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This Popular Tourist Destination Is Reversing Course on Recreational Cannabis Legalization

by Staff

Thailand is considered by many to be one of the most socially progressive countries in Asia, and in recent years, the legalization of cannabis for recreational use added to that image. But the southeast Asian country is reversing course on its historic decision.

Cholnan Srikaew, the country’s health minister, spoke to Reuters about the changes coming to the nation’s cannabis policy. While the plant will still be allowed for medical use, recreational cannabis use will be illegal once again by the end of this year, two years after the legislature moved to make it accessible to all who want it.

“Without the law to regulate cannabis it will be misused,” Cholnan said of recreational use. It all stems from a handful of laws that were quickly enacted after the drug was decriminalized that he believes didn’t have adequate guardrails for the burgeoning industry. “The misuse of cannabis has a negative impact on Thai children,” he said. “In the long run it could lead to other drugs.”

The government is currently working to pass a draft bill before the end of this year that will eliminate legal recreational cannabis use and regulate the industry, which is projected to be worth up to $1.2 billion by next year. The previous government was unable to pass legislation before last May’s general election, leaving the country without a wide-reaching law to regulate cannabis use.

“In the new law, cannabis will be a controlled plant, so growing it would require permission,” Cholnan said. “We will support [cannabis cultivation] for the medical and health industry.”

Related: Cannabis Use Linked With Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Studies Find

Tens of thousands of dispensaries that opened in Thailand after the law passed will now have to adapt to being health clinics only prescribing medical cannabis or risk being shut down. And if you plan on visiting and skirting the law yourself, be warned; the draft law institutes a 60,000 baht ($1,700) fine for recreational use. Meanwhile, people who sell cannabis for recreational use or help advertise or market cannabis products could face up to a year in jail, a fine of up to 100,000 baht ($2,800), or both.

The good news is there are other countries around the world that remain cannabis-friendly destinations for visitors.

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