Hopes dashed for ganja tourism in Pattaya

This Pattaya business, like many others, found that ganja in food and drink was not the saviour they had hoped for.

Although marijuana has been semi-legalized in Thailand, expectations that liberalization might bring more international visitors have proved totally unrealistic. A weak form of the drug (leaves and roots only) may now be used in food and drink, but may not exceed 0.2 percent by weight of tetrahydrocannabinol. There are also provisions for use for alleviation of pain and distress in specified medical conditions.

But the smoking of pot for recreational purposes in a more concentrated form remains illegal. Many cafes in Pattaya which had turned to ganja-laced food and drink have gone out of business as the public could not experience any buzz, or even complained of a headache rather than a more pleasing psychoactive sensation.

In 2021, Thailand became the first Asian country to decriminalize the production and use of cannabis and hemp for specified purposes. Kavi Chongkittavorn, in a recent Bangkok Post article, wrote “Marijuana in Thailand is still potentially illegal and could bring long jail sentences for smokers and possessors due to existing legislation.” Most prisoners in Thai jails are there for possessing or trafficking illegal substances.

Although Thai people can now grow marijuana at home for personal use or for onward selling for medicinal purposes, they are required to register with the local authorities and are, in theory, subjected to detailed legislation. The Ministry of Health is keen to turn Thailand into a regional center for cannabis which, in turn, will be a prominent feature of medical tourism for which special visas are available. But open pot smoking has no chance whatsoever of becoming legal.