Thai Cannabis Supporters Challenge Policy U-Turn

Stephen Andrews
02 Jun 2024

After Thailand’s Prime Minister instructed officials to take action for relisting cannabis as a narcotic, hundreds of cannabis business owners, growers and campaigners have joined forces into organizing protest rallies as well as launching a petition that seeks to take the Prime Minister to court. If cannabis is relisted, it means it will be recriminalized again, and people may go to jail for it, just like it was before 2022 in Thailand.

The Thai government’s ongoing attempt to overturn policy for free use of cannabis has faced the first bouts of resistance from cannabis supporters. Hundreds of weed entrepreneurs, farmers and activists do not want the U-turn to happen and they will do everything in their power to reverse this retrograde action from the government. 

Several protest gatherings already took place in the month of May, shortly after Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin unveiled intentions to add cannabis back on the list of narcotics by the end of the year. 

On one of the events, cannabis supporters convened at the United Nations regional headquarter in the outskirts of the capital of Bangkok, and managed to collect almost 2,000 signatures in support of a legal petition to stop the government’s move to recriminalize marijuana, according to a report in the Hindustan Times.

The petition is reportedly addressed against Mr. Thavisin and would be filed with an administrative court, said a representative of the group that collects the signatures. 

Petition signatories were also asked to fill in information on potential financial losses in a scenario where the government indeed introduces a ban and they’re bound to shut down cannabis-related business operations. 

Thailand May Relist Cannabis By End of Year 

The Prime Minister recently expressed a wish that the policy U-turn for cannabis is completed by the end of 2024. His statement is what prompted Thai cannabis supporters to organize and rally against such an outcome. 

If the government is not stopped in its intention, cannabis will be put back as “category five” narcotic, which will make it illegal to do anything with it. Just like it was before Thailand decriminalized the plant back in 2022. 

Cannabis is a ‘controlled herb’ at present in Thailand. Its legalization two years ago galvanized the South Asian country to build a vibrant market around the plant, which ultimately helped recover and revitalize the Thai economy after the pandemic. As such, cannabis can be sold in any form as long as the product does not exceed more than 2% of THC. On the day of the legalization, around 3,000 weed inmates were released from Thai prisons as well. 

Thailand cannabis supporters believe that the government should introduce firmer industry regulation rather than implement outright recriminalization of the plant. 

“If we use the narcotics law, we will be putting cannabis back in jail and allowing it to be grown by only some groups of people,” said a recent statement from Writing Thailand’s Cannabis Future advocacy group. 

Cannabis was decriminalized in Thailand under the previous government led by the Bhumjaithai Party, which promised its supporters that cannabis is going to grow into a lucrative sector and they weren’t wrong about it. The sector is headed to reach its first $1 billion US dollar in value this year. 

Cannabis was removed from the list of narcotics through an amendment pushed by the Bhumjaithai Party leader, Anutin Charnvirakul, who served as Health Minister in the previous government. 

The new government is helmed by the Pheu Thai Party, and their view is that cannabis should remain legal only for medicinal and therapeutic uses. The new PM has repeatedly said that outlawing cannabis will help address a wider problem with addiction among the younger populations. 

Also read on Soft Secrets: 

Thailand to Re-Criminalize Cannabis

What Led to the Cannabis Boom in Thailand?

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Stephen Andrews