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New public health minister walks back ‘recreational’ cannabis

Recreational cannabis will be banned in Thailand
PHOTO: Recreational cannabis will be banned in Thailand

“There is currently no policy in place for recreational use, and such considerations are not on the table.”

The new Thai government is quickly trying to plug a legal vacuum over the sales and recreational use of cannabis following last year’s June 9 de-listing from the Category 5 narcotics list. At the time, without any laws to clarify the ‘decriminalisation’, there was a swift growth of retail stores popping u around Thailand, especially in tourist locations, freely selling cannabis.

Now Thailand’s new parliament is set to push for a comprehensive law regarding the use of cannabis for medical and research purposes only, more than a year after the decriminalisation of the herb.

In 2022, Thailand made history as the first Southeast Asian country to ‘decriminalise’ cannabis. However, due to the absence of specific regulations, the government found it necessary to establish rules to prevent its uncontrolled use, especially among young people. Now various pockets of Thai officialdom, including the tourist industry, are demanding the new government tackle the rampant proliferation of ‘recreational’ cannabis retail stores, thought to number around 6,000, including many around Phuket, particularly Patong.

The proposed law aims to regulate an industry that is expected to reach a value of up to US$1.2 billion in coming years.

Saritpong Kiewkong, a member of the BhumJaiThai party, which originally championed the decriminalisation process, and is now the second-largest component of Thailand’s 11 party coalition government, emphasised that the focus of the new law is strictly on medical and research purposes.

He stated that there is currently no policy in place for recreational use, and such considerations are not on the table.

The draft law, which consolidates measures to control public cannabis use, could take up to a year to be finalised and approved by the parliament. It will address various aspects, including permits for cultivating cannabis plants, sales, and distribution, as well as implementing stricter measures against cannabis sales in places like temples, schools, and amusement parks.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has previously expressed his support for the medical use of cannabis but has not endorsed recreational use.

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