Thailand Prime Minister Seeks to Criminalize Weed in Reversal

Thailand’s prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, said on Wednesday that he wanted cannabis to be re-listed as a narcotic by the end of the year, a reversal two years after the country became one of the first in Asia to decriminalize marijuana.

Mr. Srettha, who took office in August, wrote on social media that he wanted the Ministry of Health to change the laws so that marijuana could only be used for medical and health reasons.

All marijuana sales in Thailand are technically for medical purposes, but lax regulations mean that many businesses openly sell dried marijuana flowers and illegal imports. Smoking weed in public is also prohibited.

Thailand decriminalized marijuana in June 2022, giving rise to a domestic industry that has recently been challenged by competition and oversupply. There are thousands of registered dispensaries in the country, and cannabis is prescribed at hundreds of traditional medicine clinics. Foreign investors have also backed the construction of high-tech indoor cannabis farms.

The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce said in a 2022 report that the domestic cannabis industry could be worth $1.2 billion by 2025.

After Thailand’s parliament selected Mr. Srettha, a real estate tycoon, to be prime minister, industry experts expected that the new government would tighten regulations around the drug’s cultivation and sale. Mr. Srettha told reporters ahead of a May 2023 general election that his political party, Pheu Thai, did not want “full cannabis legalization” and would support its use only for medical purposes.

Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have harsh drug laws and give long prison terms for marijuana possession, consumption or trafficking. In Singapore, at least two people were executed for marijuana charges last year.

In 2019, Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

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