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Explained: Why Thailand will distribute 1 million cannabis plants to households

With about a third of its labour force engaged in agriculture, Thailand has been trying to promote cannabis as a cash crop for some time now. In fact, in 2018, it became the first country in the Southeast Asian region to legalise the use of cannabis for medical use.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 13, 2022 1:30:00 pm
Thailand's Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, at a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi, Thailand, talks to reporters after signing a measure that drops cannabis from his ministry's list of controlled drugs. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

The Thai government has announced plans to distribute a million cannabis plants to households across the nation next month, when most of the legal restrictions on cultivating weed at home will be lifted.

One of the country’s most vociferous proponents of decriminalising cannabis, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced the move on Facebook earlier this month, stating that he intended for cannabis plants to be grown like “household crops”.

With about a third of its labour force engaged in agriculture, Thailand has been trying to promote cannabis as a cash crop for some time now. In fact, in 2018, it became the first country in the Southeast Asian region to legalise the use of cannabis for medical use.

Why does the Thai government want to give people cannabis plants?

The plant-distribution project is set to start next month and will allow residents to grow medical-grade marijuana for their own personal use or as part of a small-scale commercial enterprise. Large-scale businesses will still require government permits.

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“This will enable people and the government to generate more than 10 billion baht (around INR 22,27,000) per year in revenue from marijuana and hemp,” Anutin wrote in his Facebook post.

With the new project, the Thai government seeks to encourage the cultivation of medicinal cannabis at home. Officials hope with the new law, the country’s growing cannabis industry will slowly start to generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and will attract international visitors and strengthen medical tourism, which took a massive hit during the coronavirus pandemic.

What do we know about the new law?

The country’s new rule, which will be enacted on June 9, will permit people to grow cannabis plants at home after informing their local government. However, the cannabis cultivated at home must be of medical grade. Extracted contents will remain illegal if it contains more than 0.2 per cent of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the part of the plant that is responsible for getting people intoxicated.

Large-scale enterprises will still be required to seek permission from the country’s Food and Drug Administration. According to a report by the Bangkok Post, the FDA received about 4,700 applications just last month for licenses to import, possess, grow and produce cannabis and hemp.

Earlier this year, Thailand’s narcotics board announced plans to remove cannabis from its drugs list, starting the same week of June.

What has been Thailand’s stance on the use of cannabis so far?

Thailand has a long-standing tradition of using marijuana to relieve pain and fatigue, according to a Reuters report.

In recent years, the Thai government has steadily been lifting restrictions on cannabis. Last year, several companies launched a wide range of hemp and CBD products after their use was approved for consumer goods, Reuters reported.

In 2018, the country became the first in Southeast Asia, a region otherwise known for strict punishment against drug use, to legalise marijuana for medical use and research. “This is a New Year’s gift from the National Legislative Assembly to the government and the Thai people,” said Somchai Sawangkarn, chairman of the drafting committee.

Since then, several restrictions on the use of medicinal cannabis were gradually eased.

Meanwhile, in nearby Singapore, possession of cannabis could lead to a jail term of up to 10 years, while trafficking is punishable by death. In Indonesia and Malaysia too, marijuana traffickers can be subject to the death penalty.

Which countries permit the use of cannabis?

In 2018, Canada became the first G20 country to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. Meanwhile, Uruguay legalised the recreational use of marijuana for all adults above the age of 18 in 2013. Here, you can purchase weed at pharmacies.

Several European countries — including the Netherlands, Spain and the Czech Republic — permit smoking marijuana in public places.

In the US, consumption of marijuana is legal in at least 20 states, including Washington DC, New York and California.

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