Thailand has proposed banning the recreational use of marijuana and enforcing harsher penalties for offenders through its latest draft law. The move aims to fill a legal void after Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis.
The new draft bill, released by the Ministry of Health on January 9, prohibits the smoking of marijuana and its use in other forms for recreational purposes. In addition, the use of the cannabis plant or its products will be limited to medical and health purposes only.
This bill is the latest move by the authorities to regulate the industry, especially after a previous bill failed to gain support in parliament. The move is also in line with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin's election campaign pledge to limit the use of cannabis to medical purposes only, in response to concerns about the potential risk of addiction.
Under the proposed bill, anyone using marijuana for recreational use would face a fine of up to 60,000 baht (equivalent to $1,715.76). Those who sell marijuana or its extracts for recreational purposes could face up to one year in prison, a fine of 100,000 baht (equivalent to $2859.59), or both. In addition, driving under the influence of cannabis can result in a fine of up to 20,000 baht (equivalent to $571.92) or one year in prison.
The cannabis industry in Thailand is in an ambiguous situation after the plant will no longer be considered a narcotic in 2022. This decision has led to an increase in the number of dispensaries across the country, reaching more than 6,000 dispensaries. These dispensaries offer a range of products, from cannabis buds to oil extracts with less than 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol - a psychoactive compound that gives users a "high" experience. As such, the new administration is attempting to fill the regulatory void left by the declassification of marijuana as a narcotic.
Under the proposed regulations, any form of advertising or promotion of cannabis buds or extracts, including smoking devices, will be banned. The government will also enforce stricter licensing requirements for the cultivation, sale, export and import of cannabis.
Once the new regulations go into effect, growers will have 60 days to apply for a license, while existing dispensaries will be allowed to continue operating until they renew their licenses.
However, the government has not yet stated its intention to change the plant's status as a narcotic, which could result in harsher prison sentences and fines.
The Ministry of Health still has the authority to update and make changes to the bill before it is submitted to the Cabinet. The bill will then go to Parliament for approval. The public and industry have until January 23 to provide feedback on the bill.