Cannabis is gaining political attention among political parties in Thailand as the May 14 general election approaches. Despite most parties objecting to the plant’s recreational use, the legal status of cannabis remains a significant public concern. With the inability of the legislature to pass a marijuana code bill, the “vacuum” persists, leading some parties to make the legalisation of cannabis a key part of their policy. Efforts to regulate cannabis gained momentum in April 2022, thanks to the Bhumjaithai Party’s policy, which credits the flagship cannabis policy for contributing to the party’s success in the 2019 election. The party has also emphasized that cannabis will drive the Thai economy, helping the nation achieve its goal of becoming a health and wellness and medical tourism hub. Although the party states that its focus is cannabis for medical and commercial use only, it has come under fire from other parties that falsely accuse Bhumjaithai of supporting the recreational use of cannabis. The debate centers on the plant’s recreational use, which some parties, including the Democrat Party and the Pheu Thai Party’s Policy and Economic Committee, claim would have a negative impact. These parties only support the plant’s use for medicinal purposes and believe that it should be treated as a drug in accordance with the United Nations Convention on Punishment of Drugs. The Move Forward Party (MFP) is one of the few parties advocating for the regulation of cannabis for recreational use only to support the tourism industry. The MFP’s stance is that people who want to use cannabis for its “benefits” will be legally authorized to do so when appropriate. Despite the opposing views about recreational use, the legalisation of cannabis is proving to be good for business. Cannabis sales are generating significant revenue, making it a win-win for Thailand. However, vendors advocating for stricter regulations support more restrictions to end the problem of an unregulated market that sells cannabis to young children. In terms of health, the effect of cannabis on people’s mental and physical wellbeing is a bone of contention between supporters of free trade and proponents of more regulation. Dr Patpong Ketsomboon from Khon Kaen University believes that cannabis was made illegal for political reasons and the media’s portrayal of it as a threat to children was false. In contrast, Smith Srisont, director at the Medical Council of Thailand and head of the forensic division at the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, believes that cannabis harms children’s brains. In conclusion, with the national election scheduled to take place within the next two months, it remains to be seen what the government’s stance will be on cannabis’s legal status and the industry’s future as a whole. However, regardless of the ruling, it is clear that the legalisation of cannabis is a contentious issue that has parties divided not only politically but also among medical experts.
As a disclaimer, the opinions expressed in this article don’t reflect those of High Thailand.