Thailand Becomes First Asian Country to Legalise Growing, Consumption of Marijuana

Thailand legalized the cultivation and consumption of marijuana in food and drinks on Thursday, the first Asian country to do so, with the aim of boosting its agriculture and tourism sectors, but smoking remains illegal. Shoppers queued at outlets selling drinks and sweets filled with cannabis and other items as defenders of the plant welcomed reform in a country long known for its strict anti-drug laws. Among those at the front of the queue in a Bangkok supermarket is Ritipong Dachkul, 24, who has been waiting since Wednesday evening to buy his first-ever legal cannabis.

“I got on a bus here after I got off work,” Ritibong told Reuters.

“Now we are able to find it easily, and I don’t have to worry about the source, but I have no idea about the quality,” he said, referring to the strength of the products on offer.

Thailand, which has a tradition of using cannabis to relieve pain and fatigue, legalized medical marijuana in 2018.

The government, which depends on the plant as a cash crop, plans to give away one million plants to encourage farmers to grow it.

“After COVID, the economy has gone down, we really need this,” said Chuquan Kitty Chewbacca, who owns a cannabis candy store.

But the authorities aim to avoid an explosion in recreational use by limiting the strength of products offered.

Possession and sale of cannabis extracts containing more than 0.2% of its psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is not permitted, which means that smokers of the drug known as “pot”, “cannabis” and a host of other names struggle with “stoning.”

“Buds that contain 0.2% THC are considered low, so you will need to consume a lot to rise,” said Suphamet Hetrakul, co-founder of the Teera Group, which grows cannabis for medicinal use. THC is concentrated in the flowers or buds of the plant.

Those who break the law still face imprisonment and fines.

GROWERS’ APPLICATION

Cannabis growers have to register with a government app called PlookGanja, or plant ganja, another nickname for the prickly-leaved plant. Nearly 100,000 people have signed up for the application, said Bisan Dankhom, a health ministry official.

Suphamet said he was concerned about quality control among many of the new growers.

“It would be difficult to control the level of THC and other contaminants in their products, and that could be dangerous for consumers,” Sophamet said.

The Ministry of Health said it has approved 1,181 products including cosmetics and food, which contain cannabis extracts, and expects the industry to generate up to 15 billion baht ($435.16 million) by 2026.

Big business jumps.

Agro-industrial conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Foods Pcl (CPF.BK) and Gunkul Engineering (GUNKUL.BK) have teamed up to produce extract-infused foods and beverages.

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