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420 with CNW — Thailand Passes Draft Law Reversing Recreational Cannabis Legalization

Cannabis News Wire, Media Partners

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Thailand’s recent political shift has set the stage for the introduction of fresh marijuana legislation, marking a major turnaround only 18 months after the nation took steps toward decriminalizing the substance.

The initial lenient regulations sparked a flourishing marijuana industry, serving both locals and tourists across southeast Asia. However, the conservative coalition government, which assumed power late last year, has pledged to enforce stricter rules, restricting marijuana usage solely to medical purposes.

Last week, the nation’s health ministry unveiled a draft measure outlining severe penalties, including high fines and potential one-year prison sentences for violators. The proposed legislation expressly limits marijuana and related products to medical applications. This aligns with Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s commitment in September to change marijuana regulations within the first six months in office, reinforcing the government’s focus on medical use exclusively.

Although public cannabis consumption has always been illegal, the impending laws go further by prohibiting marketing and advertising campaigns for all marijuana products. An earlier version of the bill faced parliamentary rejection in November, but the current government remains steadfast in its determination to regulate recreational marijuana.

Thavisin has consistently emphasized the severity of the drug-abuse issue in Thailand through various media platforms. The proposed legislation represents a stark departure from the June 2022 milestone when Thailand became the first Asian country to fully decriminalize marijuana, a historic move in a region where severe penalties, including death sentences, are common for marijuana-related offenses.

While medical cannabis gained legal status in Thailand in 2018, full decriminalization allowed for the cultivation, trade and use of hemp and cannabis products without criminal repercussions. The subsequent proliferation of marijuana-related businesses, including cafes, dispensaries and hemp spas, attracted considerable attention, turning cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai into hot spots for weed festivals and tourist attractions.

Former health minister Anutin Charnvirakul stated in a CNN interview that the intent of original legislation was never to endorse public recreational marijuana use, emphasizing the promotion of marijuana for medical purposes.

Despite protests from prolegislation advocates, including the Future Marijuana Network, the government appears resolute in its decision to pivot away from the previously permissive stance on marijuana. Kitty Chopaka, a marijuana entrepreneur and advocate based in Bangkok, labeled the government’s move an unexpected response, expressing disappointment while highlighting that the momentum for marijuana as a narcotic has irreversibly shifted.

The ongoing debate underscores the complexities surrounding marijuana regulation in Thailand, impacting various stakeholders from farmers and small business owners to advocates emphasizing the importance of public involvement.

This policy reversal in Thailand could come as a disappointment to entities such as Tilray Brands Inc. (NASDAQ: TLRY) (TSX: TLRY) that had hoped for more international markets opening up on the Asian continent and elsewhere.

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