23 May 2024

On June 9 (Thursday), cannabis and hemp finally become legal in Thailand and can be used not just for medical purposes but also as a cash crop.

Thais will be able to grow marijuana for personal use, while businesses can cultivate the herb on a large scale to produce cosmetics, food, and innovative products.

However, under Thai law, cannabis extracts containing more than 0.2 percent of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will continue to be listed as a narcotic. Otherwise, users and growers will not have to worry about legal problems anymore.

Going legal

Thailand legalized marijuana for medicinal use in 2019, yet people continued to be arrested and convicted on cannabis-related charges because the plant was still a controlled substance under several laws. For instance, cannabis was banned under the Narcotics Code until December 9, 2021.

After the Narcotics Code was amended late last year, the Public Health Ministry issued a regulation in February legalizing all parts of the plant. This regulation will come into effect from June 9, paving the way for pot to be completely legalized.

Thanks to this regulation, anyone interested in growing marijuana for personal use can do so without having to seek prior permission. However, they will have to register on the Plookganja app set up by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Those growing cannabis commercially, meanwhile, will still be subject to a government review and approval process. Manufacturers who use cannabis parts and extracts will have to comply with the relevant laws. For instance, when adding cannabis to food and beverages, they will have to adhere to the Food Act. If they include cannabis in cosmetics they must comply with the Cosmetics Act, while manufacturers of cannabis-based medicines will fall under the Medicine Act.

Smoking pot?

Amazingly, the law is still hazy when it comes to the recreational use of cannabis after June 9. Police say they will arrest people for smoking pot in public places as the smoke will be a nuisance to others. Offenders will face a fine of up to 25,000 baht and/or up to three months in jail.

As to whether smoking pot at home is legal, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has only said cryptically: “Some acts are legal but against conscience.”

Though he has pushed hard for the legalization of marijuana, the health minister has always insisted that he never campaigned for recreational marijuana use.

THC, which is found in marijuana, has been credited with easing pain, muscle spasticity, glaucoma, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea and anxiety. However, this psychoactive compound is also responsible for the herb’s famous “high” or euphoric effect.

Over 3,000 convicted of cannabis-related offenses in Thailand to be freed Thursday

Cautionary tale

The Psychiatric Association of Thailand has urged the government to raise awareness of not just the benefits but also the potential harms of cannabis. It warns that people can develop mental problems from the consumption of cannabis.

“We are concerned,” the association said in a statement. “We want to underline the need to limit vulnerable groups’ access to cannabis.”

According to the association, young people are more likely to become dependent on cannabis than adults. It is said using cannabis also affects people’s IQ (intelligence quotient), reasoning abilities, and emotions. The association also claimed use of marijuana by pregnant women could affect the development of the fetus, while marijuana dependency can aggravate domestic violence.

Chulalongkorn University’s Center for Addiction Studies recently estimated that about 1.89 million Thais aged 18-25 used marijuana for “non-medical” (recreational) purposes last year. This number has doubled from 2020 – possibly because cannabis-related laws have been relaxed.

Walking out to freedom

The latest easing of cannabis laws has benefited more than 4,100 people flung behind bars for cannabis-related offenses. Among them, 884 are in detention pending investigation or trial, while the rest have been convicted.

However, they will all be allowed to walk free soon because cannabis will no longer be illegal under Thai law.

“They will be released, and their criminal records cleared,” Corrections Department’s deputy director-general Thawatchai Chaiyawat confirmed.

By Thai PBS World’s General Desk