Thailand on Thursday made legal the growth and trade of marijuana within set parameters — becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to do so.
Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told CNN that he hopes the move will help boost the country’s ailing economy, particularly its agricultural sector, which has been hit hard by rising fertilizer costs amid disruptions in the global supply chain.
The country’s tropical climate makes for an ideal place to cultivate the plant — and the government has taken steps to establish it as a cash crop. The health minister said last month that the government would distribute a million free cannabis plants, to jump-start the sector.
Although Thailand legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2018, Anutin warns that those who are caught using the drug in “nonproductive ways,” such as smoking joints outside, will still be met with harsh penalties, and could face up to three months behind bars and a fine of about $780. Officials said they were not looking to cultivate marijuana-fueled tourism.
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