The United States and other countries have been moving towards marijuana legalization. Thailand is taking the opposite stance. It is beefing up its cannabis policy to make the drug available for medical use only. This new outlook marks a surprising turn for Thailand’s marijuana laws. The country has been known to embrace weed in the past.
New Thailand Marijuana Laws Bring Change to the Country
Until recently, Thailand was seen as a country that said yes to weed. It was the first country to decriminalize marijuana after it was delisted as a narcotic last year. It became home to several cannabis cafes and dispensaries which were popular tourist destinations in Pattaya, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai.
FDA-approved farmers were given the green light to grow cannabis freely throughout the country. It got to the point that local dispensaries complained about excessive growth leading to uncontrolled imports and lower prices.
But Thailand’s new prime minister, real estate magnate Srettha Thavisin, is updating Thailand’s marijuana laws due to a lack of regulations. He says the government has agreed that a change was necessary. They decided to ban recreational weed.
What Will the New Thailand Marijuana Laws Enforce?
Srettha, who came into power last August, is the leader of the Pheu Thai Party. The party partnered with 10 other parties to form a coalition government. They promoted an anti-narcotics campaign leading up to the election.
“The law will need to be rewritten. It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only,” he told the press.
Media asked him if he would consider a compromise for recreational use. He replied that there would not be any wiggle room due to recent widespread issues linked to cannabis use.
It is unclear what the new Thailand marijuana laws will entail. The Bhumjaithai Party, which is part of the new coalition government, has stated that will introduce a new cannabis bill that enforces tighter regulations. However, it will not reclassify cannabis as a drug.
The government believes that reclassifying marijuana as a narcotic will limit recreational use to the underground creating even looser restrictions.
The Thai government has other plans for drugs that are considered narcotics. They plan to “eradicate” them from Thailand. The prime minister has vowed to “decisively reduce” drug use within a year. He is currently deciding whether to destroy narcotics that were seized by authorities during an event that occurred last week.
Support of New Thailand Marijuana Laws
The new Thailand marijuana laws have gained support from tourist operators. They have noted problems due to loose regulations.
Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, group executive director of Pattaya’s Sunshine Hotels and Resorts, notes that overdoses have occurred in cannabis shops that sell recreational weed.
“If we would like to use it for medical purposes, law enforcement should be stricter to make sure we can offer them medical treatment which is safe for their health,” he said.
The cannabis industry feels the new Thailand marijuana laws will not bring much change. There are already gray areas concerning the lines between recreational and medical use. This situation makes it impossible to ban recreational marijuana.
Poonwarit, Wangpatravanich, president of the Phuket Cannabis Association, thinks the new Thailand marijuana laws can only bring a positive change. “More regulation will be good as we don’t want a free-for-all anyway. Cannabis is here to stay, but in what status is not yet clear,” he says.
Critics of New Thailand Marijuana Laws
The new Thailand marijuana laws are supported by local politicians.
Cannabis advocate attitudes range from unfazed to supportive. Some think the new laws won’t change much. Many think they will bring helpful regulations to the industry.
But cannabis business owners are worried.
Despite what the government says, they fear a reclassification is possible. Party official Sirikanya Tansakun has stated that reclassification is the only way to end the legal vacuum. The people are speaking out against it.
“Tax cannabis, like cigarettes or alcohol, enrich the nation. Don’t put cannabis back in prison,” said Netnapa Singsatit, owner of The RG420 cannabis shop in Bangkok’s Khao San Road tourist district.
Business owners are concerned, but the party has stated that it will continue to support cannabis businesses, even if the drug is reclassified. Tansakun said she did not predict a major crackdown. However, she feels the new Thailand marijuana laws will reduce unlicensed vendors and smuggled imports.
“Those who have invested legally will be protected and can continue their business,” Tansakun said.
The new laws are also frowned upon by progressive younger people who supported Sreetha’s party during the election. “I thought they’re meant to move forward,” said cannabis farmer and wholesaler Suphamet Hetrakul of Teera Ventures. “A U-turn will hurt Thailand’s credibility.”
The tighter rules have also led to the creation of an online petition. So far 5,200 people and 200 businesses have signed on to say that reclassifying marijuana would violate people’s rights.
Thailand Was Previously a Main Drug Destination in Asia
Current Thailand marijuana laws state that recreational marijuana use is permitted for anyone 20 and over who is not pregnant or breastfeeding. They are allowed to use marijuana in their homes. They can also consume edibles in licensed restaurants.
Previously, Thailand stood out from other Asian countries that mandated severe punishments for marijuana users. Singapore would penalize users with up to 10 years in prison, fines of up to $20,000, or both.
Thailand may be seen as an Asian mecca for recreational weed. However, it has developed a bad reputation due to other types of drug activity in the country.
It is considered the main avenue for drug trafficking in Southeast Asia. It is a prime location as many believe its enforcement agencies turn to ignore drug activity in the country. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2019 statistics estimate that the crime economy in Southeast Asia, including the illicit trade of drugs and wildlife was worth around $130 billion.