Thailand has long had extremely strict laws on the use and production of cannabis, but the winds of change are in the air. Starting with medical cannabis, the slow progress towards legalization continues, now with stems and roots off the list and soon, according to health ministry officials, the rest of the plant to follow. The government is betting on a hemp boost to their economic recovery.
In 2018, Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical cannabis, with a strong commitment to opening up access to it while preserving its sovereignty over it. However, the country is not stopping at medical use and wants to accelerate the decriminalization, or even legalization, of cannabis.
This is big news in the cannabis world, as south east asia could be a watershed for much of the continent and world. Stay up to date with latest hemp news about legalization and regulation around the world with our Hemp.IM companion app.
Thailand progresses on cannabis decriminalization, slowed by lack of clarity
Last December, the country removed certain parts of the plant (cannabis stems, roots, leaves and branches) from its list of category 5 drugs, while keeping the seeds and flowers on the list. The use of flowers and extracts with +0.2% THC remained possible for medical use.
At the beginning of January, a new drug code, pushed by the Ministry of Health, removed cannabis from the list of narcotics in Thailand. Since then, there has been some confusion between the two texts and the representative bodies. According to officials of the Police and Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), cannabis is still illegal despite the regulatory changes, and those who cultivate and possess the plant without authorization are still liable to prosecution.
To clear up any misunderstanding, Thailand’s Ministry of Health will have to issue a new ministerial announcement on cannabis that state authorities will be required to comply with. The draft Ministerial Announcement will be submitted to the ONCB on 25 January for approval, before Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul signs it.
If all goes according to plan, it would mean that Thailand’s citizens could enjoy easier access to cannabis without fear of going to jail or paying large fines.
What will the future of hemp in Thailand look like?
“If we manage to decriminalize cannabis, we will be able to benefit from the whole hemp plant and not just parts of it,” says Within Sariddeechaikool, deputy secretary-general of Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration. “The flowers and seeds could be used commercially and within the law.
“Although the change in law will allow all parts of cannabis to be bought, sold and consumed, recreational use is likely to remain controlled, as cannabis extracts with higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol … will still be regulated in Thailand,” said Chaiwat Sowcharoensuk, an analyst at Krungsri Research. “Producers of cannabis-based soaps, cosmetics and beauty products will probably benefit the most from decriminalisation.”
In an interview with Vice last December, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anuntin Charnvirakul spoke of the public health and economic benefits of the change in law: “What we have achieved so far is to declare that cannabis stems, roots, leaves and strands are not drugs in Thailand anymore. From next year, we will remove everything – stems, roots, strands, leaves, buds, flowers and seeds – from the list of drugs.”
“When the economy picks up and we don’t have new products as alternatives, people will continue to do the same things and compete. But if we give them a choice, they can learn from it, creating new products and business models, which will in turn accelerate Thailand’s economic recovery.”
(Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash)
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Angelique Moss is a London-based entrepreneur, writer, and traveller. The world of business, finance, and technology, is her preferred cup of tea. She also writes about the developments and discussions on health, art, luxury and media. A top writer for several Medium publications, she has published hundreds of widely read articles on investing, stocks, global markets, cannabis, and technology for multiple platforms. She is also interested in culture, history, and social affairs.