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Thailand's new Prime Minister aims to end recreational cannabis

"The law will need to be rewritten. It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only."

  • Arun Ramanathan
  • 25 September 2023
Thailand's new Prime Minister aims to end recreational cannabis

Thailand’s new Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, has announced his aims to overturn recreational cannabis regulations after over a year of the country seeing a culture shift around the plant.

Since cannabis was removed as a controlled narcotic on June 19, 2022, cannabis businesses, particularly dispensaries, sparked a boom across the country.

Almost overnight, a wide range of cannabis products from dried flowers to edibles and concentrates appeared on the market. The cultural shift has influenced the music and lifestyle scenes, with cannabis-focused events and concepts emerging.

At the same time, there were reports of overuse, including one death that occurred within weeks of laws being changed in June 2022.

Hardly a year later, Srettha Thavisin, who stepped into power just a month ago, has announced plans to revise the country's cannabis policy with a primary goal of restricting its use to medical purposes and prohibiting recreational consumption.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Thavisin expressed his opposition to recreational cannabis use, citing its increasing prevalence as a cause for concern.

Read this next: Hong Kong criminalises CBD in the same class as fentanyl, heroin & cocaine

Acknowledging the need for a legal overhaul, Thavisin stated, "The law will need to be rewritten. It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only." The Prime Minister emphasised that there would not be a middle ground for recreational use, as the country has witnessed a surge in drug abuse cases.

Thavisin adds that he aims to have dispensaries and recreational use culled within six months.

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Thailand made history as the first Asian nation to decriminalise cannabis. The first move happened in 2019 when medical use of cannabis was legalised; this was followed up by a full decriminalisation of the use of the cannabis plant, in 2022, for agriculture and farming as well as retail and personal consumption.

Since passing the new law in 2022, smoking in public is still technically illegal, punishable by a fine of US$780 or a potential three-month sentence.

In April this year, Thailand's Department of Health warned that the enforcement of the rule would become more strict. Cannabis products derived from the plant, with over 0.2 percent THC, are illegal in Thailand.

Read this next: Are we close to the legalisation of therapeutic psychedelics?

Currently, individuals over the age of 20 are allowed to consume cannabis within their residences, and licensed restaurants are permitted to serve food infused with cannabis extracts. However, pregnant and breastfeeding women remain prohibited from using cannabis or its derivatives.

With the Prime Minister’s hard stance on the future of Thailand’s cannabis industry, it is uncertain how the government would re-implement any recreational use for marijuana.

[Via Bloomberg & The Guardian]

[Image: Bloomberg]

Arun Ramanathan is Mixmag Asia’s Director. Follow him on Instagram.

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