New cannabis bill ready for cabinet

New cannabis bill ready for cabinet

Health minister says revisions will clearly spell out prohibitions on recreational use

Crowds enter Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok on Saturday for the Coldplay concert, where many complained that the smell of marijuana smoke was heavy in the air. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Crowds enter Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok on Saturday for the Coldplay concert, where many complained that the smell of marijuana smoke was heavy in the air. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A new version of the cannabis and hemp control bill will be proposed at the cabinet meeting next week, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew said on Tuesday.

The revised bill preserves the key point that cannabis is to be used for medical treatment only, but it will also state clearly that any use for recreational purposes will not be allowed, the minister said.

The government has yet to clarify what will happen to the thousands of businesses that have sprung up in the legal vacuum that has existed since cannabis was removed from the list of controlled narcotics in 2022.

The Bhumjaithai Party, which is also a member of the current coalition government, earlier championed the liberalisation of cannabis but its bill to regulate the plant failed to pass last year while the previous government was in office.

Dr Cholnan said the revised bill would regulate which parts of the cannabis plant can be used, the manner in which they can be consumed, as well as acceptable quantities for possession.

Under the new bill, the stem, roots, leaves and buds of the cannabis plant would be recategorised as a narcotic because of their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.

The minister said earlier that smoking cannabis was likely to require a permit from a doctor, and that the bill would be very clear on how to use the plant for medical treatment.

He noted the bill was different from the version proposed by Bhumjaithai, which only set out to limit the amount that can be consumed by individuals.

That said, the minister insisted the revision does not mean the government is now opposed to the medicinal use of the cannabis plant, saying the bill reflects “a different approach” to the issue.

He said that new bill was meant to protect citizens from cannabis abuse that has taken place since the plant was delisted from the Narcotic Drug List two years ago.

Dr Cholnan’s comments came after numerous complaints about cannabis use among concertgoers at the Coldplay concert at Rajamangala National Stadium over the weekend.

Many patrons said the pervasive smell of marijuana smoke affected their experience.

Actor Phanuwat “Copter” Kerdtongtawee posted on his X account on Monday that he could smell the smoke even though his seat was located on the third level of the stadium.

“Thailand has become a destination for sai keao [cannabis smokers] now. I want to say that not everyone enjoys the smell, including me,” he said in the post, which received 800,000 views.

Phanuwat added another post demanding the government immediately pass measures to control the recreational use of the plant, tagging the accounts of both Dr Cholnan and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

Dr Cholnan said the use of cannabis at concerts is prohibited, in the same way that smoking cigarettes is prohibited at public venues. The problem, he said, was that there were currently no legally enforceable rules that could be applied to punish concertgoers who smoke pot.

It is believed that under the new bill, all cannabis plantations will require a permit from authorities and must adopt advanced agricultural practices to ensure the plants will be medical-grade. Plantations at home, as championed by Bhumjaithai, are not likely to continue.

Meanwhile, many dispensaries that sell cannabis products for medicinal as well as recreational use are anxiously awaiting clarity about their futures.

The number of cannabis shops nationwide is estimated to total more than 7,000. They sell everything from cannabis buds to oil extracts containing less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive compound that gives users a “high” sensation.

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