Thailand became the first country in Asia to legalize marijuana: the entire plant is no longer on the list of narcotics. The Asian country hopes that medical tourism will flourish.

Because after tourism was idle for two years during the pandemic, the Asian country is doing everything it can to revive the industry. The legalization of a drug is an unusual step – the entire region is actually known for its strict drug policy: In Indonesia, for example, there are life sentences or even the death penalty for drug trafficking.

Thailand has also officially approved cannabis for medical and industrial use only. Smoking joints in public is still illegal. And extracts from the cannabis plant are also illegal as soon as they contain more than 0.2 percent THC. The latter is the chemical compound responsible for the intoxicating effects of marijuana. So nobody should get drunk – instead, it’s all about the health benefits of the plants, which have a calming and pain-relieving effect in small doses.

If you want to grow a cannabis plant in your garden in Thailand in the future, you can. All he has to do is register the cultivation and sign that he is using the harvest purely for medicinal purposes. The Ministry of Public Health even wants to promote the latter and is therefore planning to distribute one million marijuana seedlings among the people. The plants should thrive in the tropical climate of Thailand.

The resale of cannabis will also be allowed in the future: “It is an opportunity for the people and the state to generate income from marijuana and hemp,” Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister, posted on his social media accounts in May.

For example, cafes and restaurants are now allowed to cook with cannabis or offer drinks – the only requirement: they must not exceed the 0.2 percent THC limit when incorporating the plant into baked goods, curries or drinks. Clinics are also allowed to offer treatments with the plant. Ultimately, it is also medical tourism that the government is pinning its hopes on.

Immigrants and local experts, however, warn holidaymakers that the relaxed rules have not made Thailand the El Dorado of smoking weed. Even though marijuana has been decriminalized, the penalties for those who don’t follow the rules, which are rather narrow and unclear, remain harsh. For example, anyone caught smoking cannabis in public could face up to three months in prison or a $800 fine.

And the Thai police are very strict, as Ulla Haider, an Austrian emigrant, reports. “Just two months ago, the husband of one of our seamstresses was arrested for having a single marijuana plant in his garden,” she said. At that time, a group of eight police officers stormed the apartment and arrested the man.

The plant is now legal, but Haider is still skeptical that legalization will do any good. She fears that many will start smoking cannabis after all, and that the number of traffic accidents could then increase. Mark Heather, director of drug rehab Miracles Asia in Phuket, also warns that legalization could pose problems: “The problem in Thailand is law enforcement,” he said. “The government is in Bangkok, but each region has its own rules.” Locals also report that corruption is high in the country.

Nevertheless, the Thais celebrated the legalization. An event organized by Highland Legalization, a Thai marijuana advocacy group, featured cannabis edibles for sale, musical performances and panel discussions. In addition, more than 3,000 inmates serving sentences on cannabis and hemp-related drug offenses have been released in the past week.