Thai Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul just announced plans to hand out a million free hemp plants to celebrate the legalization of personal cannabis cultivation and use next month.
Starting on June 9, each and every Thai citizen will be allowed to grow as many cannabis plants as they wish, Anutin said in a recent social media post. Home growers are required to notify their local authorities that they intend to grow weed at home, but they do not need to apply for official government cultivation licenses.
Under the new regulations, literally anyone will be allowed to launch their own cannabis-related business and sell their wares anywhere in the country. Small businesses do not need to register with the government or pay for expensive business licenses, but larger cannabis companies must apply for a license from the Thai Food and Drug Administration.
"This will enable people and the government to generate more than 10 billion baht [per year] in revenue from marijuana and hemp," said Anutin in a social media post, according to Nation Thailand. "Meanwhile, people can showcase their cannabis and hemp-related products and wisdom and sell their products nationwide."
There is one important catch, though. The government has only authorized the cultivation, use, and sale of medicinal cannabis with less than 0.2% THC content. Anyone caught selling high-THC marijuana can still be arrested and sent to prison for years. Technically, the new law also prohibits home cultivators from growing pot for recreational use, but Anutin has not announced whether authorities will actually be barging into people's homes to test the THC content of their home-grown bud.
“The decriminalization and delisting are more for household growers: people who aren’t looking to use the plant for transactional purposes but rather for personal consumption,” said Thanisorn Boonsoong, CEO of Thai medical cannabis company Eastern Spectrum Group, to Investment Monitor.
Thai officials envision a future where citizens will be able to grow their own weed for medicinal use or sell it to tourists looking to chill with a CBD-infused cocktail. And while the government has made it clear that it intends to enforce prohibition of recreational marijuana sales, it is unclear if local cops intend to continue arresting citizens or tourists who are caught with high-THC bud.
Thailand's cannabis prohibition laws used to be excessively brutal, like most of its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Everyday users and tourists were regularly locked behind bars for years, and people caught trafficking large quantities of weed would often be sentenced to death. But in 2018, the country legalized medical marijuana and began distributing CBD medicines to hospitals in less than a year.
Since then, the country's medical marijuana industry has exploded, and a Thai university even developed its own unique strain of weed. Government officials legalized hemp-infused foods and drinks in 2020 and are now mulling the possibility of creating special “cannabis sandbox” zones for tourists.