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 criminalized the drug.
“We don’t welcome such tourists,” Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters when asked about recreational marijuana use among foreign tourists.
In 2018, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize cannabis for medical use. In June, the entire plant was decriminalized, leading to widespread recreational use.
Despite government pleas against getting high, marijuana businesses with special smoking rooms are a hit with locals and visitors alike.
But those found smoking in public face up to three months in prison or a fine of up to 25,000 baht ($705.82).
A staff member prepares cannabis for customers at the Happy Bud cannabis truck on Khosan Road in Bangkok.
Anutin’s comments come as foreign arrivals to the tourism-dependent country begin. Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy expects 8 million to 10 million arrivals this year, up from the previous forecast of 7 million.
Last year, the pandemic reduced foreign arrivals to just 428,000, compared with a record of 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 can be explored when there is a better understanding of the drug.
“It may come in the near future,” he said.
Thailand’s cannabis policy has also drawn interest from regional neighbors such as Malaysia, which is studying the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
Image above: Jars containing marijuana at a pharmacy shop in Bangkok, Thailand on August 17, 2022.