Thailand Already Reverses Weed Legalization, Industry Panics

Stephen Andrews
30 Jun 2024

Thailand switched to a new government last September. The election-winning Move Forward party campaigned unequivocally to put an end on the free recreational use of cannabis. The new Thai leadership indeed announced it will reclassify cannabis as a narcotic shortly after assuming power. That, of course, sent the alarm and caused industry panic, only after a year of legal cannabis in Thailand.

Thousands of cannabis businesses have opened in Thailand since legal recreational use was enforced in 2022, and new shops keep on opening and opening. Some venues look so spectacular that it’s hard to imagine the place closing down a year from now. Weed shops in Bangkok and Phuket as well as other touristy hotspots sell their best buds to amused tourists and local smokers alike. A gram of the best weed strains can cost as much as 550 baht or US $15, though most deals are better than that. But is the end near for an industry whose worth is projected to hit $1.2 billion in the next few years? 

Is Thailand Criminalizing Cannabis Again? 

Everything points out that Thailand is turning back the clock and wants to criminalize weed again, and this has normally upped the level of nervousness and panic among many shop owners and other industry players. 

The new government in Thailand has opposed free cannabis since day one in charge. The conservative coalition helmed by the Pheu Thai Party has already taken specific steps to end recreational cannabis and withdraw policies enacted with the previous government. 

Health Minister Chonlanan Srikaew has recently recommended a draft bill to the Cabinet that proposes banning the recreational use of cannabis and reclassifying cannabis as a controlled substance in Thailand. After it’s passed with the Cabinet, the bill will be submitted to the House of Representatives. 

Pheu Thai campaigned on marijuana prohibition, saying that reform is non-negotiable, and using frequently heard argument such as increased health risks and the need to protect young people from substance abuse. 

If the new leadership successfully completes the legal steps to withdraw cannabis legalization, legal weed in Thailand may come to an end by December, 2024. 

Is Weed Legal in Thailand in 2024 for Tourists?

Here’s what tourists going to Thailand need to know. 

Licensed vendors in Thailand are permitted to sell cannabis for recreational use. The sales are primarily intended for local Thai residents and those with valid medical reasons to consume cannabis, but foreigners can also purchase cannabis from these shops. 

The most important rule is that it’s not allowed to smoke marijuana in public places, such as on the streets, at parks, bars, restaurants, and similar settings. There are designated areas within hotels, resorts, and other accommodation where it’s totally okay to enjoy cannabis in private. On the other hand, some bars and venues offer their own bud and it’s pity not to try it. 

If you are traveling to Thailand and plan on using cannabis, it’s important to be aware of the specific places where the use of cannabis is permitted. Breaking the rules on where you can smoke may lead to trouble with authorities. 

If caught smoking cannabis in a public space in Thailand such as a shopping center, public square or temple, the fine is 25,000 baht (US $680) and/or 3 months in prison. Such offence is counted as 'public nuisance,' and Thai police officers can be really nasty with tourists they detain. 

Thailand’s laws and regulations on marijuana may change in the coming period, so it’s also important to regularly follow updates and stay well-clued regarding free use of cannabis. 

If you only have time to try just one strain of weed in Thailand? Go for Strawberry Heaven! One hit and it’s not a miss!

Thailand Cannabis Industry Braces for Legalization Reversal

The government’s announcement to already withdraw weed legalization has led to a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of cannabis in Thailand. The possibility that legal cannabis will be withdrawn by the current Thai leadership has caused some vendors to be nervous. 

More than million people have registered with Thai authorities to grow cannabis since legalization. In addition, there are over 6,000 licensed cannabis vendors as of 2024 that can sell weed to everyone.

It currently costs 3000 baht ($80) to get a license which is valid for three years. But there are rumors that the new ‘medical cannabis licensing’ might cost much more than that. The mood in the government might be that they now want to increase taxes on everything cannabis-related, and get a larger share of the profits, therefore getting something back after cannabis was left on a free ride by the previous government. 

Spokespersons from the actual government have said that business operators and growers who comply with the rules, such as obtaining licenses and registering with the government system, will be safe once the new cannabis laws and regulations are enacted.

The new laws will almost certainly target makeshift cannabis vendors on the roadside. Many of those vendors used to be food trucks prior to legalization, but have found that cannabis is the real money-maker. Then again, to stir even more confusion, some licensed vendors say that the police have already called them telling them that everybody will need to close down in a matter of a few months. 

Sometimes politicians talk a lot and in the end nothing really happens. But you can never be sure. This is the reality of Thailand’s cannabis right now. The budding sector has been a great source of income for small businesses. It has helped families improve their life, pay off debts, or send children to school. With the new regulations looming, it’s indeed uncertain what the future holds for Thailand cannabis. Will the new regulation target only unlicensed street vendors, or will the new measure also affect those who are doing business in all legit manner? 

New Law Will Reintroduce Penalties for Weed Possession in Thailand 

Before weed went legal in Thailand exactly two years ago, the country had some of the strictest cannabis laws in the world. Caught carrying weed for personal use was punishable with up to 15 years in prison. Around 3,000 cannabis convicts were released in the summer of 2022 following the relaxation of rules. 

The authorities may not bring back brutal punishment as seen in the old days, but newly introduced penalties are likely to be used as a weapon of deterrence. The bill in-the-making may put in place fines of up to 60,000 baht ($1630) for the use of cannabis as entertainment or pleasure, and prison of up to a year. The medicinal use of cannabis will remain permissible, but it is due to be revealed how it’s going to be regulated. 

Advertising and marketing marijuana will also be punishable as well as farming without a permit, which poses the most serious offence. Those caught growing unregistered with the government could get a one to three year in prison or fines between 20,000 and 300,000 baht (US $545- $8,165). 

It is still not clear how legal cannabis shops and home growers can continue operations under the new terms in Thailand. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

Thai Cannabis Supporters Challenge Policy U-Turn

Brazilian Supreme Court Decriminalizes Cannabis

Portugal Grows Medical Cannabis, But Not for Locals

Stephen Andrews