Thailand’s health minister on Wednesday discouraged tourists from visiting the country solely to smoke weed, just two months after new laws were passed that largely decriminalized the drug.
“We don’t welcome those kinds of tourists,” 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 medical use. In June, the entire factory was decriminalized, leading to widespread recreational use.
Despite the government’s pleas to get high, cannabis companies with dedicated smoking areas are a hit with locals and visitors alike.
But those who smoke in public face up to three months in prison or fines of up to 25,000 baht ($705.82).
An employee prepares cannabis for customers at the Happy Bud, a cannabis truck on Bangkok’s Khaosan Road.
Anutin’s comments come even as foreign arrivals begin to pick up in the tourism-dependent country. Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy expects 8 to 10 million arrivals this year, up from a previous forecast of 7 million.
Last year, the pandemic reduced the number of foreign arrivals to just 428,000, compared to a record nearly 40 million in 2019.
Thailand has focused its cannabis policy on the 28 billion baht ($790.29 million) industry built around its medical and health benefits.
However, Anutin said recreational use could be explored once there was a better understanding of the drug.
“Maybe it will come in the near future,” he said.
Thailand’s cannabis policy has also attracted the interest of regional neighbors such as Malaysia, which studies the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
Top image: A pot of cannabis in a pharmacy in Bangkok, Thailand on Aug. 17, 2022. Credit: Athit Perawongmetha/REUTERS