The latest Prime Minister of Thailand, Srettha Thavisin, has said his government will “rectify” the country’s cannabis policy and limit its use to medical purposes within six months.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Thavisin, who was elected in August, said there is a need to “rewrite the law” to halt the widespread sale for recreational use. “The problem about drugs has been widespread lately,” he said in the interview.
Thailand went from having some of the strictest drug laws in the world to decriminalising cannabis last year after it delisted the plant as a narcotic. In a short time, the country is believed to have seen over 6,000 registered dispensaries open.
Srettha’s government, which leads an 11-party coalition in the country, has vowed to eradicate drugs from Thai society. Earlier this week the prime minister attended an event showcasing a range of confiscated narcotics, promising that he would “decisively reduce” the menace within a year. “The problem of drugs has been widespread lately, especially in the northeastern and northern parts of Thailand,” Srettha said. “And we don’t need another issue added on top of that.”
The move has been welcomed by the tourism industry, with a spokesperson insisting the unregulated cannabis trade has done more harm than good to tourism over the past year.
“You can now easily find a cannabis shop every 200-300 metres along the streets of Pattaya, and 90% of them are not for medical purposes,” Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, group executive director of Sunshine Hotels and Resorts in Pattaya told The Bangkok Post.
Cannabis was decriminalised by the previous coalition government as a means to allow local farmers to capitalise on the potential revenue of cannabis as a high-value crop, and to further research into medical use. However, the lack of further regulation allowed cannabis sales to the public to flourish, while farmers complained that the majority of the cannabis on sale was imported illegally.
Despite strong rhetoric from the new PM, the fledgling Thai cannabis industry remains unfazed. Poonwarit Wangpatravanich, president of the Phuket Cannabis Association appeared to welcome some form of legal control. “More regulation will be good as we don’t want a free-for-all anyway, cannabis is here to stay, but in what status is not yet clear.”