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Thailand’s Health Minister Signs Bill Banning Recreational Use of Cannabis

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Thailand's Health Minister Signs Bill Banning Recreational Use of Cannabis

Thailand’s Public Health Minister has signed a proposed cannabis law, emphasizing that it is not for recreational use. “The new law will clearly state that cannabis can only be used for medical purposes.” It will also encourage the usage of Cannabis for a variety of health benefits,” Dr Cholnan Srikaew said after signing the bill on Saturday.

“There will be a clear measure to control and prevent the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.”

“The measure may come in the form of a ministerial regulation passed by the cabinet, or from a panel,” stated the deputy prime minister.

The bill will be sent to the Lower House for deliberation if the government approves it. Dr. Cholnan stated that a Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine Department regulation that identifies Cannabis as a prohibited herb may need to be altered if it opposes the new law.

“Whether or not purchasing cannabis will require a medical certificate is not specified in the bill at this time.” “It may be necessary to rely on the enforcement of organic laws,” he stated.

However, he stressed that consuming Cannabis at home for medical purposes must be founded on proper medical processes and research.

When asked about the implications on cannabis retailers, Dr. Cholnan stated that no such rules exist to cancel licenses for legally registered stores. 

However, once the law is in effect, cannabis retailers must only sell sections of the cannabis plant that are legal in Thailand.

Cannabis Thailand

Only items containing more than 0.2% THC [tetrahydrocannabinol — cannabis’ principal psychoactive component] by weight are considered prohibited under the Narcotics Code. 

Dr. Cholnan also stated that if the law is passed, it will assist authorities in apprehending those who misuse Cannabis for recreational purposes.

In June 2022, the Southeast Asian nation became the first in Asia to decriminalize the cannabis plant, allowing it to be grown and consumed freely. 

Since then, the weed market has turned free-for-all as various businesses entered the sector with little regulatory or consumer guidance to oversee such activity. 

Thai cities are now home to scores of dispensaries, many of which sell recreational products containing more than the legal amount of 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content allowed.

Moreover, not every shop has the required license, and while the law stipulates that Cannabis can only be consumed by individuals aged 20 and above, that’s not always enforced. All this has sparked major backlash from locals calling for tighter legislation. 

cannabis Thailand

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who took office last month, said his administration would limit cannabis use to medicinal purposes only.

“The law will need to be rewritten,” Srettha said. “It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only,” he said. “Drug abuse is a big problem for the country,” and he disagreed with the recreational use of Cannabis.

Many industry experts say they welcome stricter laws because it would help avoid an oversupply in the market and end misconceptions of Cannabis as a recreational drug rather than a medicinal substance.

Traditional Thai medicine has long used Cannabis as an ingredient in various remedies for holistic health.

As it stands, the market is oversaturated with Cannabis that hasn’t undergone proper lab testing,” explained Soratat Pongsangiam, president at Greenhead Clinic, a traditional medical clinic in Phuket.

This oversupply has resulted in a substantial price drop, down by 50-60% since we first began. If stricter regulations are implemented, it could potentially restore credibility and control to the industry,” he said.

The market is chaotic, with many needing to adhere to standardized rules.

cannabis thailand

He expects an outright ban on vape products plus extractions like oil and wax. Cannabis shops may also have to deliver mandatory monthly sales reports to monitor the type of products being sold and to whom, he added.

“I foresee a crackdown on unlicensed pop-up shops that currently evade taxes and bypass necessary quality controls and registration processes,” he said. 

The industry wants clear regulations, and they want it restricted for medical purposes,” echoed Sornkanok Vimolmangkang, an associate professor specializing in plant sciences at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, leader of the Bhumjaithai party and one of Srettha’s coalition partners, was a key figure responsible for legalizing recreational Cannabis.

At the time, he strongly believed that decriminalization would benefit the population, but he’s since called for tighter industry monitoring amid the ongoing debate over unregulated usage. 

Ultimately, though, he said he does not wish for the cannabis plant to be reclassified as a drug.

With Cannabis now in wide circulation, often for hedonistic purposes, health experts say that’s deterred some patients from using it for medical purposes.

Before May’s general election, Anutin was quoted as saying Thailand could become an exporter of cannabis products to legal foreign markets like the U.S. This could very well happen under Srettha’s new proposed law, some market watchers said.

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