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Thailand gives growing, consumption of marijuana green light

Thailand’s marijuana prohibition went up in smoke on Thursday when the country legalised the growing of marijuana and its consumption in food and drinks becoming the first country in Asia to do so.

Thai streets and rural areas resounded with cracking pop-tops as consumers celebrated the legislative novelty. Shoppers had to queue up at outlets selling cannabis-infused drinks, sweets and other items to stock up on goods to appease the advocates of the plant.

“I took a bus here after I got off work,” 24-year-old Rittipong Dachkul told Reuters in Bangkok.

“We’re now able to find it easily, we don’t have to worry about the source, but I have no idea about the quality,” he said, referring to the strength of the products on offer.

The recently passed law is another step for Thailand in becoming the most lenient Asian country with regard to soft drugs. To recall, Thais have been traditionally using cannabis to relieve pain and fatigue. The country legalised the medical use of marijuana in 2018.

But Bangkok’s shift in policy is not just about showing permissivity toward cannabis. Now, seeing the plant as a cash crop, the government plans to encourage its cultivation by giving away a million plants to farmers.

“After COVID, the economy going down the drain, we really do need this,” Chokwan Kitty, a shop owner selling cannabis gum sweets Chopaka, said.

In order to prevent the consumption of the cannabinoid substances present in the plant, authorities decided to put a cap on the strength of the products on offer.

Any cannabis extract containing more than 0.2 percent of its psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), remains illegal. This means smokers will not be able to use cannabis in the form of “pot” or “weed”.

“Buds with 0.2 percent THC is considered low, so you would need to consume a lot to get high,” said Suphamet Hetrakul, co-founder of the Teera Group, which grows cannabis for medical use. THC is concentrated in the plant’s flowers or buds.

Lawbreakers can still face jail and fines.

In the age of digitisation, even this kind of legislative action cannot do without a governmental app. In this case, it’s called PlookGanja, or grow ganja. Its purpose – allow cannabis growers to register their plants. So far, nearly 100,000 people have signed up, according to health ministry official Paisan Dankhum.

Suphamet said he was concerned about quality control among the many new cultivators.

“It will be hard to control the level of THC and other contaminants in their products and that could be dangerous for consumers,” Suphamet said.

To date, the Thai health ministry has approved 1,181 products including cosmetics and food, containing cannabis extracts. The ministry expects that the industry will earn as much as 15 bn baht (USD 435.16 mln) by 2026.

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