New Thai PM vows to end free use of cannabis a year after lifting all controls

Srettha Thavisin, Thailand's prime minister, during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York, US, on Sept 20, 2023. - Bloomberg

BANGKOK (Bloomberg): Thailand’s new prime minister vowed to restrict the use of marijuana for medical purposes after thousands of weed shops opened across the country since the nation became the first in Asia to decriminaliSe cannabis a year ago.

The government will seek to "rectify” its cannabis policy and rampant sprouting of dispensaries that freely sell the drug within a six-month time frame, Srettha Thavisin said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin on Wednesday (Sept 20) in New York.

"The law will need to be rewritten,” Srettha said.

"It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only,” he said, adding that there can’t be a middle ground for recreational use.

While Srettha said there was a broad agreement among the 11-party coalition he heads about the need to restrict cannabis use, how exactly his administration will proceed remains unclear.

Srettha’s Pheu Thai Party promoted a hard-line anti-drug campaign ahead of the May election and vowed to undo the landmark policy to decriminalise cannabis.

It’s now in a coalition with Bhumjaithai Party led by Anutin Charnvirakul, who has vowed to press ahead with a plan to reintroduce a cannabis bill in parliament that seeks tighter monitoring of the industry but opposes classifying the plant as a drug again.

An ongoing regulatory vacuum, following the move to declassify marijuana as a narcotic, has led to a mushrooming of nearly 6,000 dispensaries all over the country. They sell everything from cannabis buds to oil extracts containing less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol - the psychoactive compound that gives users a "high” sensation.

Thai farmers are also allowed to freely grow cannabis after registering with the nation’s Food and Drug Administration. Local dispensary owners have also complained about unbridled imports and depressing prices.

Srettha’s government has vowed to "eradicate” drugs from Thai society, with the prime minister saying he will "decisively reduce” the menace within a year while presiding over an event to destroy drugs that were confiscated by authorities earlier this week.

Thailand is considered the main conduit for drug trafficking along Southeast Asia’s vast Mekong river valley, with enforcement agencies perceived to often turn a blind eye.

Southeast Asia’s organised crime economy, including the illicit trade in drugs and wildlife, was worth an estimated US$130 billion in 2019, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes.

"The problem of drug has been widespread lately, especially in the northeastern and northern parts of Thailand,” Srettha said.

"And we don’t need another issue added on top of that.”

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Thailand , cannabis , Srettha , interview , Bloomberg


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