Thailand plans to ban recreational cannabis despite 2022 decriminalization

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In a major policy reversal, Thailand plans to reclassify cannabis as an illegal substance and issue permits only for medical patients, cultivators and research purposes.

Recreational cannabis use will be banned, Public Health Minister Somsak Thepsutin said in a Facebook post, Reuters reported.

Thepsutin’s comments came only weeks after Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin called on the health minister to reclassify recreational cannabis as an illegal substance.

According to the Bangkok Post, Thepsutin also said that only marijuana buds would be reclassified as a Category 5 narcotic.

Category 5 drugs, which include opium and psilocybin, carry criminal penalties in Thailand for manufacturing, importing, exporting, sale and possession.

Marijuana leaves, branches, roots, stems and seeds still would be available to use for approved health and medical applications, Thepsutin said.

Hemp, which was also removed from the Category 5 list, will not face similar restrictions.

The new policy essentially will reverse Thailand’s 2022 move to decriminalize marijuana, though the Asian country failed to immediately implement comprehensive regulations and enforcement mechanisms to restrict what would be sold and where.

Amid a largely unchecked marketplace, thousands of stores opened, prompting politicians to pledge to address the issue.

The policy reversal has sparked widespread protests from cannabis advocacy groups, including store owners, Thaiger reported.

Shortly after taking office, Thavisin vowed to rewrite cannabis laws that would allow only medical use in Thailand, the first Asian nation to decriminalize marijuana.