Cannabis divide deepens ahead of General Election in Thailand

Picture courtesy of @backpacklife.

The future of marijuana in Thailand may become uncertain as political parties contesting in the upcoming national election call for the repeal of cannabis decriminalisation, which has been in effect for approximately one year. Pheu Thai Party‘s Paetongtarn Shinawatra, a prime ministerial candidate, has voiced her concerns about liberalised cannabis at a recent rally, stating the need to suppress drugs.

The legal vacuum that emerged from decriminalisation has caused frustration among politicians and citizens alike, as the new industry was introduced before lawmakers could assess and pass regulations for its control. Some lawmakers believe the legislation proposed to restrict the broader use of the drug does not sufficiently limit recreational use.

As regulations remain minimal, Thailand’s cannabis industry has experienced rapid growth, with projections estimating the market to reach a value of US$1 billion by 2025, according to the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce. The outcome of the weekend vote has left those involved in the cannabis supply chain uncertain of their futures.

Many growers, including 60 year old Olarn Youkanchanaset, are anxious about their investments in the cannabis industry if the policy were to become threatened once more by political parties seeking to re-list the drug as a narcotic. This has led to many farmers, who only recently gained a new source of income, fearing the loss of cannabis as a viable means of sustaining their livelihoods.

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Farmers can earn approximately 500,000 baht per harvest of cannabis buds on 0.4 acres of land, as opposed to only 8,000 baht for rice on the same amount of land, according to Siwasan Khobjaiklang.

The 41 year old leader of a Buriram-based farming network has stated that his dream for Thailand is to develop a comprehensive cannabis law that allows for regulation and lucrative export opportunities.

The Bhumjaithai Party, which facilitated the decriminalisation of cannabis, hopes to continue pushing for policy regulations in Thailand’s cannabis industry. However, Kajkanit Sakdisubha, founder of a company purchasing marijuana from local growers, expresses that if the current policies get reversed, many individuals might have to rethink their careers and businesses in cannabis farming and distribution.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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