By / September 1, 2022

Cannabis Is Legal, but Complicated in Thailand: What Tourists Need to Know

Thailand, not long ago a country with one of the strictest drug policies in the world, is getting into the cannabis business.

In June, Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration removed cannabis and hemp from the list of category five narcotics, meaning that the substances are essentially decriminalized.

In practice, this change in legislation gives Thais the ability to grow and sell cannabis for medical purposes, which the government says will make Thailand a “cannabis hub” in Southeast Asia.

But there are, of course, caveats, and the situation will likely change. To follow the evolution of the situation, download our free cannabis news app.

The legality and laws surrounding THC are pretty confusing

Products for food or medicine must contain low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Further, recreational use of cannabis, including smoking in public, is still not legal.

And while cannabis is no longer considered an illegal substance by Thai authorities, they have yet to develop legislation regulating its trade, making it somewhat confusing to buy and sell.

Thais Are Taking Full Advantage of the Situation

Since the announcement in June, Thais have taken full advantage of this legal grey area.

As you read this, on Khao San Road in Bangkok, tables are crumbling under the weight of stacks of cannabis buds far exceeding the legal THC limit. In Chiang Mai, a tourist is probably sipping a high-cannabis cocktail. And somewhere on a Thai island, bongs are being smoked in public.

Technically speaking, all of these scenarios are illegal. But until now, at least, they have been tolerated. So what does this mean for people visiting Thailand?

Here’s what we know at this point.

Medicinal Cannabis Use is Legal in Thailand

Medical cannabis was legalized in Thailand in 2018, making it the first country in Asia to approve cannabis for both medicinal and industrial purposes.

Under Thai law, the content of extracted cannabis must contain less than 0.2% THC – generally considered a minimal amount of the substance that gets you high.

If you are visiting Thailand and need this level of THC or less for medical use, you can apply for a prescription from one of the licensed hospitals and clinics.

You must also use the cannabis product you have legally obtained privately, not in public.

Recent updates to this legislation prohibit people under 20, pregnant women, and nursing mothers from possessing and using cannabis without a doctor’s permission.

Buddhist Monks Are Forbidden From Consuming Cannabis

Buddhist monks and novices also have some good (or bad?) news:

Thailand’s Supreme Sangha Council has banned Buddhist monks and novices from smoking or growing cannabis but allows them to use it to treat illnesses.

However, decriminalization means that unlicensed sellers feel bold enough to sell products far exceeding the government’s THC limit openly.

If you want to play it safe, especially as a guest in Thailand, buying and using your THC-based medicinal products in approved channels of network-licensed hospitals and clinics is probably wiser.

Eating and Drinking Cannabis in Thailand

Similarly, the law states that food and drink products containing cannabis, again, those strictly for medical purposes, must have less than 0.2 percent THC, but on the streets of Thailand, these rules are being flouted.

Since June, many food and beverage companies have taken advantage of decriminalization by offering cannabis-containing products. One company has even launched a cannabis-infused fish sauce, while drinks containing cannabis-derived ingredients are already on sale in convenience stores across the country.

Yet a recent study by Thailand’s leading university found that 30% of these products exceed the government’s THC limit.

Although technically not legal, eating and drinking cannabis is admittedly a less risky way to get high than smoking it, which is subject to much closer supervision (as well as potential fines or jail time; see below).

The ins and outs of Recreational Cannabis Use

Although much of the post-decriminalization cannabis use in Thailand is recreational, and as people increasingly use it openly and publicly, this does not mean it is legal.

Despite these groundbreaking legislative changes, the Thai government is still uncomfortable with people smoking cannabis in public.

In an attempt to remedy this, authorities recently exhumed the 1992 Public Health Act, which prohibits any “act of public disturbance” resulting from the smoke or smell.

Violators of this law are subject to a fine of 25,000 baht (682.57 euros) and three months in prison.

Thailand’s Minister of Public Health recently stated that further liberalization of recreational cannabis is possible in the future. Still, for now, it is wiser for visitors to Thailand not to use recreational cannabis, which is simply not to do so in public.

Can I Now Bring My Own Cannabis Products to Thailand?

No. According to the guidelines established by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, products containing cannabis and hemp extracts, hemp-derived products, and all parts of cannabis and hemp containing more than 0.2% THC are still listed as category five drugs.

This means that you run a very high risk by bringing your favorite products to Thailand.

(Featured image by Brandon Nickerson via Pexels)

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