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legalisation of cannabis good for tourism?

With Thailand’s decriminalisation of cannabis this past June, a growing number of weed connoisseurs and curious onlookers are browsing stores and stalls selling various cannabis products.

It’s a change in policy that could boost tourism as the country reopens its borders with the world. However, Thailand’s health minister warns tourists that it’s not an open invitation for foreigners to come to the country to smoke joints freely.

Thailand decriminalised the use of cannabis on June 9, 2022, becoming the first country in Asia to allow the cultivation and sale of hemp products.

In the aftermath, potential growers rushed to the Thai government’s site and at present, more than one million people have registered on the portal seeking permission to grow cannabis, according to figures from the Food and Drug Administration of Thailand.

In an interview with CNN, Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that legalising cannabis could boost the economy by US$2 billion (RM9 billion) within five years. It is expected to fuel the agriculture sector in particular. But will the new rules also serve to boost the tourism industry?

A plethora of new wellness-oriented products

The health minister emphasises that the new legalisation concerns health and medical-related uses and regulations specify a low concentration of active components in edibles and other consumer products as well as age-related restrictions.

But within weeks, a host of cafes and retailers offering cannabis-infused products are flourishing in Bangkok and elsewhere.

“It’s like tapping into a fresh and interesting territory. It’s worth a lot and it’s new,” Kreephet Hanpongpipet, a store owner, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Meanwhile, according to the BBC, entrepreneur Tom Kruesopon Thailand’s new policy towards cannabis could also have a major effect on tourism, particularly in a scenario where people specifically visit the country for cannabis-related therapies.

The inauguration of the new policy coincides with the relaxation of Covid-19 health-related restrictions and the reopening of the country to tourists. The number of visitors is already increasing but remains low compared to pre-pandemic figures.

In the second quarter of 2022, the number of visitors reached 1.58 million, according to government statistics, and the country is expected to receive between five and 15 million foreign visitors in the year. A far cry from the 40 million tourists who visited in 2019.

Hazy regulations?

The country’s decriminalisation of cannabis means buds and flowers of the plant have been removed from the list of narcotics. A few thousand people, detained for offences related to the use of marijuana, have been released from prison.

However, Anutin Charnvirakul outlines that recreational use is still not permitted in Thailand, and the country’s Tourism Authority deputy governor Siripakorn Cheawsamoot reminded tourists considering trips in this vein that “The law does not cover recreational cannabis use … and so tourism promotion is focused on medical [aspects],” according to the SCMP.

A person can face up to three months in jail and 25,000 baht fine for smoking cannabis in public.

Some rules regarding cannabis in Thailand remain hazy, it seems, and it appears that new legislation will soon seek to clarify how the plant can be used and consumed in the country. — ETX Studio

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