Thailand Hopes That Cannabis Tourism Could Revive Battered Industry
May 27, 2021

Thailand is pinning its hopes for a recovery of the country’s devastated tourism industry on a new niche market: cannabis tourism.

Since Thailand has become the first Southeast Asian country to legalise the use of medical cannabis extracts in 2018 and recently for wellness and even for food and beverages, the world is taking notice.

First cannabis-themed drinks have hit convenience store shelves, and health food stores are meanwhile offering cannabis drinks in various flavours. Some restaurants have taken dishes such as “joyful dancing salad” and “happy pizza” on the menu.

Still, recreational use of the plant with regards to their psychoactive elements is still illegal and could lead to criminal charges. However, roots, stems and leaves with most of the inebriating components removed have been authorised for use in cooking or for drinks and various wellness product such as ointments or inhalers, as well as cosmetics.

Cannabis-inspired products to lure visitors

The more such products come on the market and the more restaurants, massage shops and cafés offer cannabis-inspired products and services, the more could this help to open the door to a lucrative niche market in medical and wellness tourism once the Covid-19 pandemic subsides, tourism experts noted.

The value of the cannabis industry in Thailand is estimated to be $661 million annually, with $237 million coming from medical cannabis and $424 million from the recreational cannabis market once it should become legal.

“Thai households with government permission can grow limited amounts of cannabis to supplement their income and sell to public hospitals and state facilities, or use the substance to make food and cosmetic products,” Thailand’s health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said.

At the same time, tour operators are already preparing for the post-Covid-19 era and are developing “educational cannabis tours” including plantation visits or “culinary cannabis journeys.” Some are already eyeing a time when smoking cannabis for leisure in Thailand might become lawful too.