The Fate Of Marijuana In Thailand Hazy After Sunday's Elections: Will Pro-Weed Party Bargain Policy Change?

The Thai political party that spearheaded a campaign to legalize cannabis nationwide gained significantly more seats in Sunday's general election than previously estimated by a Nation Group survey, reported Bloomberg.

According to data from the Election Commission, Bhumjaithai Party, led by Thailand's health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who ran unsuccessfully for Prime Minister, garnered 70 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives, six times more than anticipated.

However, the opposition bloc led by Move Forward and Pheu Thai parties, which won over 280 seats rejecting the military-backed parties that have ruled in the country for nearly a decade, opposes legal recreational cannabis, despite estimations the sector could be worth $1.2 billion by 2025.

The coalition that will form a new parliament in Thailand wants cannabis to be classified once again as a narcotic, with its use restricted to medical purposes only, reported Hindustan Times. Yet, with the Bhumjaithai party set to win the third-most number of parliament seats, prospects for the legalization of cannabis are not so dim after all.

The Dawn OF Weed In Thailand

Charnvirakul's party was behind the successful push to decriminalize cannabis in June 2022. The historic move made Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to do so.

Since then, the Thai government issued a series of ad hoc regulations to create a framework for the sector, such as a rule that Thai nationals need to show their ID cards when purchasing cannabis.

At the same time, the number of outlets and cafes selling cannabis products has grown exponentially in the capital and other cities. The first cannabis cafes opened in late July last year with the idea of beefing up the country's tourism prospects following the pandemic.

Parliamentary Cannabis Debates: Why The Opposition?

The government has highlighted on several occasions that the move was supposed to promote medical and commercial cannabis use instead of recreational use.

But the opposition has slammed health minister Charnvirakul, who turned up at his voting site Sunday in a bright cannabis-print shirt, on several occasions soon thereafter. His political nemesis argued that Charnvirakul caused social problems and violated local and international laws by decriminalizing marijuana without adequate control and regulations.

The chief opposition whip from the Pheu Thai Party, Sutin Klungsang, even said that "cannabis damages the brains of young people," emphasizing that marijuana policy violates the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which the country supports.

In late November, the Ministry of Public Health announced that cannabis shops and cafes in Thailand will no longer be permitted to allow customers to smoke marijuana on the premises, while on-site consumption of medical marijuana will still be tolerated only if a medical practitioner sells the cannabis.

Due to hazy regulations, many have pulled out, like a Bangkok store that had its license temporarily suspended for allowing its customers to smoke cannabis on its property. Though cannabis operators like Berner's Cookies continue to position themselves in a potentially burgeoning market. The American rapper and founder/CEO launched his cannabis brand at Bangkok's Soi Ruamrudee shop in January.

Thailand's House of Representatives failed to complete the second reading of the bill that would regulate the broader use of cannabis in the country in February, prior to Thailand's King dissolving parliament. That bill's fate will now depend on the next administration.

Photo: Courtesy of Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

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Posted In: CannabisGovernmentNewsRegulationsPoliticsMarketsGeneralAnutin CharnvirakulBhumjaithai Partymarijuana legalizationPheu ThaiSutin KlungsangThailand CannabisThe Move Forward
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