Thailand decriminalized the use of cannabis back in 2022, but the country is yet to provide a comprehensive legal framework to regulate the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis products. This legal ambiguity has led to a fast-growing cannabis industry that may cause significant implications for Thailand and the broader Southeast Asian region. The country’s move has sparked the possibility of other Southeast Asian countries following suit and changing their views regarding the drug. But according to experts, Thailand may not be the best role model for these countries, particularly for medical purposes. Canada is a better reference point due to its long experience in legalising medical cannabis since the early 2000s and clear regulations. There are only a few restrictions on the use, sale, and cultivation of cannabis products due to the absence of a comprehensive bill to regulate cannabis. Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn claimed that the absence of a specific law to govern cannabis leads to enforcement agencies being reluctant to apprehend individuals who violate the regulations. Recreational cannabis shops have been popping up in Thailand, selling cannabis-infused products, from food and drinks to even toiletries. Weed with up to 35% THC is available in some of these shops, more than a hundred-fold above the legal THC threshold. Based on a recent study by Chulalongkorn University, more than 30% of cannabis-infused drinks had exceeded the legal THC limit. Thai health authorities estimated that the number of individuals addicted to cannabis has quadrupled within just six months with a similar increase in the number of patients with impaired consciousness and mental issues due to cannabis consumption. Although the Thai government is now seeking to tighten cannabis regulations, the absence of safeguards and limits placed on recreational cannabis has led to protests from supporters and opponents of the move to legalise it. The parliament has failed to pass the controversial cannabis draft bill due to polarised social attitudes towards cannabis. While the government has promised to table a revised bill to clarify the legal status of recreational cannabis while imposing safeguards, its timeline is unclear since the Thai parliament was recently dissolved. Considering the legal loopholes in Thailand’s approach, Canada could serve as a better case study for Southeast Asian countries looking to liberalize their drug laws. Even though Canada legalised recreational cannabis in 2018, it strictly controlled medical cannabis before then. It was mandatory for individuals in Canada to obtain a “medical document” from a qualified medical practitioner before purchasing cannabis for medical purposes. Canadians could only purchase medical cannabis from producers approved by Health Canada, who implemented security and inventory control to prevent diversion to non-intended users. With such a strict cannabis licensing regime, Canada was more successful in regulating medical cannabis. Thus, for countries exploring the legalisation of medical cannabis, Canada serves as a better role model than Thailand. DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the views of HighThailand.
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