Party Over, Thailand?

Stephen Andrews
15 Jan 2024

It was too good to last. Thailand authorities are shutting down the country’s vibrant recreational market. Thailand, where weed dispensaries and entrepreneurship thrived so well, will no longer be. For the last year and a half, the kingdom was a glimpse into a reality which has entirely embraced the free use of marijuana. It was a kind of promise. But, under a new bill, caught smoking even one joint will cost a little fortune in the near future.

Last spring, Thailand got a new government, which in its election campaign pledged to bring down recreational marijuana use across the kingdom. This is soon going to happen. On more than one occasion, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said that cannabis should only stay allowed for medical and health reasons. 

Removing recreational marijuana would represent a harsh blow to the thousands of ganja entrepreneurs who run dispensaries in the big cities such as the capital Bangkok or in the country’s paradise islands like Phuket. 

Thailand legalized cannabis back in June 2022. It was a historic moment. A jolly time when the minister of the day even organized a giveaway of 1 million cannabis plants for free to the people. But little has remained of that initial jollification. 

Despite Thailand currently having over 6,000 active businesses and a flourishing cannabis tourism segment, its government has decided to turn back the clock. It’s doing so by rewriting the law to specifically target the recreational use of the plant or any of its products. 

Smoking a Joint Will Cost A Small Fortune

Thailand’s Health Minister unveiled the draft bill on Tuesday, Jan. 9. It says, smoking marijuana or any other use of the plant and its products for fun and relaxation will be banned. The main argument of his party all along was that recreational use leads to addiction. 

The new law was months in the making, and everybody knew what was the deal in it. We now simply know the details. 

Under the freshly proposed rules, those caught smoking a joint will have to pay a hefty fine, which is around 60,000 baht or almost US$2,300. For other offenders, the proposed fines are even harsher. Those caught selling marijuana or extract from it for recreational purposes, may face a year in prison or a fine of 100,000 baht, or both.

Driving while under the influence of marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to 20,000 baht or one year in jail. The government will also tighten licensing rules for cultivation, retail, export and import of cannabis. 

Once the new rules are officially enacted, growers will be given a 2-month period to apply for a license. Those with shops can continue working until renewing their work permits, if they are able to renew the permits at all. It will all depend on how harsh the government will want to implement its tough regulatory framework. 

Only the medicinal use of cannabis is to remain allowed, according to the draft bill. 

Thailand’s Weed Market Thrived in a Gray Zone 

The draft legislation is the latest attempt by Thai authorities to regulate the cannabis sector. The previous government managed to decriminalize the plant, but it failed to introduce a regulatory bill on how to control the legal industry. 

The budding market was basically born in a legal vacuum. The new government simply wants to end the regulatory vacuum. Even at the cost that it affects thousands of well-working businesses spread across the country and its attractive touristic hotspots. 

The new bill will prohibit Thailand cannabis retailers from selling marijuana flower or any oil extracts that contain more than 0.2% THC. Advertising and marketing campaigns involving weed, extracts, or paraphernalia for smoking, will also be against the rules. 

The only thing that seems to remain unhinged is that the kingdom’s authorities will not reclassify the cannabis plant as a narcotic. Switching back to that status would have translated to even higher fines and prison time for possession and use of marijuana. 

The public as well as international industry stakeholders that are already commercially operating in Thailand, have time until Jan. 24 to send feedback on the bill. 

The Ministry of Health can still make changes to the bill before it is submitted to the Cabinet, which will then forward it to Parliament for approval. Considering the majority, the outcome is up to no good for legal recreational marijuana use in Thailand. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

Thailand’s New Weed Law is Almost Ready

What Led to the Cannabis Boom in Thailand?

Thailand's Smuggled Weed Problem

Stephen Andrews