BANGKOK (Bloomberg): Thailand’s new government is seeking to tighten control over the country’s nascent cannabis industry, revising a draft bill to prevent misuse of the plant after previously vowing to curb its recreational use.
A new draft of the cannabis bill, which failed to clear parliamentary hurdles before an election in May, has been significantly rewritten due to concerns that misuse of cannabis could lead to addiction, Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said in a statement late on Tuesday (Nov 14). "Between economic and health benefits, we put health first,” Cholnan said.
The revisions include tighter measures to plug loopholes that allow the use of marijuana for recreation, new protocols for cultivation and criminal penalties, the minister said. The draft bill will likely be submitted for a cabinet approval in December.
The move to rewrite the bill follows Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s pledge to restrict the use of marijuana for medical purpose, after thousands of weed shops opened across the country since the nation became the first in Asia to decriminalize cannabis.
An ongoing regulatory vacuum, following the declassification of marijuana as a narcotic in June last year, has led to a mushrooming of more than 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.
Srettha’s Pheu Thai Party promoted a hard-line anti-drug campaign ahead before the May election, vowing to again classify cannabis as a narcotic. But it’s now in a coalition with Bhumjaithai Party led by Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, which had spearheaded the move to decriminalize the crop. Cholnan didn’t say if the government would go as far as banning the recreational use of cannabis.
The draft bill will undergo more reviews and the government will receive stakeholders’ feedback before finalizing the text next month, according to Cholnan.