Thailand to Tighten Cannabis Rules After 6,000 Shops Open

(Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s new government is seeking to tighten control over the country’s nascent cannabis industry, taking steps to curb recreational use of the plant.

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The health ministry will likely submit to Cabinet in December a new draft of the cannabis bill, which will plug loopholes on the allowable use of marijuana and include new protocols for cultivation and criminal penalties, according to Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew.

The move to rewrite the bill follows Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s pre-election pledge to restrict the use of marijuana to medical purposes, after thousands of weed shops opened across the country since the nation became the first in Asia to decriminalize cannabis.

A previous version of the bill failed to clear parliamentary hurdles before the national election in May. It has been significantly rewritten due to concerns that misuse of cannabis could lead to addiction, the minister said. “Between economic and health benefits, we put health first,” Cholnan said.

Read More: Thai PM Vows to Curb Cannabis Use a Year After Rules Eased

An ongoing regulatory vacuum, following the declassification of marijuana as a narcotic in June last year, has led to the mushrooming of more than 6,000 dispensaries all over the country. They sell everything from cannabis buds to oil extracts containing less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive compound that gives users a “high” sensation.

Srettha’s Pheu Thai Party promoted a hard-line anti-drug campaign ahead before the election, vowing to again classify cannabis as a narcotic. But it’s now in a coalition with Bhumjaithai Party led by Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, which had spearheaded the move to decriminalize the crop. Cholnan didn’t say if the government would go as far as banning the recreational use of cannabis.

The draft bill will undergo more reviews and the government will receive stakeholders’ feedback before finalizing the text next month, according to Cholnan.

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