In 2018, Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical cannabis, with a strong desire to open its access very widely while preserving its sovereignty in the matter. However, the country does not stop at its medical use and wants to speed up the decriminalization, even the legalization, of cannabis.
Last December, the country withdrew certain parts of the plant (the stems, roots, leaves and branches of cannabis) from its list of category 5 narcotics, while keeping the seeds and flowers on the list. The use of flowers and extractions with +0.2% THC remained possible for medical use.
At the beginning of January, a new narcotics code, pushed by the Ministry of Health, removed cannabis from the list of narcotics. Since then, a kind of confusion reigns between the two texts and the representative bodies. According to Narcotics Control and Police (ONCB) officials, cannabis is still illegal despite regulatory changes, and those who grow and possess the plant without permission still face legal action.
To clear up any misunderstandings, the Thai Ministry of Health will have to issue a new ministerial announcement with which state authorities will be required to comply. The draft ministerial announcement will be submitted to the ONCB on January 25 for approval, before Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul signs it.
If all goes according to plan, this would mean Thai citizens could enjoy easier access to cannabis without fear of going to jail or having to pay hefty fines.
“If we manage to decriminalize cannabis, we will be able to benefit from the whole plant and not just certain parts,” explains Within Sariddeechaikool, deputy secretary general of the Thai Food and Drug Administration. “The flowers and seeds could be used commercially and within the law.”
“Although the change in law allows all parts of cannabis to be bought, sold and consumed, recreational use will likely remain controlled, as cannabis extracts with higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol […] will still be regulated,” said Chaiwat Sowcharoensuk, an analyst at firm Krungsri Research. “Producers of cannabis-based soaps, beauty products and cosmetics are likely to benefit the most from decriminalization. »
In an interview with Vice last December, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anuntin Charnvirakul spoke of the public health and economic benefits of this change in law: “What we have achieved so far is to declare that the stems, roots of cannabis, leaves and sprigs of cannabis are not drugs. Starting next year, we will remove everything – stems, roots, sprigs, leaves, buds, flowers and seeds – from the narcotics list. »
“When the economy recovers and we don’t have new products as alternatives, people will continue to do the same things and compete with each other. But if we give them a choice, they can learn to build on it, creating new products and business models, which in turn will accelerate economic recovery. »