As territories around the world legalize cannabis, a new segment dubbed “cannabis tourism” has emerged. Folks from countries and states that haven’t legalized cannabis travel to regions that have legal cannabis, bringing in millions of dollars in cannabis purchases. For example, in 2016, the Colorado Department of Revenue reported that around 6.5 million cannabis tourists had traveled to the state to purchase and consume marijuana.
Thailand, which is one of the strictest countries in the world in terms of drug offenses, may soon be benefitting from cannabis tourism as well. The country’s narcotics board recently announced plans to delist cannabis with less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical in marijuana that gives users the controversial plant’s characteristic “high.”
In a newsletter discussing marijuana in Thailand, Carl K. Linn says cannabis would “integrate beautifully” with the culture of retreat and wellness that attracts tourists to Thailand. Despite having extremely strict drug laws and with cannabis offenses having a potential jail sentence of 15 years, Thailand was the first country in southeast Asia to allow medical cannabis back in 2018.
According to public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, people will be allowed to cultivate cannabis plants at home after informing their local government once the delisting comes into effect. This typically happens 120 days after a law is published on the Royal Thai Government Gazette website. Citizens will also be allowed to seek commercial cannabis licenses if they wish to sell cannabis.
Parliament is currently considering a draft hemp and cannabis bill that would govern the cultivation, sale and consumption of recreational cannabis. Thailand envisions a high-end cannabis tourism industry that attracts “Silicon Valley types” traveling on corporate gigs rather than creating a “stoner paradise.” The southeast Asian country already has spas, restaurants and cafes that offer CBD (cannabidiol)-infused products. Unlike THC, cannabidiol does not intoxicate users.
Delisting cannabis could significantly open up Thailand’s fledgling cannabis industry by allowing the production and sale of other parts of the plant. The executive director of the country’s International Sustainable Development Studies Institute, Mark Ritchie, says that removing cannabis from the list of narcotic drugs could also be instrumental in boosting the rural economy.
Thai authorities are tentatively toying with an idea dubbed a “cannabis sandbox” that would allow public consumption of cannabis. Tourists would be provided with designated areas where they would be able to use cannabis recreationally. Marijuana research company Prohibition Partners estimates that Thailand’s recreational cannabis market will be worth $424 million by 2024.
If only the U.S. federal government would be as progressive as Thailand is being on matters of marijuana, cannabis companies such as American Cannabis Partners would have a massive market to serve domestically and the need to enter foreign markets wouldn’t occur until the local market has been saturated.
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