Vang Vieng, Lao PDR

Cannabis tourism in Thailand – high time for medical marijuana-inspired travel

Thailand’s relationship with weed is one of highs and lows. The drug has long been used in traditional Thai medicine and cooking, but the possession, sale and use of cannabis was criminalised in 1934. However, that didn’t stop American troops who were stationed, or enjoying rest and recreation, in Thailand during the Vietnam war from developing a taste for the country’s infamous, indigenous strain – “dense, seedless, stronger than a bull elephant”, as per pot publication High Times. Those GIs helped its appeal to spread internationally; the word “bong” is said to have emerged from the Thai “baung”, which means a cylindrical wooden tube, via Vietnam veterans.

By the 1980s, Thailand had become one of the leading exporters of the plant, much to the chagrin of the United States, which eventually convinced the Southeast Asian nation to join its campaign against cannabis, effectively ending the illegal trade between the two countries (but turning Thai drug users onto methamphetamines; 177,847 people sought treatment for meth use in 2017, compared with 14,616 for marijuana, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).

In 2016, then justice minister Paiboon Koomchaya declared the war on drugs lost and attitudes shifted, leading to the legalisation of marijuana for medical use last December, a landmark development that “could see the country return to its green glory days”, according to Vice magazine, and might influence drug policy across the region. “Thai cannabis will soon be the global industry’s profit leader, like Swiss watches or Apple smartphones,” Jim Plamondon, vice-president of marketing at the Chiang Mai-based Thai Cannabis Corporation, told Vice.

Thailand’s new tourism and sports minister, Pipat Ratchakitprakan, has high hopes for the economic benefits of weed tourism, too. “We would like to provide medical tour packages, such as detox, Thai massage and other wellness courses that use marijuana substances,” he said on his first day in office, in July, according to a Bangkok Post report. Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, seconded the minister, telling the newspaper that the agency was keen to promote medical marijuana to build “quality tourism”, meaning high-spending visitors from Europe and America, especially as arrivals from the country’s main source market, China, have fallen amid the Sino-US trade war.

Cannabis tourism is on the rise around the world. In American states such as Colorado and California, companies lead tours of dispensaries and growing facilities, and even organise weed-fuelled art jams and cannabis cooking classes. And the billion-dollar industry is expanding as destinations from Barcelona to Lisbon relax regulations.

Read the full article at Southern China Post Magazine:

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