End to free use of cannabis eyed

To close?: A cannabis store along Khao San Road in Bangkok. — Bloomberg

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 yesterday 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.

The cannabis industry was unfazed by the move to reimpose controls.

The medical benefits of cannabis already blur the lines between health and recreational use, effectively rendering any ban on leisure unfeasible, according to Poonwarit Wangpatravanich, president of the Phuket Cannabis Association.

A ban would also hinder the economic benefits of Thailand’s budding cannabis tourism, not to mention shutting down dispensaries that have already mushroomed all over the country, which may potentially dent the government’s popularity, he said. — Bloomberg

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