From June, Thailand will allow people to grow cannabis at home. It’s all part of the plan to promote cannabis as a cash crop and develop a new wellness industry around medical marijuana

A journalist takes a selfie with a cannabis plant at the Government Pharmaceuticals Organization medicinal marijuana greenhouse outside Chon Buri, south of Bangkok. AFP

In Thailand, every day can be Weed Day come June. The government will distribute one million free cannabis plants to households across the country next month. But why?

From 9 June, a new rule comes into force in Thailand which allows people to grow cannabis at home. The country’s public health minister, who has spearheaded Thailand’s drive to decriminalize cannabis, said the government will distribute the plants for free next month when most legal restrictions on production and possession of the drug are lifted next month.

Announcing the decision earlier this month on Facebook, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that he intended for cannabis plants to be grown like “household crops”.

On a high Why Thailand will distribute one million free cannabis plants to homes

Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that he wants cannabis plants to be grown as household crops. AP

For medical purposes only

People can grow cannabis plants at home but it’s important that they notify the local government. Moreover, the plants have to be of medical grade and used exclusively for medicinal purposes.

Using all parts of cannabis plants, including flowers and seeds, will be allowed. However, extracted content will remain illegal if it contains more than 0.2 per cent of the psychoactive ingredient that produces a “high” — tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, reports The Associated Press.

Homegrown marijuana cannot be used for commercial purposes without obtaining the necessary licenses.

However, Thai officials have not explained how the conditions can be enforced. While announcing that 1 million cannabis plants would be handed out beginning in June, Charnvirakul said that people would be able to grow as many as they like in their homes.

Relaxing rules around marijuana

The minister signed a measure in February officially dropping cannabis from a list of controlled drugs. It was yet another step by Thailand to promote cannabis as a cash crop in a country where about a third of its labor force works in agriculture.

Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia in 2018 to legalize cannabis for medical research and use. Since then several restrictions have been eased.

The country has also loosened local laws around cannabis. Thai drinks and cosmetics companies last year rushed to launch products with hemp and CBD, a compound that does not give users a high after their use was approved for consumer goods, reports CNN.

On a high Why Thailand will distribute one million free cannabis plants to homes

A vendor sells macarons containing cannabis at a fair in Bangkok. AFP

The business side of things

In a Facebook post on 10 May, Charnvirakul said that Thai companies registered to do so could sell cannabis products that contained less than 0.2 THC. “This will enable people and the government to generate more than 10 billion baht per year in revenue from marijuana and hemp,” he wrote.

Thai officials hope that 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 only recently begun returning in large numbers after being largely absent during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, large-scale businesses will still be required to seek permission from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It received about 4,700 applications just last month for licenses to import, possess, grow and produce cannabis and hemp, reports the Bangkok Post.

Recreational marijuana

However, recreational use of marijuana still remains illegal in the country.

And while delisting cannabis is the first step, authorities are also exploring the idea of ​​a “cannabis sandbox” that would allow tourists to visit the country while recreationally using cannabis in select areas, to help create destinations synonymous with the drug, Guardian reports quoting local Thai media.

In 2019, 39.9 million tourists visited Thailand. It’s estimated that 27.7 million will visit for the purpose of health and wellness in 2022, putting expenditure on health and wellness tourism at $2.5bn. The country’s recreational cannabis market has the potential to be worth $424m by 2024, according to cannabis research firm Prohibition Partners, says the report.

With inputs from agencies

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