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Monday, April 22, 2024

BREAKING: Thailand Bans Cannabis, Again?

Thailand’s evolving stance on cannabis is stirring significant debate as the nation gears up to enforce stricter regulations, marking a dramatic shift from the recent liberalization of cannabis laws. Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew recently announced plans to implement a ban on recreational cannabis use by the year’s end, while still permitting its medicinal applications.

This pivotal policy shift comes on the heels of the removal of cannabis from the list of prohibited narcotics in June 2022, a decision made during the tenure of the pro-legalization Bhumjaithai party. The move sparked a rapid proliferation of cannabis shops nationwide, particularly in Bangkok, leading to concerns among critics about the necessity for tighter legislation to regulate the burgeoning industry.

Scheduled for discussion at an upcoming cabinet meeting, the proposed bill aims to confine cannabis use exclusively to health and medicinal domains, a directive underscored by Minister Srikaew during a recent press briefing. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who has consistently opposed recreational cannabis use since assuming office in August of the preceding year, staunchly advocates for its medical application.

Thavisin’s concerns about the potential societal impact of recreational cannabis use were amplified in September when he warned of the broader narcotic drug issues it could engender. Public discontent escalated further following complaints from attendees of a concert by British rock band Coldplay in Bangkok, who reported pervasive marijuana odor at the event, igniting fresh concerns.

Despite its history of stringent drug laws, Thailand has made significant strides in recent years, aligning with the global trend towards medical marijuana. In 2018, it became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize cannabis for medical purposes. Subsequent efforts aimed at decriminalization sought to stimulate the tourism-driven economy, with forecasts projecting a potential market value of $1.2 billion by 2025.

However, challenges have emerged with the swift implementation of regulations post-decriminalization, leading to ambiguity surrounding the legal status of cannabis. The proliferation of cannabis “dispensaries” and events like the Cannabis Cup Thailand highlighted the need for comprehensive legislation to address these concerns.

The forthcoming bill seeks to tackle these issues by establishing stringent regulations on cannabis use, including provisions for fines and penalties for recreational consumption, unauthorized cultivation, and illegal trade. Minister Srikaew emphasized the importance of regulation in preventing misuse, particularly among Thai youth, while also highlighting the economic potential of the regulated cannabis industry.

Furthermore, the draft law specifies tougher penalties for cannabis farming without a license, with jail terms ranging from one to three years and fines from 20,000 baht ($560) to 300,000 baht ($8,000). For recreational use, fines of up to 60,000 baht ($1,700) will be imposed, with additional penalties for those involved in selling cannabis for such purposes or engaging in related advertising or marketing activities.

Minister Srikaew also stressed the negative impact of cannabis misuse on Thai children, warning of potential long-term consequences leading to further drug-related issues.

As Thailand transitions towards tighter cannabis regulations, businesses operating within the sector will be given a grace period to comply with the new rules. Illegal dispensaries will be required to cease operations, with opportunities for transition into legal cannabis clinics. However, the regulatory changes are not anticipated to significantly impact tourism in the country, according to officials.

Gautham Suthakar
Gautham Suthakar
23, born and raised amidst the allure of Penang Island, Malaysia, I'm am an adventurous journalist now set to dive to the dynamic landscape and into the bustling streets of Bangkok, Thailand. With a fervent passion for storytelling and a thirst to offer fresh perspectives, join me as I unravel the rich tapestry of narratives in this vibrant city

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