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Just over a year after Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize marijuana, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has announced a dramatic policy shift. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, the prime minister revealed that the government will now limit the use of marijuana to medical purposes only. This sudden turn has garnered the support of all parties in the Pheu Thai-led coalition government, leaving small dispensaries and entrepreneurs in a state of uncertainty.
Interestingly, the Bhumjai Thai party, which has often been on opposite sides of the political spectrum from Pheu Thai, will not challenge the new policy direction. Sources close to the party told Thai Enquirer that its leader, Anutin Charnvirakul, is keen to play the role of a “nice coalition partner,” thereby eliminating the likelihood of any significant political opposition to the move.
Since its decriminalization in June 2022, thousands of cannabis dispensaries have opened across Thailand. These businesses now face an unclear future as the government deliberates on a new regulatory framework. While Srettha did not provide explicit details about the fate of these shops, he did promise that more defined regulations will be announced within the next six months.
Currently, there are already some restrictions on marijuana use; it is prohibited to smoke in public areas, there’s an age limit at dispensaries, and these shops cannot operate near schools. However, the specifics of future regulations, particularly how they will impact existing small businesses, remain vague.
The absence of political opposition, particularly from the Bhumjai Thai party, means that there’s no one left to advocate for the small dispensaries and businesses that have sprung up since marijuana was decriminalized.
This raises critical questions about who will bear the financial responsibility for the likely losses incurred if marijuana use is restricted to medicinal purposes only.
As the country moves toward a more regulated framework for marijuana, stakeholders are holding their breath. With a unified political front and a six-month timeline for new regulations, the coming days will be crucial in shaping Thailand’s future cannabis policy.