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Thailand Becomes First Asian Country to Permit Cannabis Cultivation

Thailand announced last Thursday that it will allow the cultivation of "Indian hemp", becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to repeal the law on the criminalization of cannabis and its use "for medical purposes only".

In a statement, the government said that using the plant in public was a "nuisance". In addition, the Thai health minister said he hoped legal cannabis production would boost the economy, but warned against its use for entertainment purposes because it was still prohibited. Charnvirakul, who is also deputy prime minister, explained that "legal regulations provide for the control of consumption, smoking or the use of cannabis products in non-productive forms."

The official government agency said that the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, plans to distribute one million cannabis seedlings.

The Thai government expects the value of the cannabis industry to easily exceed $2 billion, according to statements by Anutin Charnvirakul, who pointed to recent incentives such as the collaboration with the Department of Agriculture to distribute one million free cannabis plants to families across the country.

According to the public health minister, "Thailand is one of the best places to grow this plant, and I believe the Thai people are excited and eager to participate, both as investors and product manufacturers, as well as consumers. With today's technology and marketing strategies, Thailand will excel in its ability to promote cannabis products in the global market." For example, cafes and restaurants will be able to serve food and beverages containing hemp, with less than 0.2% THC, the plant's main psychoactive molecule.

Cannabis Is No Longer a Crime

Under decriminalization, the cultivation, trafficking, and products of cannabis, or the use of parts of the plant to treat diseases, is no longer considered a crime. Although, heavy penalties still apply under the Public Health Act, up to three months imprisonment and an $800 fine for smoking cannabis in public.

The Minister of Health issued a stern warning to foreign tourists considering smoking cannabis in public places. "We have always emphasized the use of cannabis extracts and raw materials for medicinal purposes," Anutin said. He also stressed that they "did not think for a moment about advocating that people use cannabis for recreational purposes, or in a way that might anger others."

"Thailand will promote cannabis policies for medicinal purposes," he said. "If tourists come for medical treatment or to get health-related products, that's not a problem. But if you think you are coming to Thailand because you heard that cannabis has been legalized and you can smoke, that's not true."

More than 3,000 inmates serving prison sentences for cannabis and related drug offenses will be released from prison following the announcement by the Ministry of Public Health, and big celebrations are planned for this weekend. Such is the case of Highland Legalization, a group that advocates for the Thai medicinal plant, which organized two days of musical performances, round tables, and the sale of food containing cannabis.

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