Thailand’s Minister of Public Health aims to shut down pot shops, reclassifying flowers and buds as Category 5 narcotics. Medical experts condemn previous cannabis policy, citing a surge in psychiatric cases. New stricter medical cannabis regime proposed.

As the Minister of Public Health moves towards a resolution to the various issues, it appears that the pot shops are doomed. A grace period will certainly be given while flowers and buds will be rescheduled as Category 5 narcotics. At the same time, a new effective regime for private cannabis medical use will be established. It comes with strong inputs over the last 10 days from the medical establishment. In short, it has castigated the previous government for its actions. Significantly, a submission by 63 respected and named doctors claims that psychiatric treatment linked to cannabis has subsequently exploded. In addition, the President of the Medical Association of Thailand described the current situation as a ‘mess’ with pot shops on every corner.

Smith Srisont, the President of the Medical Association of Thailand, is one of hundreds of doctors within the medical establishment who have opposed the liberalisation of marijuana since 2022. On May 13th, 63 leading Thai doctors made a detailed submission to the government in support of plans to recriminalise marijuana as a drug. Dr Srisont squarely blames the previous government for what he describes as a ‘mess’ with pot shops on every corner. At the same time, the opposing doctors cite strong medical grounds.

Minister of Public Health Somsak Thepsutin has come forward with an outline of what the government may do about the country’s cannabis conundrum.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin ordered the drug to be reclassified as a scheduled narcotic.

Afterwards, the move has been met with howls of protest from both the cannabis lobby and business concerns, in addition to liberal elements across Thailand’s media firmament.

Nearly 76% of Thai people support the government’s plan to again outlaw pot as a scheduled narcotic in respect of recreational use of the flower and buds

Nonetheless, the policy announced by the PM is supported by nearly 76% of the Thai people. A National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) poll with a large sample was conducted from May 14th to 16th. 

The results released on May 19th are emphatic. Indeed, polling experts suggest it is at least 97% accurate. Similarly, the polling firm accurately predicted the results of the May 2023 General Election in the kingdom.

On Thursday, Mr Somsak outlined a permit system to allow members of the public to domestically grow certain cannabis elements for medical use. 

Jail time to return for Cannabis players as Srettha describes the trade as a threat to the country and economic negative
The hard science is in. Regular potent Cannabis use is a danger to mental health. Bad news for the pot shops

At length, the scheme he proposed would be simple to implement. It will be enclosed in a comprehensive cannabis bill to be passed by parliament. 

The new bill will be passed in conjunction with the recriminalisation of special elements of the cannabis plant. In effect, buds and flowers are the basis of the country’s myriad of cannabis shops and dispensaries.

Cannabis or pot revolution saw an explosion of pot shops retailing the drug as an intoxicant for recreational use, nothing to do with medical health at all

Since the drug was decriminalised in June 2022 when it was removed by then-Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul as a narcotic, there has been a revolution. In short, estimates of the number of outlets dotted around Thailand range from 7,000 to 12,000.

Proponents of this new recreational cannabis industry appear to justify the new environment on the commercial potential of the industry. Thai weed was estimated to be worth $1.25 billion by 2025.

Nonetheless, the Thai public’s revulsion of the current predicament is certain. In addition, the country’s medical establishment has come out unequivocally against the drug.

For instance, on May 13th, 63 identified doctors and medical experts submitted a detailed submission to the government. In short, they called on the minister to expedite the recriminalisation of what they have concluded is a dangerous drug which is presently being used in a widespread manner as a recreational intoxicant.

Questions over why the drug was delisted before a cannabis bill was enacted in parliament. Presently this is seen as the root of the problem that exists

The basis of their call to the government is clear and damning. 

The medical practitioners, in brief, noted that cannabis was removed from the schedule on June 9th, 2022. In effect, it meant police enforcement became impossible overnight. Certainly, it even saw pending legal cases purged and previously convicted offenders released from prison.

Overall, this happened without the promised regulatory law being in place.

In early 2022, this was what was agreed upon by the then-Thai cabinet.

