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Thailand To Pot-Smoking Tourists: You’re Not Welcome Here!

A top Thailand official has a clear message to would-be tourists who are considering a cannabis-filled visit to the southeast Asian country: Don’t bother.

“We don’t welcome those kinds of tourists,” Thailand’s health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Wednesday while talking to reporters, as quoted by CNN.

Thailand is currently dealing with the consequences from a June new law, which removed marijuana from the banned substance list. This makes Thailand the first Asian country to legalize marijuana. Thailand, the first Southeast Asian country to allow medical cannabis in 2018, was officially recognized as legal.

It was legalized to grow marijuana and hemp. Restaurants can now offer foods and drinks infused with small amounts of THC.

The law is also shrouded by gray areas. Anutin, along with other officials from the Thai government at that time, stated that this policy shouldn’t be taken to mean outright legalization.

“It’s a no,” Anutin said in June. “We still have regulations under the law that control the consumption, smoking or use of cannabis products in non-productive ways.”

According to CNN, “those smoking in public risk facing a three-month jail sentence or fines of up to 25,000 baht ($705.82).”

“We [have always] emphasized using cannabis extractions and raw materials for medical purposes and for health,” Anutin continued. “There has never once been a moment that we would think about advocating people to use cannabis in terms of recreation — or use it in a way that it could irritate others.”

Anutin sent a similar warning back to June to any potential tourists.

“Thailand will promote cannabis policies for medical purposes,” said Anutin. “If [tourists] come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it’s not an issue but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal … [or] come to Thailand to smoke joints freely, that’s wrong. Don’t come. We won’t welcome you if you just come to this country for that purpose.”

To the dismay of Anutin, the Thai government and recreational marijuana use have flourished over the past two months, with many cannabis cafés opening up in Bangkok, the capital.

A report by Reuters earlier this month detailed how the newly enacted cannabis law “has led to an explosion in its recreational use,” despite the fact “that government officials – concerned about negative effects on health and productivity often linked to uncontrolled use of the drug – have retro[s]pectively tried to discourage.”

The news outlet highlighted one such cannabis cafe in Bangkok, whose owner touted the “hundreds” of visitors to his business every day.

“Europeans, Japanese, Americans – they are looking for Thai sativa,” the cafe owner said, as quoted by Reuters. “Cannabis and tourism are a match.”

Other Thai groups have voiced concerns about the proposed cannabis law.

More than 850 physicians in the country signed an petition last month requesting that the law be subject to more restrictions and safeguards.

“Cannabis was removed from the Public Health Ministry’s Narcotic list on June 9, but no policies have been launched to control the use of cannabis for personal pleasure,” a spokesperson for the group of doctors said at the time. “This lack of [legal] direction makes cannabis more accessible for children and teenagers.”

The group said that the “government and related departments should stop threatening people’s health as soon as possible.”

“The use of cannabis for medical purposes should be under control for the best benefits and safety as the government claimed from the first place,” the group said.