On January 19th, 2024, Mr. Prasitchai Nunual, the secretary-general of the network for Shaping the Future of Thai Cannabis, spoke about Dr. Cholnan Srikaew, the Thai Minister of Public Health, regarding the draft Cannabis and Hemp bill.
Using cannabis for health benefits must have a valid prescription from a physician under the draft bill, however, smoking marijuana in public areas would annoy others. Therefore, smoking marijuana should not be in public areas, remarked Prasitchai.
Smoking marijuana should be in designated areas only like cigarettes, said Prasitchai. Herbal treatments using cannabis were a traditional method whether by smoking, eating, or other means. Prasitchai questioned Dr. Cholnan on how to differentiate that if a single roll of marijuana was medicinal or recreational. There has also been significant concern that the proposed fine of 60,000 Baht if caught using marijuana recreationally could be potentially abused by corrupt law enforcement to extort people, especially tourists and foreigners.
This was doubly true if the judge of if using marijuana was recreational or medical was left to police.
The new bill stated that it completely prohibited recreational purposes, emphasizing the use for medical and health prospects. However, no clear measures indicated the protection of consumers from marijuana smoke in public areas, remarked Prasitchai. It has also been suggested that allowing cafes where people can smoke with experts on staff without bothering others would be preferred over public area use.
The Thai government aimed to control the use of marijuana as an illicit substance and drafted the bill with very strict measures compared to the control of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes which were allowed to be used for recreational purposes, said Prasitchai.
Although marijuana could cure more than 8 diseases, according to researchers in Thailand, the draft bill prohibited the use of recreational purposes compared to alcoholic beverages and cigarettes which caused various health problems and cured no diseases, said Prasitchai.
Prasitchai questioned why the government was considering loosening restrictions on alcohol, such as sales hours and advertising, but wanted to clamp down on marijuana, which Prasitchai said was significantly less harmful.
The claim that marijuana would potentially increase youth’s chances of becoming addicted to other illicit substances in the future and from what sources the Thai government got this information from was also questioned by Prasitchai.
The draft law is currently in discussion between the Thai Department of Public Health and cannabis advocates and business owners. TPN media notes it would need to be sent to the Thai Cabinet and then if approved Parliament to be debated before coming law, which could be a long process. That being said, arguments about legalization of cannabis have continued since it was decriminalized in 2022 and show no sign of slowing down.