Changes In Regulations
If you shake an old, dying stigma long and hard enough you can apparently wake it up with renewed energy. Cannabis is being re-stigmatized and demonized by several Thai politicians to scare voters who are unfamiliar with the plant.
Rather than get tangled in the weeds of Thai politics, I want to focus on what is happening now with cannabis and the May elections. As of this writing, law enforcement are rather casually shutting down unlicensed dispensaries here and there. The authorities have plans for more serious assertions of their power once the elections over and the Cannabis Act is passed.
This is what waiting for regulations after decriminalization looks like: Right now, smart cannabis money is scrambling to comply with the regulations they think are most likely to be put in place. If their guesses are right, they will be able to continue providing product and services with no extra sweat. They will be confident that they are following best practices and ready to welcome any law enforcement reps and show them around.
To be sure, there is confusion when you go about it this way, that is, when the Health Ministry decriminalizes before it regulates. Yet the inevitable unanswered questions don’t seem to bother people that much. No one is getting into trouble with the law. You need a license to run a dispensary of course. A few other common sense rules. Okay.
Employment spikes. Hugely successful dispensaries record impressive profits. Cultivation innovation and plant quality skyrocket. And, much to the chagrin of news outlets, everything is pretty amazing.
Virtually all higher-end, well appointed dispensaries are licensed and business is booming. Even today, well into low season, my local dispensary was packed at 4 PM.
Prices have come down since decriminalization on June 9th 2023. The more alert dispensaries offer weekly specials and by this-get-that-free specials along with their regularly priced strains. The end of the high season throngs of tourists (that broke records this year) will be enough to take many of the fly-by-nights under. That’s good news for the stability of legal cannabis in Thailand.
The bad news for those who play by the rules is that many politicians feel that stoking anti-cannabis fear will score them a few points. Old stigmas die hard, especially when they can be reanimated by amoral politicians hungry for votes at the margins.
The opposition promises to return cannabis to the “narcotics” list and ramp up new and, one would assume, kinder jail mandates for cannabis possession. These politicians do not like the current Health Minister of Thailand nor the party he leads — the one and only party that features legal cannabis as a primary piece of its platform.
Current Health Minister of Thailand: Bold Friend of Cannabis
Health Minister Anutin remains committed to legal weed in Thailand and insists a cannabis bill will be passed after the election in May.
Few predict a win for the opposition; still, their non-evidence-based insistence that cannabis has “deadly effects” and constitutes “social harm” and “child endangerment” will surely spread neurotic fear. If capitalized, propaganda always works. At least a bit.
“Pot Party” Quotes I Like
The following quotes are subtle. Can you catch what’s going on?
““The party only supports the use of cannabis for medical purposes,” spokesperson Trichada Sritada told Reuters.”
““If there is a cannabis law, we can regulate it 100%,” he said. “But with what we have, we can already regulate it 70%.””
(Again, the same spokesperson.)
The remark suggests what those familiar with this plant already know: Any regulation against cannabis — beyond common sense precautions — is, at very least, a waste of time and money. The punishment of human beings for possession of cannabis is dark and depraved. The kind of practice that shames us all, just for living at the same time the practice is legal and widespread. Stigmas can stick and have terrible consequences well into the age of legal reform.
Everything is not relative; one government is not just as bad as the next. Thailand released 4,000 cannabis prisoners on the day of decriminalization in 2022. It did not take years. They just released them. Compare that to Singapore’s treatment of human beings in possession of cannabis. Thailand has an unassailable claim to moral high ground here. One country releases prisoners without qualification; the other hangs them by a rope until dead.
As we’ve seen in North America, fear surrounding legal cannabis can be reality based. If the government insists on a blank check to regulate the industry, and lots of them don’t like that industry, everyone walks with fear and trembling.
Questions and Answers About Cannabis Regulations in Thailand
Q: Will any dispensary without a Thai traditional medicine practitioner on staff be in trouble?
A: That very well may be the case.
Q: Will possession of weed become a serious crime again?
A: Not in a million years.
Q: No one needs a prescription to buy weed in Thailand right now? Will you need a prescription to buy weed by Summer?
A: Possibly. The probability that prescriptions may be required is much higher than that of possession being anything other than 100% legal (with common sense exceptions).
Q: Will edibles be illegal?
A: They already are, assuming they contain more than a trace of THC.
Anutin and his party should remind voters that Thai tradition teaches that all weed is medicine and that the real problem is a far too narrow, technocratic, legalistic understanding of medicine.