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Thailand Implements Strict Cannabis Controls Amidst Booming Market

Published February 29, 2024
3 months ago

In a decisive move by the Thai government, recreational marijuana use is scheduled to be banned in the nation by the conclusion of the current year. The announcement by the health minister delineates a u-turn from Thailand's earlier progressive stance on cannabis, which saw the legalization of recreational consumption in 2022. Although recreational use will face prohibitions, the authorization for medicinal purposes stands firm, maintaining its availability for patients in need.

The shift in regulatory dynamics comes after a surge in the number of cannabis shops across Thailand, stimulated by a burgeoning industry estimated to reach values of approximately 1.2 billion dollars by 2024. The rapid expansion of the cannabis market in the country sparked criticism over the seemingly hasty legislative processes that followed the decriminalization, with regulations put in place within a mere week of the change.

Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew expressed concerns regarding the potential ramifications of unregulated recreational usage. The lax environment post-decriminalization led to gaps in control, which the new draft law aims to address comprehensively. Minister Srikaew emphasized the negative influence that unregulated cannabis has on the youth and suggested it could act as a gateway to more harmful substances.

The proposed draft bill, poised for cabinet scrutiny and subsequent parliamentary approval, is expected to enact stringent controls on cannabis by the end of the year. With 20,000 legally registered cannabis shops reported, the health ministry acknowledges the need to clamp down on illegal operations and dissuade unlicensed home cultivation.

Under the purview of the new legislation, cannabis will be classified as a controlled plant, necessitating official permits for cultivation, particularly with an eye towards the medical and health industries. The legal framework introduces substantial penalties for recreational consumption, unauthorized sales, and cultivation without a license, as well as for the advertising and marketing of related products.

Despite the impending restrictions, the health minister assured that the government recognizes the economic potential derived from the cannabis industry and is committed to facilitating a transition period for businesses to adapt to the incoming regulations. Existing shops can continue operations until their licenses run out, with the opportunity to transition to legal cannabis clinics if compliance with the new directives is met.

The proposed changes enforce a clear-cut separation between the medicinal and recreational aspects of cannabis usage, a move that the Thai government believes will protect public health without derogating the economic and tourist appeal that the cannabis industry has brought to the country.

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