Thai Cannabis Groups Rally Against Plan to Relist Plant as Drug

(Bloomberg) -- Cannabis advocacy groups in Thailand urged the government to reconsider a plan to relist marijuana as a narcotic to protect the interest of a nascent industry and a large community of weed growers.

Most Read from Bloomberg

Supporters rallied in Bangkok and other cities on Thursday to protest Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s order earlier this month to re-criminalize cannabis. Members of Writing Thailand’s Cannabis Future, an advocacy group, gathered at the Health Ministry office in the Thai capital and handed a petition to minister Somsak Thepsutin against reclassifying marijuana as a “category five” drug again.

Prasitchai Noonuan, member of the advocacy group, asked Somsak to weigh the pros and cons of cannabis in comparison to alcohol and cigarettes, and use science and facts to determine what should be drugs. Benefits of the plant aren’t limited to sellers and dispensary owners as Thai people have long used cannabis as a traditional medicine and food ingredient, Prasitchai said.

“Experience across the world tells us that we can use the law to control cannabis for beneficial use and rein in the cons,” Prasitchai said.

Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis in 2022 with the authorities then pitching it as a way to boost agricultural income and wellness tourism. But widespread cannabis use became a hot-button political issue ahead of the Thailand’s national election last year. With efforts to establish regulations around the marijuana industry failing, concerns grew about the social impact of addiction from easy availability of the drug.

Srettha’s Pheu Thai Party campaigned on a hard-line anti-drug campaign and vowed to reinstate cannabis as a drug. While his coalition government initially pledged to pass a bill to outlaw recreational use and tighten licensing rules on planting, sales, exports and imports of cannabis, the premier shocked the industry by ordering its use to be limited to medicines, cosmetics and food.

Thailand’s Cannabis Policy U-Turn Risks Protests, Lawsuits

Almost 8,000 dispensaries and a large number of consumer-agro firms have cropped up across Thailand, selling everything from cannabis buds to oil extracts and weed-infused candy to baked goods. Under current decriminalization laws, cannabis products must not contain more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive compound that provides a “high” sensation — to be considered legal.

More than 1 million households have registered with Thai authorities to plant cannabis in addition to commercial cultivation by companies seeking to benefit from the booming demand.

Medical marijuana will still be allowed and the government will soon specify what constitutes medical and recreational uses, Somsak said without elaborating.

Once the health ministry wraps up the process of classifying cannabis as a category five drug, its possession could land one a jail sentence of up to 15 years and a maximum fine of 1.5 million baht ($41,500).

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.