Thailand’s Prime Minister May Stop Recreational Cannabis Use
What This Could Mean For The Future Of Thailand’s Weed Industry
For over a year now, Thailand has been enjoying its status as the world’s newest stoner’s paradise.
Since June 2022, dispensaries and weed shops to cater to all kinds of lifestyles mushroomed all over the country. Thanks to Anutin Charnvirakul, the Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister for the Bhumjaithai Party. Since he was responsible for helping Thailand recover after the pandemic, he had to come up with creative ways to breathe life into the country’s tourism sector given that the Land of Smiles has always been among the world’s most visited destinations.
Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to walk a major street in Bangkok or anywhere else in the kingdom without spotting a weed shop or smelling some ganja wafting through the air. Decriminalizing cannabis has opened the gates to numerous lucrative opportunities, particularly for the economically challenged farmers as well as for the businessmen who have the power to help them grow.
There were also other important benefits to legalizing cannabis. These included the reduction of overcrowding in prisons around Thailand, since over 80% of those incarcerated were there due to drug-related charges. Just like in the USA, legalizing marijuana has been helpful for the criminal justice system. There are bigger fish to fry!
Prior to that, marijuana has been criminalized in Thailand since 1935. Before that, for around three centuries, it was an essential component of Thai culture; pot was used as medicine as well as a cooking ingredient.
According to a Bloomberg study, the legal cannabis market in Thailand could grow as much as 15% each year through 2025. By then, it has the potential of being worth $1.2 billion, with countless farmers and small businesses benefiting from the industry’s profitable opportunities that abound. Once farmers register with the Food and Drug Administration, they are freely allowed to cultivate cannabis.
All that said, it was only because of a legal loophole that “accidentally” allowed the massive growth of recreational cannabis sales throughout the country. Right after decriminalization passed and sales were allowed, a bill that was meant to regulate cannabis use failed to get the green light because the Democrat Party opposed it. As a result, tourists can even walk into any dispensary and buy weed without any issues.
As with most cannabis markets in their infancy, it was not without its problems. There has been a notable rise in emergency room admissions due to tourists and other locals imbibing too much weed and not knowing what to do, with many of them feeling ill. Much of the current cannabis market is thriving largely due to the lack of regulations; as of now, there are no strict guidelines of where cannabis shops can open, so they are being established anywhere even if they are close to schools.
Srettha Thavisin, the 30th prime minister of Thailand, disclosed to Bloomberg while he was in New York participating in the UN general assembly, that he has plans to halt recreational cannabis in Thailand so that it can only be used for medical purposes. While he hasn’t outlined the steps needed to execute his plans, he did tell Bloomberg that, “the law will need to be rewritten.”
“It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only,” he added.
There will certainly be backlash from the business sector, who are definitely enjoying the economic benefits of basically free-flowing cannabis use around the country. However, many in the tourism sector are welcoming the move. Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, Group Director of Sunshine Holidays and Resorts, located in Pattaya, spoke out against the rise of marijuana shops in town. “You can easily find a cannabis shop every 200 to 300 meters along the streets of Pattaya and 90% of them are not for medical purposes,” he complained.
Is Regulating Thailand’s Cannabis Market A Good Move?
The truth is that – no matter which way you look at it, marijuana is going to stay indefinitely in Thailand. The only question that remains is what its future status will be. While everything feels like the Wild West right now, the possibilities of future regulation might change this if Thavisin’s implementation is successful.
With almost 6,000 weed shops registered around the country, it will be interesting to see how Thavisin plans to get all of them onboard. Is that the real issue in Thailand? Don’t they have more pressing, dangerous illegal drug issues to act on?
After all, Thavisin also did discuss his government’s plans to address the use and trafficking of methamphetamine pills, which are currently still a far-reaching problem in the country – especially with the Mekong River located nearby. This makes it simpler for drug traffickers to access and transport drugs around Asia, most especially within Chinese mafia groups that operate in the Golden Triangle – which Thailand is part of. Before his trip to New York, Thavisin was in Samut Prakan, where a significant amount of illegal drugs had just been destroyed.
“Narcotics problems have been on the government’s national agenda since it was formed,” Thavisin told reporters. “As Prime Minister, I lead the combination of efforts from all organizations and people to solve the problem and I will keep you updated on its progress.”
Wait And See…
The rest of the world watches with baited breath along with Thailand as Thavisin may make his moves within a few days or weeks. He will have to manage a balancing act without disrupting the booming economy, but perhaps he should focus on methamphetamine and other more pressing illegal drug matters?