Thailand releases 4,000 inmates convicted of cannabis offenses

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More than 4,000 inmates charged or convicted of cannabis-related offenses will be released today as the law removing cannabis and hemp from the list of narcotics comes into effect.

Starting today, all parts of cannabis and hemp plants, except extracts containing more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), will no longer be listed as narcotics.

The regulations effectively absolve anyone who produced, imported, exported, possessed, sold or consumed cannabis before June 9. They are no longer considered delinquents or convicts within the meaning of the law. People who were serving sentences for cannabis-related offenses will be released from prison.

Mr Thawatchai, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, added that suspects held for questioning on cannabis-related charges will also be released and their cases dropped.

People with criminal records after being convicted of such charges will also have their records removed from the criminal database.

Is cannabis therefore legal in Thailand?

Cannabis is not legal in Thailand. Public use of cannabis can still lead to arrests and fines, even if it becomes one of the lowest priorities for the Thai police with this decriminalization.

The very status of cannabis is still in legal limbo because, although it is no longer considered a dangerous drug, Thai lawmakers have yet to pass legislation to regulate its commercial production and sale.

Thais can, however, grow their own plants without fear of arrest or jail time. All they need to do is upload their project details to the Department of Health website or an app developed by the Food and Drug Administration.

The next step in the process of regulating cannabis should be the approval of its recreational use, even if it is already facilitated.

Although it may take a few more years to take the plunge, with the Thai government focusing on its medical use, proponents of legalization have proposed the creation of several demarcated areas where recreational use would be allowed.

Such a device could boost tourism in Thailand, and Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui have been suggested as possible locations.

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