Ganja-smoking shops are deemed illegal now that the Ministry of Public Health's new announcement declaring flowers of marijuana plants to be a herb requiring strict control has taken effect, the ministry warned on Wednesday.
The controlled herb announcement, dated Nov 11, was announced in the Royal Gazette last Wednesday and took effect the following day, said Dr Thongchai Lertwilairatanapong, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTTAM).
The announcement is aimed primarily at curbing the abuse of cannabis for recreational purposes which has been increasing since its decriminalisation.
The announcement came while the Bhumjaithai Party is still pushing to pass a bill on cannabis and hemp, which it has touted as an effective legal mechanism to ensure cannabis will be strictly used for medicinal purposes only.
Aside from prohibiting businesses from offering to their customers cannabis-smoking spaces, this new ministerial announcement prohibits selling cannabis to people under 20 years of age, pregnant women and mothers in the period of breastfeeding their babies, and students at all levels of education, he said.
The same announcement also prohibits sales of cannabis through vending machines, electronic means or internet-based channels, he said.
"Smoking cannabis in public is also strictly prohibited under the same announcement, including in a temple or any other religious venue, a registered dormitory, public parks, zoos or amusement parks,'' he said.
Since the flowers of cannabis plants have become controlled herbal products, they can be sold lawfully but only by certain types of practitioners holding a proper licence.
This group would include medical doctors, veterinarians, and practitioners of Thai traditional medicine, applied Thai medicine, folk medicine, and Chinese traditional medicine, he said.
They are also required to follow the 1999 Act on the protection and promotion of the wisdom of Thai traditional medicine, or risk facing up to a year in prison or/and a maximum fine of 20,000 baht, he said.
Dr Tewan Thaneerat, deputy director of the DTTAM, said the department recently established a depot for storing marijuana grown and harvested locally, so as to supply the producers of cannabis products for medicinal use, such as marijuana oil extracts.
So far 3.5 tonnes of cannabis collected from 93 registered growing sites have been stored at the depot.
These materials, worth 22.18 million baht, will first be tested to assess their quality, especially in terms of contamination with insecticides, pesticides, heavy metals and microbes, Dr Tewan said.