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Thailand to Decriminalize Marijuana, Moving Step Closer to Legal Recreational Use

Thai traditional food made with cannabis sold at a city fair in Bangkok.
Thai traditional food made with cannabis sold at a city fair in Bangkok.

Thailand today takes another step toward making smoking a joint legal in a country infamous for its hard drug laws.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday will propose the removal of marijuana from the country’s list of controlled substances to the narcotics control board.

If cleared by the board, the proposal will need to be approved by Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul – who famously declared that “marijuana is not a drug that should be illegal – it’s that simple” at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in 2019 – before it becomes effective. 

Thailand was the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize medical cannabis and its use in food and cosmetics. It’s now paving the way for recreational use without fear of lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines.

Withid Sariddeechaikool, deputy secretary-general at the FDA, said possession of cannabis currently carries prison sentences of up to 15 years as it’s still considered a Class 5 narcotic.

Proponents hailed the move to allow businesses use of the entire cannabis plant. Anutin himself, at that fateful FCCT meeting in 2019, said  “unlike alcohol and cigarettes, marijuana has great health benefits such as treating cancer, Alzheimer’s and insomnia.”

It appears the blowhard Bhumjaithai Party minister, well known for his prohibitionist tendences and hatred the bars that made Thailand famous, is more than open to smoking a joint. The party he leads made full legalization of grass the foundation of its 2019 election platform, even putting cannabis leaves on its signs all over Bangkok.

The road to legalization hardly has been a straight one, however.

It has retained laws that restricted the growing, harvesting and extracting the cash crop and barred individuals from possessing it. At the same time, businesses have been given more access to the plant.

At the same time, Thailand last year decriminalized kratom, a psychoactive plant similar to opiates that is native to tropical Southeast Asian countries.

Allowing recreational use likely remains far off and observers expect it will be tightly regulated. Marijuana extracts with higher tetrahydrocannabinol levels that get people high will still be restricted, but producers of soaps, beauty products and cosmetics made with marijuana will benefit.

Tom Julpas Kruesopon, known as “Mr Weed” because of his tireless preaching on the medicinal and financial benefits of ganja, said marijuana benefits people both medically and economically.

While government agencies have said they will monitor and control production and cultivation of cannabis for use within the borders, they admitted a marijuana export industry could develop later.