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Thailand’s U-Turn On Cannabis Policy As It Targets Tourist Market

By Johnny Green

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Thailand, infamous for its strict anti-cannabis laws, appears to have done a 180-degree turn in an effort to attract post-Covid tourists for its high season

In an apparent attempt to boost its domestic tourism business, Thailand appears to be turning a blind eye to cannabis use by its visitors – even of the recreational kind.

Cannabis flower, prerolls and even products are turning up in roadside stalls and restaurants. In the aftermath of the government’s decision to decriminalize cannabis in June, even dispensaries are suddenly popping up to serve the tourist market with cannabis. Some recent tourists are even reporting that their hotels are selling it.

The Devil in the Details?

While the only kind of cannabis that is technically legal here is for medical purposes or has less than 0.2% THC, the new regulations leave a lot of grey areas. Officials are warning that anyone caught smoking cannabis in public could be charged with a “smell nuisance” fine under the Public Health Act. This is about a $600 ticket, with further potential three months in jail.

That said, enforcing the same seems to be less than a priority.

It is a far cry from the death sentence for mere possession – and everyone, from the government to the new pot purveyors, to the tourist customers, knows it.

The Slippery Slope…

Thailand is facing the same issue, albeit a bit earlier, than Germany, which also stands poised on the edge of not just decriminalization, but full recreational reform. Once that legislation passes, it will be very difficult for authorities to prosecute use – even in public – for anything more than a minor violation that might end up with a small fine. Just like riding the public transportation system without a valid ticket.

That said, it is unlikely that in Germany, cannabis sales will be allowed in a wide variety of venues – at least at first. Discussions are ongoing at a federal level right now on how to regulate the growth, distribution, and sales of adult-use cannabis. It is unlikely that it will be available at anything but specially licensed and designated stores at the beginning of full legalization. This is one of the reasons that online sales are probably not going to be allowed, at least for higher THC flower and products.

In the meantime, however, Thailand is clearly pushing the envelope, and further doing so when every country on the precipice of change is now avidly studying international models of cannabis reform.

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