Thailand to ban recreational cannabis by end-2024, says health minister

Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise the drug for recreational purposes in 2022.

Amber Tay | March 01, 2024, 03:46 PM



Thailand will ban recreational use of cannabis by the end of 2024, though its use will still be allowed for medicinal purposes, Thai health minister Cholnan Srikaew told Reuters in an interview.

This comes two years after Thailand became the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise use of the drug for recreational purposes in 2022, after it was approved for medicinal use in 2018.

Misuse of cannabis

Cholnan said without laws to regulate the recreational use of cannabis, it will be misused.

He also said the misuse of cannabis has a negative impact on Thai children, and it could lead to them consuming other drugs in the future.

Since its legalisation, VICE reported that more than 6,000 stores opened within a year.

Cholnan said the draft bill will go to cabinet for approval next month before heading to parliament to be passed before the end of 2024.

The new regulations are expected to take effect by end-2024.

A previous bill attempting to regulate the use of cannabis was not passed in parliament before the Thai general elections in May 2023.

Impact of the new regulations

The draft law will restrict growing of cannabis, and permission will be required from the government.

Cannabis cultivation for medical and health purposes will be supported, said Cholnan.

Cannabis shops that operate illegally will not be allowed to continue, Cholnan said, adding that the number of legally registered shops is at 20,000.

Cholnan also said home-grown cannabis will be discouraged.

Under the draft law, those found using cannabis recreationally will be given a fine of up to 60,000 baht (S$2,200).

Those selling cannabis for recreational purposes and participating in advertisement or marketing of buds, resin, extract or smoking devices may face jail terms of up to a year, a fine of up to 100,000 baht ($3,700), or both.

Tougher punishment will also be meted out for cannabis farming without a license. Offenders may be given jail terms from one to three years and fines from 20,000 baht (S$700) to 300,000 baht (S$11,200).

Permits will also be required for the import, export, cultivation and commercial use of cannabis.

Cholnan said the government will give businesses time to adjust to the new regulation, and that shops could operate until their licenses expire and convert to legal cannabis clinics if they follow the new regulations.

He also said the new regulation will have no impact on tourism.

Top photo taken in Bangkok by Mothership