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Thailand’s Cannabis Gold Rush Comes Under Heavy Scrutiny

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Thailand's Cannabis Gold Rush Comes Under Heavy Scrutiny

Many cannabis dispensaries can be found on Bangkok’s Khao San Road, but it has also been the target of recent crackdowns on unlicensed vendors.

In December, police and officials raided Khao San Road twice, detaining vendors who allowed indoor smoking and arresting stall owners who they claimed were operating without a license.

Hundreds of cannabis dispensaries have sprouted up across Bangkok since cannabis was decriminalized, but a highly conservative society closely scrutinizes the sale of weed for recreational use.

In June 2022, Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to remove cannabis plant parts from its narcotics list. Removing the plant from the narcotics list effectively legalizes the substance — albeit with a confusing lack of detail.

A bill to regulate cannabis use and sale is still being debated in Parliament.

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Cannabis a gold rush in Thailand

The University of Thai Chamber of Commerce predicts the market will be worth US$1.2 billion by 2025, which could be a lucrative change for a tourism-heavy economy badly harmed by the pandemic.

However, without clear regulations, Thailand is quickly becoming a free-wheeling weed Wild West, raising concerns among business owners that the weed gold rush may go bust.

Thailand’s hasty legalization of cannabis drew both praise and criticism, with many concerned about the legal ambiguity.

A heated debate erupted earlier this month in Pattaya after a photo of a tween Thai boy smoking marijuana went viral.

While the government tightened some retail rules earlier this month, prohibiting sales to people under the age of 20 and pregnant women, debate over additional restrictions is still raging in Parliament.

While cannabis has some medicinal benefits, public education is required to ensure that people are aware of the drug’s potential harm, according to Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong of the Department of Thai Traditional Medicine.

“We aim to regulate cannabis like liquor or cigarettes,” he said.

“People must be aware of the dangers of excessive alcohol and cigarette consumption, as well as cannabis, which is a new player in Thailand.”

Experts warn that excessive use can result in a drug-induced psychosis, while long-term use has been linked to asthma, cancers, memory loss, and learning difficulties.

Gloria Lai, regional director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, told the Bangkok Post that decriminalization occurred without proper planning. She said that given their push for this to be available, the government is responsible for educating the public, “Right now, it’s a vacuum.”

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Cannabis vendors are to be strictly monitored.

The Public Health Ministry will allow cannabis buds to be sold by more than 5,000 licensed vendors across the country starting next month, with vendor and buyer information being sent to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) as part of sales controls.

Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTAM), stated yesterday that anyone wishing to sell cannabis buds, classified as a controlled substance, must first obtain permission from the department.

Dr. Thongchai stated that the department is establishing a system to track the sale of dried cannabis buds from licensed vendors.

Vendors will be required to provide information about the number of cannabis buds they have in their possession, where they buy, and who they sell to, he said, adding that buyers must be over the age of 20.

Customers must insert their ID card into a device linked to the DTAM system when purchasing cannabis buds.

According to Dr. Thongchai, the necessary information can be checked in real-time and then forwarded to the INCB.

“Thailand currently does not have such information to report to the INCB. We can reassure the INCB about sales controls once the system is in place, “He stated.

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Bill to regulate cannabis use

The system is expected to be operational next month, he said, adding that there are approximately 5,000 vendors licensed to sell cannabis and cannabis products across the country.

He estimates that about 2,000 are in Bangkok, mostly in tourist areas like Khao San Road and the Thong Lor neighborhood.

Dr. Thongchai stated that the cannabis and hemp control bill is still being debated in parliament. “Even though the Public Health Ministry has enforced ministerial regulations to control cannabis use, we must admit that this is still insufficient,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of passing the bill to regulate cannabis use, particularly public smoking.

The House committee vetting the bill agreed on Wednesday to remove Section 3, which states that cannabis and hemp are not narcotics under the Narcotics Act.

This has raised concerns about the plant’s legal status, but the Bhumjaithai Party, which sponsored the bill, and the DTAM have insisted that repealing Section 3 will not result in cannabis’s delisting as a narcotic drug being reinstated.

Supachai Jaisamut, chairman of the panel and a list MP for the Bhumjaithai Party, emphasized that the bill was intended to limit recreational cannabis use due to the societal implications.

WEED.in.th, an online map firm, has registered 1,750 stores, with another 450 awaiting approval.

Bill Committee Removes the Section About Cannabis Not Being a Narcotic

Bill Committee Removes the Section About Cannabis Not Being a Narcotic

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