The Public Health Ministry has completed the first draft of the Cannabis-Hemp Act and said it will not reclassify cannabis as a narcotic, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said on Friday.
Dr Cholnan said the new law is based on amendments to the first draft, which has 94 sections.
The new version has about 70 sections. It has been updated to address various public concerns or loopholes that allow people to use cannabis for recreational purposes, he added.
The core of the law still defines cannabis as a controlled herb, while any extract that contains more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) remains listed as a narcotic.
"The minister still supports the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes but not for recreational use, so those who grow cannabis -- even for personal use -- must have permission under the new law," Mr Cholnan said.
The first version of the Cannabis and Hemp Law allowed a household to grow up to 15 plants for personal use, such as for treating some sickness. They merely needed to inform local authorities, but under the new law, they must seek permission first.
Cannabis shops that already have a licence can continue their business, but they need to comply with the new law, for example, by prohibiting the smoking of cannabis on their premises and not selling dried cannabis buds.
The law will also clarify which venues cannot sell or allow cannabis on their premises.
"We will not shut down all cannabis shops, but they need to comply with the law. The new law will not allow them to sell cannabis buds for people to smoke or even have equipment for customers to smoke inside their shops. In the past, we could not control the usage, but with the new law, using cannabis for recreational purposes will be prohibited," he said.
When asked if smoking cannabis at home will be illegal, he said that remains a grey area pending more public feedback.
When asked if cannabis and hemp should have separate laws, he said this issue has been raised. However, according to the current law, hemp is considered a kind of cannabis, just one with low levels of THC, he noted.
He said the ministry will create a window for the public to read the law and provide feedback by mid-December. People will have two weeks to offer their opinions, and the minister will analyse whether the law should be updated before submitting it to the cabinet.