The Thai Industrial Hemp Trade Association is pressing for clarity about whether hemp and cannabis plants will be re-listed as narcotics, because businesses need to plan ahead, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said on Wednesday.
He was speaking after meeting the association on Monday to discuss current challenges hemp and cannabis traders are facing, as it remains unclear whether the new government will make a U-turn on its predecessor’s decriminalisation of the plants.
“Whether the plants remain legal or are re-listed as narcotics is not the point. For businesses, what matters most is that a clear and final decision is made. They need an answer, so they can adjust their business plans accordingly,” the minister said.
Association members had invested 200 million to 300 million baht, tens of billions of baht in total, in hemp and cannabis related ventures.
“We’d better get cracking and decide soon if these plants will be re-listed as narcotics or not,” he said.
Representatives of the association also asked whether hemp and cannabis should be treated differently under the law, as they are used for different purposes, Dr Cholnan said.
Hemp is used in the textile industry, whereas cannabis is used mainly for medical treatment and health purposes.
In the case of cannabis, what business operators can do for now is continue using the plant in certain types of healthcare products, as permitted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), he said.
Currently, any cannabis products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels of no more than 0.2% - the threshold for cannabis being considered a narcotic - are legal, he said.
Businesses had indicated they would not mind if the flower of the cannabis plant is re-criminalised as a narcotic, so long as a clear decision is passed.
The flower, or buds, contain a high concentration of the plant’s trichomes, which produce the unique aroma and carry the THC and cannabinoids.
A government team is speeding up drafting a new law to regulate the use of hemp and cannabis, after both plants were decriminalised under the previous government, Dr Cholnan, a Pheu Thai MP for Nan, said.
In the event that cannabis is re-listed as a narcotic, some transitory provisions in the current laws will be put in place to ensure, for instance, that the growing of cannabis by households up to the point when the provisions come into effect will not be criminalised, he added.