Reports of drug-related violence and increased cannabis use among youth have raised concerns.

Potential Economic Impact
Cannabis legalization also spurred a booming weed tourism industry. Protesters on May 16 argued that while regulation is necessary, relisting cannabis as a narcotic would harm those who invested in the industry.

Penalties for Cannabis Use in Thailand
Before the 2022 legalization, Thailand had some of the harshest drug laws, with cannabis possession punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Health Minister Chonlanan Srikaew proposed a draft bill in March 2023 to ban recreational use and reclassify cannabis as a controlled substance. The bill, expected to pass soon, proposes fines of up to 60,000 baht (€1,560) and prison sentences of up to a year for recreational use, with stricter penalties for advertising and unlicensed farming.

Current Status for Tourists
While changes are pending, cannabis shops remain open. However, public smoking or vaping is prohibited, and causing a 'public nuisance' through the smell of weed can result in a 25,000 baht (€650) fine. These regulations can be inconsistently enforced, sometimes leading to police exploitation.

Tourists should note that cannabis remains illegal in neighboring countries, and transporting it across borders can lead to severe penalties, especially in places like Singapore, which enforces strict drug laws even for overseas use.

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