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Thailand’s new government is planning to restrict the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, a year after the country approved a landmark policy to decriminalize the narcotic, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced that his 11-party coalition is seeking to “rectify” the country’s cannabis policy as part of a broad government effort to “eradicate” drugs from Thai society.
He said marijuana can be regulated “for medical use only,” adding that there can’t be a middle ground for recreational use.
Srettha’s Pheu Thai party and some of its coalition partners campaigned on a hardline anti-drug campaign ahead of the May elections. Even so, there are many uncertainties about how the policy will be revamped.
The Bhumjaithai Party, a coalition member, vowed to introduce a new cannabis bill that seeks tighter monitoring of the industry – but opposes classifying the plant as a drug again.
Last year, the then-ruling military government declassified marijuana as a narcotic, which resulted in the emergence of almost 6,000 dispensaries all over the country. These businesses sell everything from cannabis buds to oil extracts containing less than 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol – THC, the psychoactive compound that gives users a “high” sensation.
It also allowed many Thai farmers to freely grow weed after registering with the country’s Food and Drug Administration.
Some advocates and analysts explained that the reimposition of controls will not have a major impact because the medical benefits of cannabis already blur the lines between health and recreational use.
“More regulation will be good as we don’t want a free-for-all anyway,” said Poonwarit Wangpatravanich, president of the Phuket Cannabis Association.
Still, others expressed concern that reclassifying the plant as a narcotic could risk pushing recreational use underground where there will be less control.
Thailand is considered a major route for drug trafficking in Southeast Asia, with law enforcement agencies seen sometimes as ignoring the transport of narcotics.
In 2019, the organized crime economy in Southeast Asia, which includes illegal trade in drugs and wildlife, was estimated at $130 billion, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.