BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - More than 150,000 people registered to grow marijuana and hemp in Thailand on Thursday (June 9) as the country became the first in Asia to decriminalise cannabis in a bid to promote its wider use in medicines, food and cosmetics.
A website created for prospective growers crashed due to the rush, prompting the Thai Food and Drug Administration to offer an alternate platform and urge people to use its mobile application. Users had accessed the FDA website and its app more than 8 million times as of 3pm local time, Secretary-General Paisarn Dunkum said.
"This marks a new chapter in cannabis history of Thailand," said Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who has spearheaded the move to legalize home-grown marijuana and hemp cultivation to allow farmers to supplement their incomes.
"It's important for us to understand this turning point and move forward together."
Starting Thursday, growing and trading in marijuana and hemp products in Thailand is no longer a crime after a rule declassifying it as a narcotic took effect. Companies and individual farmers are now allowed to cultivate the plants in farms and gardens.
Many clinics across the nation are likely to offer medical marijuana to treat various illnesses, and restaurants can serve cannabis-infused dishes and drinks with less than 0.2 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the psychoactive compound that gives users a "high" sensation.
While the move aims to bolster the country's crucial agriculture and tourism sectors, a ban on cannabis for "recreational use" and the production of anything with more than 0.2 per cent THC may limit its free trade.
It's not clear if smoking weed in private is a crime, and anyone caught puffing marijuana in public may be liable to a jail term of three months and a fine of as much as 25,000 baht (S$996), according to the Health Ministry.
Thailand's parliament has begun discussions on a more comprehensive cannabis law to regulate the industry, Mr Anutin said. Until that Bill is in place various government agencies will monitor the end use of the crop, he said.