Asia

Weed-smoking tourists not welcome in Thailand, says health minister


BANGKOK – Thailand’s health minister on Wednesday (Aug 17) discouraged tourists from visiting Thailand only to smoke weed, just two months after new laws were passed that have largely decriminalised the drug.

“We don’t welcome those kinds of tourists,” Mr Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters when asked about recreational marijuana use among foreign visitors.

In 2018, Thailand became the first South-east Asian country to legalise cannabis for medical use. In June, the entire plant was decriminalised, leading to widespread recreational use.

Despite the government’s pleas against getting high, cannabis businesses with special smoking rooms have been a hit with locals and visitors. But those smoking in public risk facing a three-month jail sentence or fines of up to 25,000 baht (S$975).

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Mr Anutin’s comments came even as foreign arrivals start to pick up in the tourism-reliant country. South-east Asia’s second-largest economy expects eight million to 10 million arrivals this year, above an earlier forecast of seven million.

Last year, the pandemic slashed foreign arrivals to just 428,000, compared with a record of nearly 40 million in 2019.

Thailand has focused its cannabis policy on the 28 billion baht industry built around its medical and health benefits.

Mr Anutin said recreational use could be explored once there was better understanding of the drug.

“It might come in the near future,” he said.

Thailand’s cannabis policy has also drawn interest from regional neighbours such as Malaysia, which is studying the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

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