2022: A roller-coaster ride for Thailand’s cannabis industry
Thailand started 2022 with the bright hope that cannabis would be made completely legal. However, as the year draws to a close, calls for cannabis to be returned to the country’s narcotics list are getting louder.
Over the past several months, both sides of the cannabis legalization argument have battled fiercely over whether Thailand’s policies related to the herb are moving in the right direction.
Critics suggest the government consider cancelling the very concept before more damage is done, especially since there is no specific law that can comprehensively govern the use of cannabis.
As of now, MPs are still furiously debating every article of the 95-article Marijuana Bill under the watchful eye of the media, the public and several medical groups. Even if the draft legislation does go through, it will still take several more months for it to go into effect.
Early this year, everything was great on the cannabis front. Investors were getting their business plans ready to capitalize on cannabis-spiked products, including food and beverage and even cosmetics.
Farmers also expected to get rich or at least earn a good income from growing the plant, which has long been seen as a narcotic in Thailand. The public was also excited, especially those who were keen to find out what smoking pot felt like, while people behind bars for cannabis-related offences expected an early release. As soon as cannabis was decriminalized, they could walk free.
Thailand legalized marijuana for medical use in 2019, but people continued being arrested and convicted on cannabis-related charges because it was still considered a controlled substance under several laws.
Cannabis was banned under the Narcotics Code until December 9, 2021, for example.
In February this year, the Public Health Ministry issued a regulation legalizing all parts of the plant. The regulation came into effect from June 9, paving the way for pot to become completely legal.
As of June 9, businesses began launching their cannabis-spiked products, including food and beverage. Thanks to this wide-spanning regulation, shops selling ganja began sprouting up all over the city, and some grocery stores even began stocking the stuff.
However, concerns have been growing that Thailand’s move to legalize cannabis may have unlocked free trade and consumption by people who may not fully understand the harmful effects of marijuana usage. Doctors say cannabis affects people’s intelligence, reasoning and emotions.
While Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul insists the government has no policy promoting the recreational use of marijuana, critics say his Bhumjaithai Party’s plan to decriminalize marijuana is exactly that.
In response to the criticism, various government agencies have introduced new regulations to control the use of cannabis. The Public Health Ministry, for instance, recently declared that the potent buds of the marijuana plant were a controlled substance. Following this declaration, ministry representatives backed by the police have arrested several vendors in Bangkok’s Thong Lor area for selling the herb without permission.
With these developments, the cannabis industry has lost a lot of its shine. Gunkul Engineering, whose subsidiary GK Hemp Group (GKHG) had invested in the hemp and cannabis industry, has watched its stocks go on a roller-coaster ride. Its stocks had risen from 5.6 baht on the last trading day of 2021 to 5.85 baht on January 4. By February 1, the stocks had peaked at 7.2 baht, but began fluctuating sharply before settling at 6.05 baht on June 8, when cannabis was declared legal. However, the stock began fluctuating again when the industry’s future came into question. In December, the price has not risen beyond 5.6 baht.
Legal but controlled
The Bhumjaithai Party, a key partner of the ruling coalition, has insisted that it will never backtrack on its policy to legalize marijuana. Several agencies under the Public Health Ministry, like Food and Drug Administration, have also supported the use of cannabis.
These agencies have assured the public that if the Marijuana Bill is passed, Thailand will have better control over cannabis use. The bill is still in its second reading in the House of Representatives.
By Thai PBS World