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Thailand decriminalized cannabis 2 years ago. Its prime minister wants to ban it again.

Thibault Spirlet   

Thailand decriminalized cannabis 2 years ago. Its prime minister wants to ban it again.
  • Thailand's prime minister has called for a ban on recreational cannabis in a major U-turn.
  • Srettha Thavisin said cannabis should only be allowed for medical purposes.

Thailand's prime minister wants to ban cannabis just two years after his country decriminalized it for recreational use.

In a post on Wednesday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin called on the country's Ministry of Public Health to revise its list of illegal substances to once again include cannabis, and to publish new guidelines limiting its use for medical and health purposes only.

Thavisin also urged Thailand's health and justice ministries to join forces to arrest those who escape drug treatment or fail to undergo treatment, in order to prosecute them.

Drugs are a problem that destroys the future of the nation, he said, adding that government agencies need to work together to eradicate drug activity and show clear progress within 90 days.

Thailand was the first Southeast Asian country to legalize medical cannabis in 2018, and the first Asian country to decriminalize recreational cannabis in 2022, according to Forbes.

The country's former health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, spearheaded the effort in 2022, announcing his ministry would give away one million cannabis plants to Thai households for license-free cultivation as soon as the drug was removed from the country's list of controlled substances, per The New York Times.

However, since taking power last August, Thavisin has made clear his intention to overhaul the country's drug policy.

His party ran on an anti-drug platform, pledging to eradicate drugs from Thai society, per Time magazine.

In an interview with Bloomberg in September, Thavisin said Thailand needed to regulate cannabis because the country has a "widespread" drug problem.

Other countries have legalized or decriminalized cannabis for recreational use in recent years, including Canada, Germany, Mexico, and South Africa. In the US, 24 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia have also legalized small amounts of cannabis for adult recreational use.

In 2022, the global cannabis market was worth about $45 billion, and it could be worth more than $101 billion by 2026, according to estimates by Prohibition Partners, a platform for B2B cannabis.

Cannabis use among Thais aged 18 to 65 has increased tenfold in recent years, according to Thailand's Center for Addiction Studies, from 2.3% in 2019 to 25% in 2022. It cited surveys from the Thailand Substance Abuse Academic Network.

Thailand is also a market and transit route for drug trafficking to third nations, due to its proximity to the Golden Triangle, Asia's largest drug production area, per Thailand's country report 2023.

Cannabis use in public spaces remains illegal in Thailand, according to the country's public relations agency, and is punishable by up to three months in prison and a fine of about $675.

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