Recent reports have indicated that Thailand’s health ministry has put forth a draft bill seeking the prime minister’s approval to outlaw the recreational use of cannabis. This proposed reversal marks a significant shift, occurring over a year after Thailand became the first Asian nation to decriminalize cannabis.
Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew noted that the bill will be presented for approval at the upcoming cabinet meeting and outlined that the new proposal will amend existing laws to permit cannabis use solely for health and medicinal purposes. Srikaew emphasized that the use of cannabis for recreational purposes is deemed inappropriate.
Since assuming office in August last year, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has stood against the recreational use of marijuana, advocating for its exclusive use for medicinal purposes. In September, he cautioned that cannabis use could contribute to broader narcotic drug issues. The potential ban aligns with his electoral pledge made during the campaign period.
If enacted, the new law would enforce fines of up to 60,000 baht ($1,700) for recreational use, while advertising or promotional activities related to such use could result in prison sentences of up to one year or fines as high as 100,000 baht.
Prior to legalization, Thailand was recognized for imposing severe drug laws, with individuals caught with cannabis facing lengthy prison terms and substantial fines.
The acceleration in the drafting process of the bill follows increased public pressure, particularly after a recent concert by the popular British band Coldplay in Bangkok, where attendees reported the pervasive smell of marijuana throughout the venue. It’s worth noting that smoking marijuana in public remains illegal, even with relaxed laws. The latest draft follows a previous proposal that was rejected in the country’s parliament in November.
While many business proprietors have benefited financially from the decriminalization of cannabis, there is growing support for stricter regulations. However, the government appears resolute in its efforts to introduce legislation to combat recreational use.
A report by the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce has estimated that the cannabis sector could potentially reach a value of $1.2 billion by 2025.
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