Tourists smoking weed are not welcome in Thailand, Health Minister says

Tourists smoking weed are not welcome in Thailand, Health Minister says

Thailand’s health minister on Wednesday banned tourists from visiting the country just to smoke weed, just two months after new laws were passed that have largely decriminalized the drug.

“We don’t welcome that type of tourist,” Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters when asked about recreational marijuana use among foreign visitors.

In 2018, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes. In June, the entire facility was decriminalized, resulting in widespread recreational use.

Despite government appeals not to get high, cannabis shops with dedicated smoking rooms are a hit with locals and visitors alike.

But those who smoke in public risk a three-month prison sentence or fines of up to 25,000 baht ($705.82).

An employee prepares cannabis for customers at Happy Bud, a cannabis truck on Bangkok's Khaosan Road.

An employee prepares cannabis for customers at Happy Bud, a cannabis truck on Bangkok’s Khaosan Road.

Athit Perawongmetha/Portal

Anutin’s comments come even as foreign arrivals increase in the tourism-dependent country. Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy expects 8-10 million arrivals this year, up from a previous forecast of 7 million.

Last year, the pandemic reduced foreign arrivals to just 428,000, down from a record nearly 40 million in 2019.

Thailand has focused its cannabis policy on the 28 billion baht ($790.29 million) industry based on its medicinal and health benefits.

However, Anutin said recreational use could be explored once the drug is better understood.

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

Thailand’s cannabis policy has also attracted interest from regional neighbors such as Malaysia, which is investigating the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Top image: A jar of cannabis at a pharmacy in Bangkok, Thailand on August 17, 2022. Credit: Athit Perawongmetha/Portal