Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will review a request from the country’s health ministry next week to ban the recreational use of cannabis. The potential reversal comes just two years after Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize the drug.
Thavisin, who took office in August, has repeatedly voiced opposition to non-medical use of marijuana, arguing in September that decriminalization could lead to “wider narcotic drug problems.” But he stressed that medical cannabis would remain untouched by a new ban.
While Thailand was once known for having some of the world’s harshest drug laws, the former government’s decision to decriminalize weed created a thriving “gray market” for local vendors, who took advantage of the country’s tropical climate well-suited to cultivating the plant.
Vendors were already struggling due to oversupply and illicit imports
When Thailand decriminalized marijuana in 2022, the government stressed it was not advocating for recreational use — but that didn’t stop thousands of Thai vendors from taking advantage of the policy, and weed shops began proliferating in tourist hotspots such as Bangkok and Phuket. But the market eventually became saturated, leading to a drop in prices and putting many marijuana businesses in jeopardy, according to The New York Times. The sellers most likely to survive, at least for now, specialize in “high-quality, domestically grown weed” cultivated in high-tech indoor farms, the Times reported. Despite the fact that growing marijuana locally has been decriminalized, illegal imports of weed to Thailand from the United States remain prevalent, according to Thai TV news station PPTV, which have helped drive down prices of domestic supplies further.
Bangkok Coldplay concert ignited cannabis debate in Thailand
A Coldplay concert in Bangkok last weekend ignited a public debate in Thailand about the merits of using recreational marijuana. Concertgoers complained of a “pervasive odor” of weed that overtook the venue, according to Thai.News. The country’s Public Health Minister, Cholnan Srikaew, used the concert as evidence that Thailand needed to reverse its decision to decriminalize marijuana, saying unlike with cigarette smoking, a “lack of enforceable laws” means that authorities cannot prevent people from consuming weed in public. The controversy echoes global conversations about the role cannabis should play in society and “balancing the scales between medicinal benefits and social responsibility,” Thai.News wrote.