Thailand could very well be the first country in Asia to decriminalise the possession and consumption of cannabis after the recent legalisation of the drug for medical uses and for use in food and cosmetics.
The country’s Food and Drug Administration is reportedly set to propose the removal of cannabis from a list of controlled drugs to the narcotics control board today.
According to Bloomberg, once the proposal is cleared by the board, it will then need to be approved by Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul before it becomes effective.
The move could allow people full access to cannabis without the fear of lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines, according to Withid Sariddeechaikool, deputy secretary-general of the FDA.
Currently, possession of cannabis in Thailand could land its owner in jail for up to 15 years.
Mr Sariddeechaikool added: “If we’re able to decriminalise marijuana, we will be able to benefit from all of the plant and not just parts of it.
“The flower buds and seeds could be used economically and in compliance with the law.”
The change could open the country for tourism after its hectic past two years of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thailand has pursued a piecemeal approach to liberalising cannabis, retaining many laws that restricted the growing, harvesting and extracting of the cash crop.
As cannabis is still classified as a narcotic in the country, individuals are barred from possessing the drug, although the country has allowed businesses more access to the plant in recent years.
Last year, the country decriminalised kratom, a psychoactive plant similar to opiates that is native to tropical Southeast Asian countries.
Chaiwat Sowcharoensuk, an analyst at Krungsri Research, told Bloomberg: “While the law change will allow all parts of cannabis to be bought, sold and used, recreational use will likely remain controlled as marijuana extracts with higher tetrahydrocannabinol levels that get people high will still be regulated.
“Producers of soaps, beauty products and cosmetics from marijuana will likely be the ones to benefit the most from the decriminalisation.”
Thailand became the first country in Asia to legalise medical cannabis back in 2018 and since then, the Thai government has introduced rules that would allow families to form community groups to grow cannabis and supply the crop to public hospitals and state facilities, as a way of supplementing their income.
If Thailand were to go with decriminalisation, other Asian countries, such as Nepal and Malaysia could soon follow suit.