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Thailand Continues to Struggle with Rollout of Cannabis Program

Thailand Continues to Struggle with Rollout of Cannabis Program

Cannabis was only legalized in Thailand a few months ago, making them the first East Asian country to decriminalize cannabis. Since then, marijuana-related enterprises are already transforming the country’s urban landscapes. Neon-lit signage featuring cannabis plants is already widespread from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The substance can be found in everything from food and drinks to cosmetics, aided by the prospect of cannatourism cash.

Despite its tremendous expansion, Thailand’s cannabis business is treading water politically. Companies are currently operating in a gray area because of a regulatory vacuum brought about by the decriminalization of the drug before lawmakers could agree on how to manage the business.

Thailand’s cannabis business

What’s Changed?

In Thailand, cannabis stores and cafés will no longer be allowed to permit consumers to smoke marijuana on the premises. In contrast, on-site consumption of medicinal marijuana will be permissible only if a medical practitioner sells the cannabis. Thailand established its first cannabis cafés in late July, trying to boost tourism prospects in the aftermath of Covid-19.

According to Thailand’s Royal Gazette, the announcement published by the Ministry of Public Health took effect immediately. The Ministry will now categorize THC-rich cannabis flower as a “restricted herb,” imposing limitations such as forbidding the sale of cannabis flower and limiting usage on-site. Other provisions in the new order are repetitions of previous restrictions, including age requirements and a prohibition on selling cannabis to pregnant or lactating mothers. The rule also prohibits the sale of cannabis flowers via the internet or vending machines.

Thailand was the first Southeast Asian country to legalize medical marijuana in 2018. Four years later, they went a step further with their cannabis regulations, becoming the first country in the area to decriminalize marijuana, despite strong criticism for the lack of rules. The recent verdict follows a court petition from the head of the Forensic Physician Association to reclassify cannabis as a narcotic in response to a wave of press reports regarding hospitalizations and kid use.

What’s Changed?

It will be challenging to return this genie to its bottle. According to supporters, it was never meant to be this way.

“It’s horrible, it’s chaos, we want it to be regulated and enforced properly … I don’t want underage people smoking, people are buying off the streets very easily, while the origin of the weed is not being checked,” says Prajya Aura-ek, a cannabis entrepreneur, according to This Week In Asia. “We want good law, clear and enforced law.”

Thailand should be commended for its eagerness to decriminalize cannabis. However, their lack of regulatory foresight put them in this position. All officials have done is let the black market flourish. All of this would’ve been avoidable had they established clear policies before announcing the decriminalization.

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