The House of Representatives in Thailand failed to conclude the second reading of its cannabis regulation bill in the last session devoted to it before the upcoming parliamentary recess. The delay was caused by some factions of lawmakers who argued that the bill did not go far enough to disincentivize recreational cannabis use and called for the plant to be re-listed as a narcotic.
Will the parliament in Thailand run out of time to pass its cannabis legalization? The country’s lawmakers remain divided on key provisions of the legislation, leaving Thailand’s cannabis industry in a gray area.
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Disagreements in Thailand
The House of Representatives in Thailand failed to conclude the second reading of the bill, the last session devoted to studying the proposed legalization of cannabis in Thailand before the parliamentary recess.
The delay was caused by some factions of lawmakers who argued that the Thai cannabis bill did not go far enough to disincentivize recreational cannabis use and called for the plant to be re-listed as a narcotic.
With Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha planning to dissolve parliament next month before elections in May, the bill’s fate will depend on the next government. A bill must pass a majority of MPs in three readings before being submitted to the Senate for approval to become law.
Ransom of the Vanguard
Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis last year by removing the plant from the list of narcotics. Officially, only medical use is legal and recreational use cannot be punished, with a few conditions (no children present, no sale without a license) and without being legally regulated.
This decriminalization of cannabis in Thailand has led to a proliferation of dispensaries selling all sorts of cannabis products, which gives a glimpse of what was already available on the black market despite a previous very firm policy in the country.
Growing concerns about the impact of legalization on young people in Thailand have also threatened to undermine an industry estimated to be worth more than €1 billion by 2025.
Thailand Sees Political Divide
Cannabis liberalization has divided Thailand’s political parties, with the Bhumjaithai Party, led by Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, spearheading the widespread use and cultivation of the plant by households in Thailand. Many opposition parties and the Democratic Party, a ruling coalition member, want to reverse the decriminalization.
“It is clear that the bill will not pass in this session. So we will resubmit the cannabis bill to the next parliament,” said Supachai Jaisamut, a Bhumjaithai Party lawmaker. “People who do not want cannabis to be criminalized again should vote for Bhumjaithai.”
Government Claims Decriminalization in Thailand Was Not for Recreational Use
The government has repeatedly said that the June decriminalization of cannabis in Thailand was aimed at the medical and commercial use of cannabis rather than recreational purposes. However, the bill did not go so far as to ban recreational smoking explicitly.
According to Supachai, the cannabis rules issued by the Department of Health are sufficient to control the industry in Thailand for now. These rules include restrictions on unpleasant odors in public, sales to pregnant women or people under 20, and commercial advertising.
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