Cannabis to be Relisted as a Narcotic in Thailand

New Draft Bill of Cannabis in Thailand

By the end of 2024, the Thai government intends to relist cannabis as a narcotic.

The Decriminalization of Cannabis

In 2018, Thailand was the first Asian country to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes. Later in June 2022, Thailand also became the first Asian country to decriminalize cannabis extracts containing less than 0.2% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

This, combined with the National Narcotics Act’s vague definition of the “small amount” permitted for personal use, created a new market for recreational cannabis in Thailand. Since then, thousands of cannabis stores have opened up in Bangkok and across the country for both locals and incoming tourists.

Legal cannabis proponents highlight the industry’s economic benefits, noting that by 2025, it is expected to be worth up to 1.2 billion USD. Conversely, anti-cannabis voices in the government and public assert that there is a growing number of reports related to drug-fueled violence and abuse, some of which include individuals who are under the legal age to consume cannabis.

A New Draft Bill

Despite government measures to control cannabis such as requiring licenses for the planting and selling of cannabis and prohibiting sales to pregnant women and individuals under 20 years of age, the public’s access to cannabis remains alarmingly easy compared to other countries where the drug is legal.

Little seems to deter consumers from using cannabis, not even the 25,000 THB fine for getting caught smoking or vaping cannabis in public spaces. This is due to both lax enforcement and the fact that this is a minuscule penalty compared to the previous penalty of 15 years of imprisonment for the possession of cannabis.

In response to this issue, Cholnan Srikaew, the former Minister of Public Health in Thailand, proposed a bill to the Cabinet that would outlaw all recreational use of cannabis and relist it as a narcotic. Although there is no clear regulation for cannabis shops and home growing, the bill would penalize those found in violation under the following conditions:

  • Using cannabis for recreational use: A fine of up to 60,000 THB and imprisonment of up to 1 year.
  • Advertising or marketing cannabis for recreational use: A fine of up to 100,000 THB.
  • Farming cannabis without a license: A fine between 20,000 and 300,000 THB or imprisonment of up to 3 years.

Note, however, that as of this writing, the bill has not yet moved forward, and a new Public Health Minister has been sworn into office.

The Future of Cannabis

Despite the proposed bill, newly-appointed Public Health Minister Somsak Thepsuthin believes that the public’s opinion must be heard before making the final decision on the future of cannabis. His rhetoric has not been as hard as the Prime Minister’s on this subject, but it is clear the Public Health Minister also hopes for tighter regulations on the cannabis industry.

On the other side of the argument,  cannabis proponents and business owners are putting pressure on the government to not relist the drug as a narcotic by emphasizing its benefits for the local economy. They rightly fear that all cannabis-related businesses would have to close down if the bill successfully passes into law, which would cause a surge in unemployment throughout Thailand. 

In addition to economic considerations, cannabis activists point out the double standard as a reason for blocking this bill. According to Prasitchai Nunual, the Secretary-General of the Cannabis Future Network, there would be no objection to the bill if research proves cannabis to be worse than alcohol and cigarettes. But if proven otherwise, then alcohol and cigarettes ought to be listed as narcotics as well. As of this writing, no such data has been presented. 

There is still uncertainty about the future of cannabis in Thailand. Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin wants the plant relisted as a narcotic by the end of 2024, and cannabis proponents are determined to push for a more controlled approach, which may give rise to a divisive sequence of events by the year’s end.

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Category: Criminal Law

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Siam Legal is an international law firm with experienced lawyers, attorneys, and solicitors both in Thailand law and international law. This Thailand law firm offers comprehensive legal services in Thailand to both local and foreign clients for Litigation such as civil & criminal cases, labor disputes, commercial cases, divorce, adoption, extradition, fraud, and drug cases. Other legal expertise of the law firm varied in cases involving corporate law such as company registration & Thailand BOI, family law, property law, and private investigation.

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