Thailand heads to the polls with burning cannabis issue hanging in the balance
Lawmakers are divided, with some saying the bill would not prevent the recreational use of cannabis and others calling for the plant to be listed as a narcotic again. With Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha planning to dissolve parliament next month ahead of elections scheduled for May, the fate of the bill will depend on the next government.
Thailand's parliament is running out of time to pass a long-awaited bill to regulate cannabis use. Lawmakers remained divided on key provisions of the legislation, leaving the country's booming sector in regulatory limbo.
The House of Representatives failed to complete the bill's second reading on Wednesday, the last session devoted to the controversial legislation before recess next week.
The delay was caused by some factions of lawmakers who argued that the bill lacked the teeth needed to prevent the recreational use of cannabis and called for the plant to be listed again. narcotics.
With Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha intending to dissolve parliament next month ahead of elections scheduled for May, the fate of the bill will depend on the next government. A bill must generally be adopted by a majority of deputies in three readings, before being submitted to the approval of the Senate to become a law.
La Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis last year by removing the plant from the list of narcotics, but has since struggled to prevent its recreational use and the proliferation of dispensaries selling everything from cookies to cosmetics mixed with its extracts.
Growing concerns about the impact of legalization on young people have also threatened to set back an industry estimated to be worth more than $2025 billion by XNUMX.
Cannabis liberalization has divided Thailand's political parties, with the Bhumjaithai party, led by Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, seen as a big beneficiary after spearheading the widespread use and cultivation of cannabis. the plant by households.
Many opposition parties and the Democratic Party, a member of the ruling coalition, want to reverse this decriminalization.
“It is clear that the bill will not pass during this session. We will resubmit the cannabis bill to the next parliament,” said declared Supachai Jaisamut, a Bhumjaithai Party legislator. "People who don't want cannabis to be criminalized again should vote for Bhumjaithai."
The government has repeatedly said the June decriminalization is aimed at medical and commercial use of marijuana rather than recreational use, although the bill does not explicitly ban recreational smoking.
According to Mr. Supachai, the rules relating to cannabis issued by the Ministry of Health are sufficient for the moment to control the sector. These rules include restrictions on unpleasant odors in public, sale to pregnant women or people under 20, and commercial advertising.