Thailand to Enforce Recreational Cannabis Ban by Year’s End, Health Official Confirms

Thailand’s health minister disclosed to Reuters last week that the country intends to implement a ban on recreational cannabis by the conclusion of 2024. This decision marks a reversal in policy, as Thailand had previously legalized recreational cannabis for adults back in 2022. However, a change in government leadership has prompted this shift towards prohibition.

Having pioneered cannabis policy reforms in Southeast Asia, Thailand made headlines in 2018 by becoming the first nation in the region to legalize medicinal marijuana. This move was aimed at stimulating the country’s agricultural sector.

To facilitate the transition in legislation, the health and agriculture ministries collaborated to distribute one million cannabis plants for home cultivation.

Subsequently, recreational marijuana was effectively legalized four years later when Thailand removed cannabis from its list of prohibited substances. This legislation permitted businesses to market cannabis-infused foods and beverages, provided they contained less than 0.2% THC. However, more potent cannabis products remained restricted to medical use only.

Despite the economic benefits brought by the burgeoning cannabis industry, the rapid legalization process in Thailand faced criticism for its lack of robust regulations and enforcement.

In response to these concerns, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who assumed office in August 2023, pledged to reassess cannabis legalization to address the widespread recreational marijuana sales. This initiative was part of a broader campaign against drug-related issues in the country.

The government introduced draft legislation in January to regulate cannabis, inviting public feedback on the proposal. The draft unequivocally prohibits recreational marijuana use, emphasizing the exclusive allowance for medical purposes.

In an interview with Reuters, Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew confirmed that the proposed legislation is slated for cabinet review in March, with parliamentary approval anticipated before the year’s end.

Cholnan emphasized the necessity of regulation to prevent cannabis misuse, particularly among Thai youth, highlighting potential long-term consequences leading to substance abuse.

The proposed legislation imposes stringent penalties for violations, including fines and jail sentences for recreational cannabis use, sale, and cultivation without proper authorization. It also mandates permits for importing, exporting, and commercial use of cannabis.

Despite the regulatory changes, the legislation provides a grace period for businesses to comply with the new regulations. Licensed cannabis shops can continue operations until their licenses expire and may transition to legal cannabis clinics if they meet regulatory requirements.

Cholnan expressed confidence that the new regulations would not adversely affect Thailand’s tourism industry.


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