More than 4,000 inmates charged or convicted in connection with cannabis-related offences will be released from jail when the regulation removing cannabis and hemp from the list of narcotics takes effect on June 9, according to the Corrections Department.
Thawatchai Chaiwat, the department's deputy director-general and spokesman, said the inmates' release is the result of a Public Health Ministry regulation published in the Royal Gazette on Feb 9 that will come into effect on June 9.
From that day, all parts of cannabis and hemp plants, except extracts containing more than 0.2% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant's psychoactive ingredient, will no longer be on the narcotics list.
The regulation effectively absolves anyone who produced, imported, exported, possessed, sold or consumed cannabis before June 9. They are no longer deemed offenders or convicts under the law.
Those who are still serving time for cannabis-related crimes will be released from jail.
Mr Thawatchai added that suspects detained for questioning on cannabis-related charges will also be released and their cases dropped.
Those in possession of a criminal record after having been convicted of such charges will also have their record deleted from the criminal database.
In the event that a person faces multiple charges including one or more pertaining to cannabis, the latter will be removed and cannot be cited as grounds for increasing the person's punishment.
The Office of the Courts of Justice has officially notified law enforcement agencies under it to prepare for the upcoming release of the inmates.
There are currently 3,219 inmates convicted of cannabis-related offences and another 884 on trial.
The spokesman said some families have been tricked by a gang claiming it could secure the early release of inmates for a fee. Mr Thawatchai insisted the releases on June 9 incurs no expenses and reflects the new law.
Last month, the Public Health Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Agriculture to collaborate in ensuring cannabis will be used for medical reasons and for research to support its decriminalisation.
The Department of Agriculture said the department was working to ensure that only high-grade species of cannabis plants are imported for growing in Thailand, in the interests of quality control.
The department announced it would invoke at least three laws to control the import of seeds from overseas, namely plant control, species control and species protection, he said.