What are they smoking? More tweaks to cannabis rules

Small changes to the rules on the sale and use of cannabis have been made in the face of intense lobbying from vested interests about recreational marijuana use.

In June, Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalise the use of cannabis, while introducing legal controls including banning sales to people under the age of 20.

Cannabis liberalisation was the flagship policy of the Bhumjaithai Party led by Anutin Charnvirakul, minister of public health. However, in a legal vacuum, the recreational use of marijuana has skyrocketed in just a few months. Why this should be a problem has never been made clear.

Anutin insists that recreational use was never his goal, and declared that tourists who come to Thailand to get high should think again, without saying why.

Revised rules announced Friday by the Ministry of Public Health say that only cannabis buds, which contain the main concentrations of TCH, the substance that provides the pleasant, relaxed states that users seek, should be controlled.

Licensed businesses must also report to the government the amount of stock they hold and details of sourcing and use. It is not clear yet how this might affect the many cafes that have opened, especially in Bangkok and some tourist spots, selling weed and joints to responsible adults.

The previous version of the rule listed the whole plant as controlled, which made it difficult to be used for commercial purposes by big business, according to the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine.

Sales to students or through vending machines or online channels are now prohibited, as is commercial advertising

The government has repeatedly frowned upon recreational use though it always stopped short of an explicit ban. Extracts that contain more than 0.2% THC, remain illegal. The Move Forward Party (MFP) on Thursday petitioned for an injunction to suspend the ministerial announcement removing cannabis from the list of narcotic drugs, pending a law that pleases the party’s paymasters.

The Cannabis Bill, which passed its first reading in June, was withdrawn from a parliamentary session in September. The bill is expected to be reintroduced for parliamentary debate this month.

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Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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