Afterwards, parties within that government besides the Bhumjaithai Party were dismayed. Certainly, this was because of the results of deregulation and the liberal law which was then promulgated. 

For instance, in August 2022, it was accepted that the law before parliament provided for the later recreational use of cannabis. 

Questions asked of the previous government and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin over the chaotic liberalisation that came into force in June 2022 without a law

At that time, Mr Anutin famously warned people that they would have to change their attitude towards the drug.

Notwithstanding this, Mr Anutin’s Bhumjaithai Party saw cannabis liberalisation as a vote winner. It certainly was not. The party only polled something like 3% of the popular vote in the 2023 General Election.

Despite this, however, they returned with substantially more seats due to constituency dynamics.

Recreational cannabis use can be legalised under the current law being passed through parliament 
Cannabis revolution targeted as MPs and public confront the Bhumjaithai Party’s populist gambit on pot 

The doctors in their submission concluded that this was a wrong and highly questionable approach.

63 fully identified doctors and medical practitioners made a detailed submission to the government. Opposed to ‘free cannabis,’ it makes disturbing claims

Consequently, this led to what the doctors have termed ‘free cannabis in a vacuum,’ which they claim has had disastrous implications.

The doctors noted the after-the-fact public control measures issued by the scrambling Ministry of Public Health. However, these were and continue to be difficult to enforce.

Therefore, they note, this has led to widespread cultivation of marijuana, its sale and consumption in Thailand.

In addition, the drug is openly advertised without controls. Essentially, this is the advertising of recreational marijuana use, not medical use.

Following this, the 63 medical experts working with Thailand’s hospitals and institutions, concurred that the number of psychiatric patients reported as needing treatment as a result of cannabis has skyrocketed.

Certainly, they pointed out that this has not been made public officially. At the same time, teachers and parents of children have been left appalled by the onslaught of cannabis culture throughout the country.

Making cannabis a scheduled drug again does not preclude medical use of the plant on a controlled basis under new legislation and a new permit system

The doctors furthermore noted that the rescheduling of cannabis as a narcotic does not preclude medical use of the drug. 

The same NIDA poll this month showed over 54% of Thai people agreed it had medical benefits.

However, significantly, over 34% questioned this. 

Notably, the same poll showed that only 31.07% of Thai adults had any experience of marijuana. In addition, only 34.68% of these smoked it, the majority having ingested it in food.

The doctors bluntly accused the previous government of courting popularity by liberalising the drug despite its harmful effects as a freely available intoxicant.

Questioned about the pro-cannabis lobby’s concerns for existing cannabis enterprises, there was little sympathy. In short, they should take responsibility for their actions.

The medical community agreed with Mr Somsak’s proposal, at this time, for a 3-6 month grace period until a new tighter regime is implemented. This, they argued, was sufficient relief for the commercial interests.

Scathing attack on 2022 marijuana free-for-all that emerged made by top doctors. They say the mental health of young people was sacrificed by the move

In a scathing commentary, they demanded that the government bear in mind the brain-damaged young people resulting from this debacle.

They underlined the importance of young people growing up in a responsible and safe environment.

Finally, the 63 doctors in their joint submission referred to Thailand’s United Nations commitments. In particular, the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Unquestionably, this restricts marijuana use to medical treatment.

The doctors warned that hostile actions may be taken against Thailand in respect of the availability of drugs for treatment as a consequence of this violation of the country’s duties to international solidarity.

In the last few days, these views have been amplified by an ardent critic of the 2022 liberalisation of marijuana. Smith Srisont is the President of the Medical Association of Thailand.

In summary, he notes that without scheduling cannabis or key parts of it as a narcotic again, no effective police action or control will be possible.

President of the Medical Association of Thailand says that it is now difficult to prosecute drivers on a marijuana high under the current regime in force

In particular, he raised a concern which was also articulated by the Royal Thai Police in 2022. This concerns enforcing the road traffic acts.

Presently, it is particularly difficult to prosecute a driver high on pot.

