11 July 2024

As many as 4,000 prisoners, serving jail terms for offences related to cannabis or marijuana, will be released, starting on June 9th, when the announcement from the Ministry of Public Health, removing cannabis and hemp from the Category 5 drug list, becomes effective, according to the Department of Corrections.

About 110 million baht seized from the offenders under the anti-money laundering law will also have to be returned to its owners after June 9th. Moreover, there are about 16 tonnes of seized cannabis awaiting destruction, the owners of which may claim back.

The consequences of the enforcement of the ministerial announcement also mean that suspects on charges related to cannabis use or possession will have to be released by the police, public prosecutors and courts if the cases are awaiting police enquiries or trial. Arrest, prosecution and conviction records will also be erased from criminal files.

As of June 9th, a person can grow or possess cannabis or hemp for household use, but they are required to notify authorities without having to seek a permission. The Thai Food and Drug Administration has opened an online platform to facilitate registration.

Import, export, extraction or production of cannabis products still requires permission from authorities.

Although cannabis and hemp have been removed from the Category 5 drug list, except for the parts which contain THC in excess of 0.2% by weight, the two plants will not be legal until a draft bill to amend the Narcotics Act, proposed by the Ministry of Public Health, has been approved by parliament.

The bill, in essence, allows for household use of cannabis and hemp, which includes the growing of the plants for consumption or health purposes, but within the limits to be specified in the ministerial regulation. In Bangkok, growers will have to register with the city administration if they have residences in Bangkok and with provincial administration organisations if the growers are located in upcountry provinces.

Critics, however, have pointed out that proponents of the legalisation of cannabis and hemp only talk about the positive aspects of the plants, with scant mention of the negatives, including the mind-altering compounds which can affect both brain and body. It can be addictive and may be harmful to some people’s health.

Short-term effects may include confusion, sleepiness, impaired ability to concentrate, anxiety, fear or panic, increased heart rate or decreased blood pressure, paranoia, hallucinations and long-term effects, such as addiction and risks to lung health among others.