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Thailand’s government to move bill banning recreational cannabis use

Thailand was once notorious for its tough drug laws, and people found with cannabis on them could face up to 10 years in prison and a hefty fine.

Screenshot 2024 02 07 034657BANGKOK: The Thai government will urgently move a bill to ban the recreational use of cannabis, the health minister said on Tuesday, after the kingdom decriminalised the drug in 2022.

Cannabis was taken off the list of banned narcotics in June 2022 under the previous government, which included the pro-legalisation Bhumjaithai party.

The move prompted hundreds of cannabis shops to sprout around the country, particularly in Bangkok, provoking concern from critics who urged the need for tighter legislation.

The kingdom’s health minister said on Tuesday that the new bill, which bans the recreational use of cannabis, will be proposed to the cabinet meeting next week.

“The new bill will be amended from the existing one to only allow the use of cannabis for health and medicinal purposes,” Chonlanan Srikaew told reporters.

“The use for fun is considered wrong.”

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who took office last August, has frequently voiced his opposition to the recreational use of the drug and said it should only be allowed for medicinal use.

Srettha warned in September that recreational cannabis use could cause “wider narcotic drug problems.”

There was fresh pressure from the public last weekend after attendees of British rock band Coldplay’s shows in Bangkok complained on social media, saying “the entire concert smelled like marijuana.”

Thailand was once notorious for its tough drug laws, and people found with cannabis on them could face up to 10 years in prison and a hefty fine. But the kingdom has sought in recent years to cash in on the global boom in medical marijuana.

In 2018, Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to approve cannabis, which grows easily in its climate, for medical purposes.

Decriminalisation was touted as a lucrative move for the tourism-heavy economy badly dented by the pandemic, with the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce predicting the market may be worth $1.2 billion by 2025.

The 2022 changes to the law opened the way for a legion of cannabis “dispensaries” to open, capitalising on confusion about the precise legal status of the drug.

A rooftop cafe in Bangkok even hosted the inaugural Cannabis Cup Thailand, a joint-rolling competition.

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