Thailand’s anti-cannabis laws will have a slow start

Less than two years after reform, marijuana sales are again under the microscope.

Although Thai authorities are determined to outlaw smoking cannabis for pleasure once and for all, experts say that there is likely to be a long grace or settling-in period. Jessataporn Bunnag, a specialist lawyer, said “A great deal of money was invested prior to decriminalization of the herb in 2022,and it’s going to take time for a new legislative process to evolve.” Commentator Chokwan Kitty Chopakasai predicted that some shops which had abused the system in the last 18 months – for example opening selling joints, edibles and extracts – would close, but that most would still be able to operate provided they obtained new licences and kept detailed records.

Of course, the draft law is still under consideration for public debate. “They let the genie out of the bottle with descheduling and how they put it back is one of the biggest challenges,” he said. Under the draft revisionist cannabis and hemp law, only marijuana for medical purposes will be legal, whilst the police will have expanded powers to investigate the sale of smokable marijuana outside the medical market. There will also be a ban on some commercial imports of the drug.

Future ambiguities in enforcement include how the police will differentiate between medical and pleasure marijuana. Presumably, an insomniac enjoys smoking weed which he believes can help him or her sleep better. Thailand has around 6,500 marijuana stores which aren’t necessarily illegal as many operate in a sort-of gray area with cannabis currently delisted as a narcotic. Other shortcomings of the current law include a lack of testing requirements, no seed-to-sale program for marijuana and confusion over taxation issues.

Many commentators believe that, once the new legislation is in place, police will focus on the illicit selling of marijuana online, foreigners and Thais selling hash and concentrates and anyone selling imported cannabis, all of which are expected to be crimes. But a full scale assault is much less likely. Matt, a Pattaya marijuana seller, concluded, “Selective enforcement is part of the Thai system. After all, prostitution has been illegal in Thailand since the 1960s, but you still find traces of it here and there.”