Thailand Gears Up As Medical Marijuana Tourist Destination
Aug 14, 2020

Thailand seeks to revive its ailing tourism industry by tapping into new potential in medical tourism, one of the sectors recently opened up for visitors.

The idea is now to target medical tourists who are seeking treatments related to medical marijuana which can now be legally grown and sold in Thailand as per new laws.

The Cabinet in Bangkok amended the Narcotics Act on August 4, pending approval by lawmakers, to allow private medical operators to grow and trade the crop, including for export. Selected traditional medicine practitioners and farmers are part of the new regulation.

The move expands a cornerstone policy of deputy prime minister and health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who supports the view that the controlled legalisation of marijuana would boost the wellness, travel and agriculture sectors.

The latest plan will lift limits imposed when the country in 2018 became the first in Southeast Asia to legalise medicinal use of the herb. It also follows the opening in January of a medical-marijuana clinic at health ministry facilities that offers free medicine to its patients.

Medical marijuana to remain a Thai business only, no foreigners allowed

Domestic private medical practitioners with licenses will now gain the right to “grow, produce and export marijuana,” he said, adding that Thai farmers will gain “more options for income.” This, however, does not include health clinics across the country. Foreigners are also not allowed to apply for licenses as the ministry wants it to be a “Thai business.”

“We don’t want foreigners to come in and invest, then reap all the benefits,” Marut Jirasrattasiri, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, said.

According to Traisuree Taisaranakul, a government spokeswoman, the new regulation would “allow more patients to have access to medical marijuana for their ailments and to increase awareness of medical marijuana in Thailand,”

Marijuana cultivation and dispensation is currently done solely by government agencies or closely regulated organisations. The plant remains a category-five drug, meaning recreational use is forbidden. Illegal possession could result in a ten-year prison sentence, while trafficking is a crime punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty.