The Health Minister said that he expects legal cannabis production to boost the economy.Bangkok:
Thailand on Thursday decriminalized cannabis, becoming the first Asian country to remove the ban on the drug.
However, Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul confirmed that tough penalties will still apply to those who use the drug to get high and warned against smoking joints, reported CNN.
Mr Charnvirakul said he expected legal cannabis production to boost the economy but cautioned that recreational use of the drug remains illegal.
"It's a no," said Mr Charnvirakul, who is also a deputy prime minister. "We still have regulations under the law that control the consumption, smoking or use of cannabis products in non-productive ways."
Under decriminalization, it is no longer a crime to grow and trade marijuana and hemp products, or use parts of the plant to treat illnesses.
Cafes and restaurants can also serve cannabis-infused food and drinks -- but only if the products contain less than 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant's main psychoactive compound, reported CNN.
Harsh penalties remain in place under the Public Health Act, including up to three months in jail and a USD 800 fine for smoking cannabis in public.
"We (have always) emphasized using cannabis extractions and raw materials for medical purposes and for health," Mr Charnvirakul said. "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."
In particular, the minister had a stern warning for foreign tourists thinking of lighting up a joint in public, reported CNN.
He added, "Thailand will promote cannabis policies for medical purposes. 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."
The relaxation of Thailand's cannabis laws follows the country's landmark decision in 2018 to allow the use of medical marijuana.
Since then, the laws around cannabis have been further loosened, with the removal of cannabis buds and flowers from the country's list of banned narcotics.
More than 3,000 inmates serving prison terms for cannabis and hemp-related drug offenses will be released following the decriminalization announcement from Anutin's Public Health Ministry.
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