Thailand unexpectedly became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise medical cannabis in 2018. Since then, the Thai government has embraced medical cannabis and its economic benefits, treating it as a tourism cash cow.
Medical cannabis and wellness are a natural pairing for Thailand – so much so that even Thailand’s Public Health Ministry is investing in medical cannabis tours. Than Global Travel is also another prominent figure in the cannabis tourism space. Last year, they partnered with the Rajamangala University of Technology Isan to develop cannabis tours. These initial tours brought 3,000 – 5,000 volunteers to cannabis plantations in Sakon Nakhon and Buri Ram.
Now, the company is offering three-day/ two-night tours between 8,900 – 9,900 baht ($400) as well as 1,590 baht ($65) “Cannabis Pass” half-day tours for tourists. According to Tran Global Travel’s executive officer Kattikamas Thanyajoren, the opportunities in cannabis tourism are only increasing.
There will be more opportunity from cannabis businesses in Thailand in the next five years, especially in tourism as the country already has a strong reputation in hospitality.
Thailand’s cannabis industry is currently worth around $661 million, with $237 million of this stemming from medical cannabis.
When the ACT decriminalised recreational cannabis use, it seemed for a while that Australia might cultivate its own medical cannabis tourism industry. And honestly, why shouldn’t we?
According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness tourism industry is worth over $639 billion. Australia is currently in the top five wellness tourism markets in the Asia Pacific region. In 2019, Australia had over 460,000 wellness tourism visitors (74% of which were domestic Australian tourists).
If Australia did lean into the cannabis wellness industry, it would likely be rural and regional areas that would feel the benefits. Those benefits would include an increase in jobs, local economy cash flow, and major commercial and industrial sector growth. Communities like Toowoomba are already benefiting from medical cannabis. Why shouldn’t those benefits extend to other places?
There seems to be one big barrier standing in the way of Australia’s budding cannabis industry: stigma. Anti-cannabis stigma mostly comes from lies. Like the lie peddled by Drug Free Australia that cannabis turns “violence and aggression into homicide”. Or the lie peddled by WA Minister for Education and Training Sue Ellery that legalising cannabis would cause “significant ongoing public health costs”. Or Pauline Hanson’s current indecipherable nonsense. Or the lie that cannabis is a Mexican drug that “maddens victims”
These lies are a real problem. When we pretend that they are true, we are actively ignoring a huge source of investment.
According to Cannabis Investment Summit World’s president Jacky Ong, medical cannabis tourism in Thailand will boost Thailand’s status as a wellness tourism destination. Ong also believes that cannabis tourism will help Thailand recover from its economy’s pandemic slump.
If Australia followed in Thailand’s footsteps, it would be hugely beneficial to our economy.
So will we learn, or will the anti-science/ anti-cannabis nutjobs continue to dominate the cannabis conversation with lies?