Dr. Rasmon, the head of Thailand’s Centre of Addiction Studies, is a prominent voice arguing for the complete prohibition of recreational cannabis use. He called for the reclassification of cannabis derivatives with high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as narcotics. The call for such measures aligns with a similar proposition by Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew to amend provisions in the current cannabis and hemp bill.
The draught bill by Anutin Charnvirakul, the former Health Minister, didn’t gain enough traction in the previous House of Representatives. However, a ministerial regulation eradicated cannabis and hemp from Category 5 narcotics under the Narcotics Act, even before the bill could be debated in the House.
Dr. Rasmon supports Dr. Cholnan’s initiative to resize the bill, focusing on medicinal and health-utilisation of cannabis and hemp. This move would essentially outlaw recreational use, dismiss the proposal for domestic farming of up to 15 cannabis plants per household, and redeclare flowering portions of cannabis with high THC content as narcotics.
Medical professionals have shown broad support for therapeutic cannabis use, while raising concerns over casualties due to recreational consumption, particularly among youth. Dr. Rasmon highlights a tenfold rise in cannabis use among teenagers aged 18-19 from 2019 to 2022, despite its recreational use being illegal, demonstrating the inability of the current law to tackle the issue.
The recent liberalisation in cannabis laws steered by Thailand’s new prime minister appears to support medical cannabis usage solely. In his interview with Bloomberg Television, Srettha Thavisin disclosed plans to “rectify” the cannabis policy, showing concern about the unregulated proliferation of local weed shops ever since the country became Asia’s first to decriminalise cannabis a year ago.
Srettha’s statements hint at substantial consensus within his 11-party coalition regarding the need to curb cannabis use. However, the specific course of action his administration will take remains somewhat unclear. Cracks in the coalition formed by Srettha’s predominant Pheu Thai Party and the Bhumjaithai Party, led by Anutin Charnvirakul – who staunchly opposes reclassifying cannabis as a drug – pose potential political challenges.
Since marijuana was delisted as a narcotic, the lack of comprehensive regulatory frameworks has facilitated the establishment of nearly 6,000 dispensaries nationwide, selling a variety of products with THC concentration less than 0.2% — the component that generates psychotropic effects. Simultaneously, the situation escalates concerns about unrestricted imports and plummeting prices among local farmers.
Some experts argue that restricting recreational use fosters a potential underground black market lacking regulation. Rattapon Sanrak, founder of cannabis advocacy group Highland Network, warns against such risks.
Thailand, a crucial transiting point for drug trafficking along Southeast Asia’s expansive Mekong River valley, has pledged to loosely “eradicate” drugs from Thai society. However, the growing concerns over drug trafficking justify further regulatory reform.
There’s no denying the heated conversation around cannabis regulation in Thailand, sparking a fervent debate on its medicinal benefits, recreational use, and potential social consequences. It’s a long road ahead, with many eyes anticipating the country’s next steps.
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