‘Or finally, if there is a Marijuana Act as a solution. It is still difficult to control, for example in traffic cases. Suppose you encounter a person who is drunk on marijuana and hits a car and dies. I’m trying to see if it’s against the law. It is difficult to a certain extent because the law does not define marijuana as a drug,’ he explained to Thai Rath recently.

The hard science is in. Regular potent Cannabis use is a danger to mental health. Bad news for the pot shops

In addition, he takes issue with the pro-cannabis lobby cloaking themselves in concern for the medical use of the drug.

Medical use of the drug is no problem, says top doctor. Significantly, he also counters the pot lobby’s claims of hyped media stories of adverse reactions

Certainly, these are two distinct things, and the medical use of cannabis by the public is perfectly feasible. Even while it is still outlawed as a scheduled narcotic.

This was the case before June 2022. However, new legislation can perfect this once the drug is rescheduled.

‘So even though marijuana will go back under drug laws, it can still be used for medical use and can be used 100% because before unlocking it was already used for medical use. But when unlocking it, it was clear that it was for recreation. At present, it should be used only for medical purposes,’ Dr Smith disclosed.

The medical establishment leader described the current situation as a ‘mess’ with pot shops on every street corner.

Asked about the pro-lobby claims that cannabis fear stories have been peddled, Dr Smith accepted that for many people, cannabis is perfectly safe.

However, for some, even a one-off exposure can trigger a psychiatric emergency. The data linking cannabis to mental health issues is incontrovertible.

In addition, for ongoing or later users, mental health impairment is linked to high dosage and regular usage.

Adverse mental reaction to cannabis is linked to genes

Dr Smith suggested there is some plausible evidence that it is linked to the person’s genes, as with all health issues.

‘Cannabis has a sedative effect. It has a hallucinogenic effect. This point is definitely there. I must say that it really depends on the person. Some people have been using it for 20-30 years and have had no symptoms. But some people use it once, until they have hallucinations and have to be sent for treatment. There is something like this.’

At the same time, he took issue with the pro-pot lobby’s claims on traditional Thai medicine. In short, the top doctor said this is all still possible. However, even traditional medicines are based on accepted and proven formulas.

Medical use of cannabis must certainly be based on genuine, proven formulas. Medical Association chief warns against exploratory testing of health treatments

Undoubtedly, they did not want to see a situation where people were free to experiment with unproven treatments.

He likened this to the phenomenon some time ago in rural Thailand where some quacks encouraged people to drink their own urine.

‘Simply put, if I say that villagers drink urine and it can cure disease. But there is no research to support it. Are you going to let the people use this?’ he asked.

The Medical Association of Thailand president asserted that perhaps legislation was required at the same time. Indeed, this is what Minister of Public Health Somsak Thepsutin is now proposing.

Dr Smith Srisont suggests that the current debacle has been caused by blatant miscommunication. 

In truth, a sustained rise in uncontrolled recreational use of pot dressed up as a medical and economic boon.

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Further reading:

The hard science is in. Regular potent Cannabis use is a danger to mental health. Bad news for the pot shops

Anutin accepts the PM’s line on Pot. He now calls for foreigners operating weed shops to be arrested by police

Cannabis shops to be closed by April 1st 2025 under firm order given by PM to again schedule the drug

Cannabis law emerges as a big political threat to the coalition judging by what happened in 2022 revolt

Jail time to return for Cannabis players as Srettha describes it as a threat to the country and economic negative

Marijuana industry faces disaster as Health Minister unveils law to outlaw recreational pot use in Thailand

Potent pot to be criminalised as the minister looks at ways to suppress recreational cannabis use

Two deaths linked with cannabis use and violent incidents reported in recent days by Thai police

Go easy on the growing cannabis industry says Anutin who concedes that Pita will be the next PM

Thai Marijuana tycoons ponder mixed messaging from the Move Forward-led coalition on the drug

Crackdown on crime wave against Chinese tourists in Bangkok as concerns also raised on cannabis

Cannabis remains illegal as ministers push through a law controlling its use by the public after decriminilisation