The United States might be dragging its feet on decriminalizing marijuana, but the nation of Thailand is not. Soon, all Thai citizens will be able to cultivate up to six cannabis plants in their homes and sell the homegrown harvest to the government, for medical marijuana purposes.
The change is a result of the new Health Minister’s relaxed views on pot. Anutin Charnvirakul recently announced in Bangkok:
“We are in the process of changing laws to allow the medical use of marijuana freely. We have high confidence that marijuana will be among the major agricultural products for Thai households. We are speeding up the law changes. But there is a process to it.”
Last September, Anutin alluded to the change, stating: “In the near future, families will be able to plant cannabis trees in their back gardens like any other herb.” The Health Minister caused a stir by campaigning for the legalization of household cultivation. His promise was for each household to grow six marijuana plants. Now, his Bhum Jai Thai party is part of the ruling coalition.
While campaigning, Anutin also assured voters of their economic advancement. He proposed the sale of each mature marijuana plant to the government for $2,225. For selling a total of six plants, a household could earn up to $13,350. It’s an appealing prospect, considering the average Thai salary is $8,200 per year, nationwide (or 24,000 baht per month).
Of course, cultivation experts warn Thai citizens not to get too hopeful about the green rush. Not every plant that reaches maturation produces medical-grade cannabis. Furthermore, the ones that do can be difficult to cultivate. Forbes reports:
“Amateur cultivators could probably produce low-grade marijuana. However, without taking time to tend to the plants properly or invest in necessities such as nutrients and proper lighting equipment, the flower produced would potentially not qualify for medical use, purchasable by the government.”
Anutin’s main argument for legalizing marijuana is that it could be a more significant and lucrative crop for Thailand than rice, sugarcane, tapioca, rubber, or other produce grown in the nation’s mostly agrarian economy. By allowing adult use, the Health Minister also believes private growers could earn more natural profits with less quality control.
Anutin suggests Thailand’s low wages could also quantify competitiveness in international markets, compared to larger, foreign cannabis companies. If the nation capitalizes on the versatile and potentially medicinal plant, Anutin also believes Thailand could gain a competitive advantage by creating niche strains for exportation.
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This isn’t the first precedent of its kind. Thailand has also built what the government describes as the biggest, industrial-scale medical marijuana facility in Southeast Asia. And in September, Maejo University researchers planted 12,000 new marijuana seedlings in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai – all while the government looked on. In fact, the Asia Times reports that the seedlings were provided by the government’s Department of Medical Service. Officials expect the plants will flower within six months.
Reportedly, Maejo University has developed a marijuana strain called “Issara” (meaning independence) which offers 1:1 percentages of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), reports the Asia Times. “The university will be a center where ordinary people can learn how to plant and grow good quality cannabis. Cannabis is not an issue of politics; it is a product that can benefit people’s health,” Anutin said.
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Image Credit: Narong Niemhom