Thailand To Decriminalise Cannabis

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Thailand plans to decriminalise marijuana after becoming the first nation in Southeast Asia to legalise the drug for medical use and in food and cosmetics.

The move draws Thailand a step closer to clear the use of cannabis for recreation. The nation’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to propose the removal of marijuana from a list of restricted drugs to the narcotics control board on Wednesday.

Once cleared, the proposal will need to be approved by the health minister before it comes into force.

Possession of cannabis in Thailand is currently punishable by up to 15 years in jail but the move to decriminalise the drug will allow people to access marijuana without the fear of lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines.

Thailand was the first nation in Southeast Asia to approve medicinal cannabis in 2018 in a move a key lawmaker called a “New Year’s gift” to the Thai people.

Withid Sariddeechaikool, a deputy secretary-general of the FDA, said people will benefit from the decriminalisation of cannabis.

“If we’re able to decriminalize marijuana, we will be able to benefit from all of the plant and not just parts of it,” Mr Sariddeechaikool said. “The flower buds and seeds could be used economically and in compliance of the law.”

Thailand has made steps over the years to loosen rules around marijuana possession and usage. While laws still ban individual possession of the drug, more businesses have been allowed access to it. Last year, the country decriminalised kratom, a psychoactive plant similar to opiates that is native to tropical Southeast Asian countries.

“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,” said Chaiwat Sowcharoensuk, an analyst at Krungsri Research.

“Producers of soaps, beauty products and cosmetics from marijuana will likely be the ones to benefit the most from the decriminalization.”

Southeast Asian countries have historically cracked down on drug use in the region. In the past Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and The Philippines have all delivered harsh punishments, including the death penalty, for drug offences.