The Thai government will distribute one million free cannabis plants when most legal restrictions on production and possession of the drug are lifted next month.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul signed a measure in February officially dropping cannabis, best known in the form of marijuana, from a list of controlled drugs.

Closely regulated use of cannabis was legalized in 2018, with several restrictions gradually eased since then.

Thai officials hope a major new cannabis industry will blossom, not only generating hundreds of millions of dollars directly each year but also attracting foreign tourists, who have begun returning in large numbers after being largely absent during the coronavirus pandemic.

When the measure becomes effective on June 9, possessing and using all parts of cannabis plants be allowed.

However, extracted content will remain illegal if it contains more than 0.2 per cent of psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Anutin said on his Facebook page that individuals would no longer need to acquire a permit to grow cannabis at home, as long as it was declared to be for medicinal purposes and did not have THC content above the legal maximum.

Anutin said with little elaboration that one million cannabis plants would be handed out beginning in June, and people would be able to grow as many as they liked at home.

Large-scale enterprises will still need permission from the country’s Food and Drug Administration to make cannabis products, which are seen as being used mainly for medicines and food additives.

Anutin’s Bhumjai Thai Party, a major partner in the coalition government, campaigned in the 2019 general election for the legalization of cannabis production, saying it would aid the country’s farmers.

Australian Associated Press