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Thailand will recriminalize cannabis by the end of the year, according to Priem Minister Srettha Thavisin, a major U-turn for the Southeast Asian nation two years after it became the first in the region to decriminalize the drug for recreational use, the Independent reported.

On Wednesday, Thavisin said cannabis would be re-listed as a narcotic before 2025, demanding that the Ministry of Public Health issue a regulation to allow it only for medical and health purposes.

Cannabis was first allowed for medicinal use in 2018 and later permitted for recreational use in 2022 under a previous government. But in the absence of a comprehensive law, its recreational use increased and also resulted in the rapid growth of a small domestic retail market for marijuana.

Thousands of shops and small businesses selling cannabis products have emerged since 2022, with one study projecting the industry could be worth up to $1.2 billion by 2025, according to the Bangkok Post.

But Thavisin has strongly voiced his opposition against the recreational use of cannabis since he took office last year, warning that it could worsen the country’s drug abuse problems.

The prime minister has called on all the government agencies to cooperate in solving the country’s drug problem, demanding “clear results” within 90 days.

Observers noted that changing the rules about marijuana usage will impact the economy, as well as the small businesses catering to cannabis consumers.

The move in Thailand follows one in Canada: The government on Tuesday approved a request by the province of British Columbia to recriminalize the public use of drugs, the New York Times wrote.

Before the change, the province’s residents were allowed to possess small amounts of drugs, including hard heroin and cocaine, without facing criminal charges.

However, following a public backlash and at the request of the province, the new rules prohibit public drug use, while restricting consumption to legal residences, safe injection sites, and other centers established by health authorities.

The changes underscore Canada’s struggle in grappling with the opioid crisis: The initiative sought to change the focus from punishing users to targeting large drug distributors and encouraging treatment.

Critics said they feared the ban will force users into unsafe use of the narcotics and lead to increased arrests.

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