Travel | August 19, 2022 8:26 am

Thailand Decriminalizes Weed, Doesn’t Want You Coming to Smoke Weed

"We don't welcome those kinds of tourists"

Aerial view of Bangkok city at twilight

Back in 2018, Thailand made headlines for becoming the first Southeast Asian country to legalize cannabis for medical use. Last month, per a report from CNN Travel, the entire plant was decriminalized, resulting in an uptick in recreational use.

The kicker? They don’t want you to come smoke their pot.

“We don’t welcome those kinds of tourists,” Thailand’s health minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters after being asked about use among foreign visitors. He’s not messing around, either — the punishing for smoking in public is a three-month jail sentence, or fines of as much as 25,000 baht ($705).

One the one hand, it’s hardly unprecedented for a destination to want to nip cannabis tourism in the bud (pun intended). This past spring, Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema formally proposed legislation that would ban tourists from buying marijuana in coffeeshops on the grounds that it would make the city safer, and more livable. That is in spite of the fact that Amsterdam and cannabis tourism have been synonymous for nearly five decades (though, perhaps that is the most telling bit).

That said, cannabis tourism is a burgeoning industry. In fact, according to report from Forbes, cannabis tourism is currently a $17 billion industry…and growing. That’s not to say that all $17 billion of these tourism dollars came directly from cannabis sales — that’s not how that works. Of 2021’s $25 billion legal cannabis sales, only $4.5 billion of that came from tourists, but by a Forbes ‘estimate, those same tourists also funneled $12.6 billion into restaurants, hotels and other attractions. The idea is that cannabis-centric businesses aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from an uptick in tourist interest — revenue is revenue. For context, Southeast Asia’s expects eight to 10 million visitor arrivals this year, one to three million more than originally anticipated, respectively. So…you do the math.

Of course, it goes without saying: where there’s a will, there’s a way. Many of Thailand’s cannabis businesses have special smoking rooms, which are reportedly already a hit among foreign visitors.