Starting June 9, adult residents in Thailand will be allowed to grow cannabis at home for approved medical purposes. In what appears to be a first for any country to legalize the plant, Thailand’s residents will also get free plants from the federal government.
Thai health minister Anutin Charnvirakul announced this week that federal authorities intend for marijuana plants to be grown like “household crops.” To help kick off the new industry, the government plans to distribute a total of 1 million plants to households of registered medical cannabis patients across the country.
The new law will let people grow cannabis at home after alerting local authorities, but the plants can only be used at home for medical purposes — they can’t be sold to others.
The move is the latest and most progressive step in the country’s journey to end cannabis prohibition and promote the plant as a cash crop. According to the World Bank, about 31 percent of Thailand’s labor force works in agriculture. Authorities are also allowing registered companies to sell hemp and CBD-based cannabis products with less than 0.2 percent THC, a move that Anutin has said will generate over $250 million in revenue each year.
Wednesday’s announcement is especially significant given the region’s reputation for imposing extremely severe criminal penalties against people prosecuted for illegal drugs. Large-scale drug traffickers caught in Southeast Asia — countries including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore, among others — are often sentenced to death, while even first-time offenders found with small amounts of banned drugs can face minimum sentences of two years in prison.
In 2018, Thailand became the first country in the region to legalize cannabis for medical research and use. In January of this year, it became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis in at least some capacity when Anutin announced that Thailand’s narcotics control board was taking the plant off its list of controlled substances.
According to CNN, business owners of drinks and cosmetics companies in Thailand have rushed to launch products with hemp and CBD in recent months after authorities also approved use of the plant in consumer goods.