Criticism for Legalizing Cannabis in Thailand
The medicinal use of cannabis has been legalized in Thailand since Thailand pulled cannabis of less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from its list of narcotics from Narcotics Act B.E.2522(1979) and the Cannabis Act B.E. 2477 (1935) on 9 June 2022. This legalization means people can grow, possess, sell and use cannabis plant without any license/permit from any regulator in addition to hemp, which was earlier legalized. However, cannabis and hemp extracts of more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are still regulated.
At the same time, a new draft law on cannabis control, includes information of production and its commercial use, is currently being considered by the Parliament.
In the first session considered by the Parliament as proposed by Public Health Minister, it was to make cannabis accessible to everyone after registering with Thai Food and Drug Administration on the designated application. It can also grow cannabis plant at home. This modification marks Thailand as the very first nation in Asia to largely decriminalize the plant for industrial, medical, and personal use but recreational use is still discouraged.
Critics argue that cannabis legalization has concerns of cannabis use among children and adolescents. Also, entrepreneurs opening up stores that sell marijuana and more people turning to it for multiple purposes. The day after cannabis went legal, Ministry of Public Health, heard of concerns over cannabis free use, issued Notification of the Ministry of Public Health, designated marijuana and hemp as controlled plants, legalizing cannabis with the aim of promoting it for medical and health purposes and limiting its possession and use to people aged 20 years and above. Also, under the regulation proposed by the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine, smoking in public place is considered as public nuisance.
Sale of cannabis or hemp to people under 20, pregnant woman, breast-feeding woman, and certain types of people, as specified by the Public Health Minister is also prohibited. Several other rules launched including banned cannabis from schools and public places. Despite these restrictions, it still has an impact on the society such as growing numbers of cannabis addict with broad impact on society.
The government quickly followed up on 26 July 2022, Ministry of Public Health has issued an urgent open letter to the Royal Thai Police that researching, disposing, importing, exporting of cannabis, or processing controlled traditional Thai herbs, cannabis and hemp require permission from authorities. To conclude, cultivating cannabis and hemp plants and trading of unprocessed parts of them are non-regulated. However, industrial extraction, producing and importing of cannabis and hemp or cosmetics with cannabis or hemp based ingredients are subject to separated legislations.
To restrict impact on the society, strong legislation measure provided with clear information of rules and regulations on cannabis liberalization created by government shall be applied. Examples of possible options are:
- Strengthened laws and appropriate enforcement responses – as establishing a successful legalization regime would strengthen the law which will minimize or eliminate criminal involvement.
- Enforcement tools for cannabis-impaired driving – this should be complemented by public education campaigns that emphasize risks associated with drug-impaired driving and advocate preventive measure in the case of drinking and driving.
- To restrict of consumption to the home or a limited number of well-regulated publicly-accessible sites – this could serve to minimize normalization of cannabis and protect against the exposure of non-users of second-hand smoke and vapors.