Opponents of marijuana pull out all the stops

Cannabis products are now openly on sale.

Those who want to recriminalize cannabis in Thailand are having a field day. Food stalls offering Pot Tarts and Night Nurse have appeared in Bangkok and Pattaya, leading to dire warnings of abuse by children getting hooked on the stuff. There are rumors of people dying or being hospitalized after consuming marijuana, whilst a vehicle accident in Jomtien was attributed to the weed within minutes of the crash. Schizophrenia, psychosis and depression are alleged to be another byproduct of legalization.

Lawmaker Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, from the opposition Move Forward Party, said the government had created gigantic confusion by limiting legal marijuana to medical and food use, but failing to criminalize pot smoking by clear policies. “If you release a tiger into the jungle, it’s hard to persuade it to come back,” he said. The project Smart Approaches to Marijuana is stressing that Holland, the widely-acclaimed success story of legalization, has in fact closed hundreds of coffee shops as tolerance recedes.

The Thai government has responded by ad hoc rules to try and restore order. Public smoking of cannabis as well as the sale of the weed to people under 20, plus pregnant ladies, was rush-published overnight in the Royal Gazette. Cannabis is banned from schools and universities and restaurants must inform customers about menu choices. An emergency health regulation, not technically a law, defines smoke from marijuana as a public nuisance with fines and jail time threatened. The flower and buds of the plant, but not the leaves and roots, have been categorized as a herbal narcotic.

Pending the passing of the Cannabis and Hemp bill, which will have to wait weeks or months to become law, the Thai police will likely adopt the same strategy as in illegal drinking during the pandemic. One or two riotous parties, heavy with smoke, will likely be raided in the full glare of publicity to encourage everyone else to beware, beware, beware. Foreign tourists will be warned about prisons and deportation, but will most likely be fined minimally and freed to avoid bad publicity and a fall-off in the number of international visitors.

Cannabis is here to stay even if there’s a legal muddle right now. If the drug has negative features, the same is true of alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking which do a lot more personal health damage than ganja beyond a shadow of a doubt. As regards the law, it is well to remember that all prostitution in Thailand is prohibited by the entertainment venue act of 1966 which was designed to protect public morals. An English translation can be exhaustively studied on the internet.