Cholnan says ban on recreational cannabis will ‘kick in like a bang’ by year-end

By Thailand THC

thailandTHC > News > Cholnan says ban on recreational cannabis will ‘kick in like a bang’ by year-end

  • Why It Matters: Thailand’s impending ban on recreational cannabis by year-end signals a significant shift in policy, aiming to address public health concerns while threatening the livelihood of thousands involved in the burgeoning cannabis industry.
  • The Big Picture: The move to outlaw recreational cannabis use comes after its decriminalization led to a rapid expansion of cannabis shops and farms, highlighting the tension between economic growth and regulatory oversight.
  • Driving The News: Public Health Minister CHOLNAN SRIKAEW’s announcement of the proposed legislation underscores the government’s urgency to close legal loopholes that have allowed unchecked recreational use, despite potential economic fallout.

BANGKOK, THAILAND – In a bold move that has stirred considerable debate across the nation, Thailand’s government, led by Public Health Minister CHOLNAN SRIKAEW, has announced plans to ban recreational cannabis use by the end of the year. This decision comes as a response to the rapid proliferation of cannabis dispensaries and farms following the country’s decriminalization of the plant two years ago, a policy that positioned Thailand as a pioneer in Asia’s cannabis landscape.

The proposed cannabis bill, set for review by the cabinet and expected to be passed by lawmakers before the parliamentary recess in October, aims to explicitly outlaw recreational cannabis use. This legislative effort seeks to mitigate the public health concerns associated with the plant’s liberal use, which emerged as a contentious issue in the lead-up to last year’s national elections.

Despite the legal freedom enjoyed by the cannabis industry, the lack of stringent regulations has been criticized for potentially fueling drug addiction among the populace. “The legal gap has led to free use of cannabis, and there aren’t enough regulations to prevent misuse,” stated Dr. Cholnan, emphasizing the government’s intention to regulate cannabis as strictly as any controlled substance, focusing particularly on its non-medical use.

The impending ban poses an existential threat to the thousands of businesses that have flourished in the wake of cannabis decriminalization. From tourist hotspots in Bangkok and Phuket to local dispensaries, the cannabis sector has been a significant contributor to Thailand’s tourism and economic recovery, generating substantial revenue and creating jobs.

Under the new bill, individuals caught using cannabis recreationally, even within the privacy of their homes, could face fines up to 60,000 baht, while those selling cannabis for recreational purposes risk up to one year in jail or fines of 100,000 baht. Dispensaries will be allowed to operate until their current licenses expire, after which they must comply with the new regulations or face severe penalties.

Critics of the proposed ban, like Rattapon Sanrak, founder of the Highland Network, argue that it will drive the industry underground, undoing the progress made in legitimizing cannabis businesses and jeopardizing investments worth billions of baht. However, Dr. Cholnan assures that the bill represents a compromise, aiming to uphold cannabis as an economic crop under stricter medical and health-oriented guidelines.

As Thailand navigates this legislative tightrope, the future of its cannabis industry hangs in balance, caught between the imperatives of public health and economic vitality.

Original Articles on Bangkok Post and South China Morning Post