Thailand further decriminalizes non-recreational cannabis use

Kyodo News

Posted at Jun 09 2022 02:30 PM

Thai students prune cultivated marijuana plants inside a greenhouse as part of the country's first 'Cannabis Knowledge Management' education program at Rangsit University in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 10, 2022. Rungroj Yongrit, EPA-EFE
Thai students prune cultivated marijuana plants inside a greenhouse as part of the country's first "Cannabis Knowledge Management" education program at Rangsit University in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 10, 2022. Rungroj Yongrit, EPA-EFE

BANGKOK — Thailand further decriminalized the cultivation and use of cannabis for non-recreational purposes Thursday as it sought to encourage the production of medicines and foods made with cannabis extracts.

Cannabis businesses and farms welcomed the move, which saw the government remove the hemp plant from the country's narcotics list. But some experts also warned that medical use of cannabis without a doctor's supervision could cause harmful effects.

While restrictions on production and possession of the plant have been gradually eased since 2019, Thursday's deregulation permits the public to grow cannabis at home for personal non-recreational use and paves the way for boosting the production of foods, beverages and cosmetics containing cannabis extracts, the Public Health Ministry has said.

Known for pain relief efficacy, cannabis extracts are believed also to have calming, anti-inflammation and appetite stimulation effects, and the plant is used not only for medicine but also for foods and beverages including tea as well as skincare products in Thailand.

Most of the restrictions on cannabis were lifted Thursday, but usage for recreational purposes is still banned along with the use of plant extracts that contain more than 0.2 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive substance.

The country's parliament is currently discussing the revision of a law on cannabis use as well as guidelines to prevent the abuse of drugs made from the plant.

To promote the production of cannabis goods with high economic value, public health authorities will start distributing 1 million cannabis plants for free to those who registered with the authorities as applicants later this week.

"There will be no monopolization" of cannabis, public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul said in a social media post last month, adding that anyone who wants to start a business related to the plant will be encouraged to do so.

Thailand was among the first countries in Southeast Asia to start decriminalizing cannabis, according to local media reports.

Jomkwan Nirandorn, vice president of Ruk Jung Farm in Nakhon Ratchasima, northeastern Thailand, said that her family's cannabis farm, now in its third year, has around 3,800 plants in 12 greenhouses.

Jomkwan said that she wants Thailand to be famous for cannabis and expects the country to be Asia's top exporter of the plant.

Amid the government's efforts to deregulate cannabis usage, many doctors, on the other hand, are concerned that people could suffer harmful effects if they use products made from the plant as painkillers, sleeping pills, anti-inflammation drugs or for anxiety disorder with their own judgement.

"Cannabis usage has to be done with proper knowledge," said Summon Chomchai, associate professor at the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at Mahidol University.

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