Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, in an interview with Bloomberg, emphasized the government’s intention to revise existing cannabis policies to restrict its usage solely for medical purposes. Personally, he expressed his disagreement with the recreational use of the plant.
Hotel industry professionals, such as Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, the group executive director of Sunshine Hotels and Resorts in Pattaya, highlight the proliferation of cannabis shops that are primarily catering to non-medical users. He argues that the relaxed regulations and lack of enforcement have created more problems for tourism rather than economic advantages. Instances of hotel guests consuming excessive amounts of cannabis and requiring hospitalization due to comatose states have been reported.
Other concerns include the lack of awareness among tourists from countries where cannabis consumption and importation are prohibited. Many of them unknowingly purchase products containing cannabis, such as edibles and beverages, without realizing their contents.
Mr. Thanet asserts that stricter law enforcement is necessary to ensure that medical treatments using cannabis are safe for visitors who genuinely require it. He emphasizes that most tourists do not intend to visit Thailand solely for the purpose of consuming cannabis, but rather exploit the regulatory gaps within the industry due to inadequate government oversight.
While the original intention behind cannabis decriminalization was to promote medicinal use and cultivate the plant as an economic crop, the absence of comprehensive legislation led to the flourishing of recreational usage. Numerous cannabis dispensaries were established in Bangkok and popular tourist destinations throughout the country. Previous attempts to pass effective regulations during the previous government’s term were unsuccessful.
Anutin Charnvirakul, the leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, was the Minister of Public Health in the previous government and now heads the Ministry of Interior. It is believed that his party’s support for medicinal cannabis was a crucial condition for their involvement in the coalition government.
Suksit Suvunditkul, President of the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, observes that since the removal of cannabis from the narcotics list, numerous cannabis shops have emerged on every street in Phuket. To avoid disturbance to other guests, particularly families with children, most hotels have implemented policies prohibiting weed smoking in their premises. Suksit asserts that hotels fully support the government’s decision to limit cannabis usage exclusively to medical purposes.
In the past, discussions within the private sector have centered around the impact of unregulated cannabis businesses, with suggestions to establish zoning regulations for recreational usage. However, if the government were to close all cannabis shops, the tourism sector in Phuket is projected to continue its recovery to pre-legalization levels. Even without cannabis liberalization, European guests have already reached 80% recovery with forward bookings for the upcoming high season ranging from 40-50%.
The commitment to restrict recreational cannabis usage is seen as a positive step by tourism operators and hoteliers, highlighting the need for stricter regulations to ensure the sustainable development of the industry in Thailand.