After botching the delisting of cannabis as a narcotic, Thailand will again criminalize recreational marijuana use, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Monday.
Speaking to the media, Prayut acknowledged that Thailand’s hasty decriminalization of cannabis and hemp has created mass confusion and anxiety. In March, the government announced that the two would be removed from the list of Category 5 narcotics, effective June 9, but failed in those three months to pass any laws or enact any regulations to control their use.
The result was an explosion of recreational use, including in public, and the opening of unregulated pot dispensaries. For the first six days, anyone could buy grass, even schoolkids. The Public Health Ministry hastily wrote up a regulation reclassifying cannabis as a “controlled herb” that could not be sold to those under 20, pregnant and breastfeeding women. Bangkok’s mayor also declared the city’s schools “cannabis-free zones” and the government banned pot smoking on college campuses.
Meanwhile, Parliament continues to dawdle on enacting a marijuana-control law. It could be months before it hits the books.
But Prayut, concerned about Thailand becoming a real-life Cheech & Chong movie, vowed Monday that the upcoming law would include criminal penalties for recreational pot use in public. At least 900,000 people already have registered to grow cannabis at home.
“When the bill is passed the penalty clause will follow,” Prayut said. “But it will take a little more time.”
In the meantime, those who have never smoked grass shouldn’t start now, Prayut asserted, warning there are “health risks”.
“Those who have never tried it shouldn’t try because it affects their health,” the PM said. “What will happen if you smoke and those who have never tried it (but breath in the smoke suffer) from some kind of allergy or effects on the brain?”
The parliamentary committee working on the final marijuana-control law said on Monday that the bill to face a second reading will limit the number of cannabis plants individual households could grow to ten while requiring large-scale growers to pay progressively higher taxes as their operations grow.
Committee spokesman Panthep Puapongpan said the limit of ten pot plants a household was meant to prevent drug abuse and enforce the idea that Thailand decriminalized cannabis only for medical purposes.