Thailand's new prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, has announced her intention to make improvements to the country's marijuana policy, with plans to restrict its use to medical purposes only within the next six months.
Previously, Thailand made history last year by becoming the first country in Asia to remove the narcotic status of the cannabis plant, leading to the emergence of cannabis cafes and dispensaries in popular tourist destinations such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya.
However, the failure to pass a law regulating the use of cannabis has created a legal loophole in the country. Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew's idea to amend the cannabis bill previously submitted by his predecessor, Anutin Charnvirakul, was rejected by the House of Representatives.
Before the bill could be submitted to the House for discussion, a minister issued a regulation removing cannabis and hemp from the list of Schedule 5 narcotics under the Narcotics Act.
Prime Minister Srettha, who leads the Pheu Thai Party and forms a coalition government with 10 other parties, campaigned hard on anti-narcotics issues before the election. In an interview with Bloomberg Television in New York, where she was attending the UN General Assembly, Srettha said the law needed to be revised.
According to Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, who serves as executive director of the Sunshine Hotels and Resorts Group in Pattaya, most of the marijuana shops that have opened so far seem to be geared more toward recreational use and there have been recorded incidents of marijuana overdoses. He said this in an interview with the Bangkok Post.
Thanet stated that if they are going to consider the use of marijuana for medical purposes, then law enforcement needs to be strengthened so that they can provide safe medical treatment to individuals who need it.
On another occasion, according to the Bangkok Post, Rasmon Kalayasiri, director of the Center for Addiction Studies, supported a ban on the recreational use of cannabis and suggested that parts of the plant with high THC levels be reclassified as narcotics.
Dr. Rasmon also supports amending the bill to limit the use of cannabis and hemp to medical and health purposes only, while prohibiting recreational use. The bill also includes restrictions on growing 15 cannabis plants per household and classifying flowering parts with high THC levels as narcotics.
According to him, doctors have no problem with the use of cannabis for medical purposes. However, they note that recreational use of cannabis, especially among children, is more prevalent and causes health problems.
Dr. Rasmon believes that there is a need for laws that more strictly regulate the use of cannabis and marijuana and completely prohibit recreational use. He also suggests that, as a first step, parts of cannabis with high THC levels should be classified as narcotics.
In the current legal context, individuals over the age of 20 who are not pregnant or breastfeeding are legally allowed to use cannabis in their homes, and food products containing cannabis extracts can be consumed in licensed restaurants.
It is important to remember that in many Asian countries, the use and possession of cannabis can result in severe penalties, even imprisonment, with Singapore being one of the countries that imposes the death penalty for offenses.