Thailand’s government announced plans to swiftly introduce legislation banning recreational cannabis use, reversing a 2022 decriminalization move. Health Minister Chonlanan Srikaew revealed the proposed bill during a press conference on Tuesday.
This development comes amidst a shift in political leadership. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who opposes recreational cannabis, took office last August and has consistently advocated for limiting its usage to solely medicinal purposes. His stance echoes warnings issued in September where he cautioned against the potential negative consequences of recreational use.
The decision follows a period of rapid growth in cannabis-related businesses, particularly in Bangkok, following the 2022 decriminalization. The surge in “dispensaries” and even a public cannabis-rolling competition sparked concerns and calls for tighter regulations. Public pressure further escalated last weekend after attendees of a concert complained about the strong smell of marijuana, highlighting potential public nuisance issues.
Thailand’s historical stance on drugs has been stringent, with harsh penalties for cannabis possession. However, recent years witnessed a shift towards capitalizing on the medical marijuana boom. The nation, boasting favorable growing conditions, was the first in Southeast Asia to legalize medical cannabis in 2018. Decriminalization in 2022 aimed to boost the tourism-reliant economy, with estimations valuing the potential market at US$1.2 billion by 2025.
However, legal ambiguities surrounding recreational use fuelled the rapid emergence of dispensaries, prompting the current course correction. The proposed bill, expected to be presented to the cabinet next week, will seek to clarify regulations and limit cannabis use to strictly medicinal purposes. This move reflects the government’s efforts to balance potential economic benefits with concerns about potential societal and health impacts.
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