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Leaving Recreational Use Behind: Drafting New Policy For Cannabis Legalization in Thailand

7 Mins read

Introduction

The last 10 months have been a national test-case for default legalization of weed with no written and approved regulations. Ad hoc policy fills the void right now and has done for the past 10 months or so. With elections in May, the opposition accuses the health minister of allowing “recreational use” when he promised that his policies would only make “medical use” legal. So far, most pro-cannabis politicians are arguing within the same framework.

Thailand has legalized cannabis for medical purposes. The country is considering how to regulate the plant now that it has been taken off Thailand’s list of narcotics. The discussion has centered around the expansion of the legalization regime to include recreational use. Yet very few bother to ask what the difference between recreational and medical actually comes to in real life.

Ten Reasons “Recreational Use” Makes No Sense

  1. The distinction between recreational and medical use of cannabis is often blurry, with many people using it for multiple purposes or even as a preventative measure.
  2. The concept of “recreation” implies that cannabis use is solely for pleasure or entertainment, but many people use it for pain relief, anxiety, and other medical reasons.
  3. The use of cannabis for spiritual or creative purposes is also often overlooked or dismissed as recreational, when it may have significant personal, cultural or religious value.
  4. The line between responsible and irresponsible use of cannabis is not based on the reason for its use (recreational or medical), but rather on the behavior of the individual using it.
  5. The term “recreational” can also carry negative connotations and imply a lack of responsibility or seriousness towards cannabis use, which can contribute to harmful attitudes and behaviors.
  6. The entourage effect, which suggests that the various compounds in cannabis work together synergistically, supports the idea of using the whole plant rather than isolating specific compounds for “recreational” or “medical” use.
  7. The global trend toward cannabis legalization has been driven largely by the economic potential of the industry, rather than any clear distinction between recreational and medicinal use.
  8. The traditional use of cannabis in Thai medicine highlights the cultural value of the plant beyond any legalistic or medical distinctions.
  9. A focus on responsible use and harm reduction, rather than arbitrary distinctions between recreational and medicinal use, would better serve public health and safety.
  10. The increasing acceptance of cannabis as a legitimate form of medicine further undermines the idea of recreational use as a distinct category.

Rationale

Rather than argue about the safety of expanding legalization to include recreational, pro-cannabis decision-makers should advocate expanding medical use to include activities and pastimes that are typically excluded within traditional Western medical/pharma frameworks.

The recreational/medical use distinction is an arbitrary distinction that obscures the true nature of cannabis use. Instead, we propose that Thailand adopt a use/abuse distinction, where the responsible use of cannabis is the responsibility of the adult who purchases it.

The recreational/medical use distinction is an artificial legal construct that lacks a sound scientific basis. This distinction has led to legal confusion and contradictions, and has made it difficult for researchers and policymakers to fully understand the benefits and risks of cannabis use.

Recreational use of cannabis is often described as a legal and harmless way for adults to relax and have fun. However, this description falls apart under closer examination. The concept of “recreation” implies that cannabis is being used purely for pleasure or entertainment, but this is not necessarily the case.

Many people use cannabis for a variety of reasons beyond simply having fun. Some use it for pain relief, others for anxiety or depression, and still others for spiritual or creative purposes. Additionally, the line between “recreational” and “medical” use can be blurry or nonexistent. What one person may consider “recreational” use, another may view as a necessary part of his/her medical treatment.

The term “recreational” implies a lack of responsibility or seriousness towards cannabis use. This is a dangerous and false assumption. Whether someone is using cannabis for pleasure or for medical reasons, they have a responsibility to use it safely and responsibly.

The distinction between “recreational” and “medical” use of cannabis is confusing and ultimately meaningless. Cannabis use should be seen as a personal choice that carries responsibilities and potential risks, regardless of the reason for its use.

One approach that Thailand could take is to combine its cultural heritage of traditional medicine with modern scientific research to develop novel cannabis-based therapies. By investing in research and development of cannabis-based medicine, Thailand could create a new industry that capitalizes on the country’s expertise in traditional medicine.

Thailand could also position itself as a leader in the development of personalized cannabis-based medicine. Recent research has shown that cannabis can have different effects on different individuals, depending on a variety of factors such as genetics, age, and sex. By leveraging the country’s expertise in traditional medicine, Thailand could develop personalized cannabis-based therapies that are tailored to the individual needs of patients.

In addition to the potential benefits for patients, the legalization of over-the-counter medical cannabis could also have significant economic benefits for Thailand. The global market for medical cannabis is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years, with some estimates predicting that it could reach $50 billion by 2025. By legalizing medical cannabis and investing in research and development, Thailand could position itself to capture a significant share of this market.

The recreational/medical use has been created by Western legalistic solutions to the challenge of legalization, and does not necessarily reflect the needs and values of the people who want to use it. In contrast, traditional Thai medicine has long recognized the benefits of cannabis for a range of health issues, and we should look to this tradition to inform our policy decisions.

The use/abuse distinction recognizes that the responsible use of cannabis is a personal responsibility of adults, and that the risks associated with cannabis use are related to the amount, frequency, and method of use, rather than the reason for use.

Proposal

We propose that Thailand adopt the following policy changes:

  1. Replace the recreational/medical use distinction with a use/abuse distinction.
  2. Make cannabis legally available to all adults who are able to take personal responsibility for their use of the drug.
  3. Encourage responsible use of cannabis by creating educational content and investing in scientific research to provide accurate information about the medicinal properties of cannabis as well as its risks.
  4. Implement regulations to prevent the abuse of cannabis, such as restrictions on advertising, age limits, and quality control standards.
  5. Explore the economic benefits of cannabis legalization, including the creation of new jobs and revenue streams for the government.
  6. Legalize over-the-counter sales of dried flowers by licensed dispensaries and reject all attempts to make cannabis inaccessible to the general, adult, non-pregnant public.
  7. Expand employment and visibility of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine Practitioners across the Thai cannabis industry, providing education, guidance and care to all cannabis consumers.

“Recreational Use” Is Of No Use: Keeping Legal Weed Legal

The recreational/medical use distinction is an artificial legal construct that lacks a sound scientific basis. This distinction has led to legal confusion and contradictions, making it difficult for researchers and policymakers to fully understand the benefits and risks of cannabis use.

The distinction between “recreational” and “medical” use of cannabis is illogical and ultimately meaningless. Cannabis use should be seen as a personal choice that carries responsibilities and potential risks, regardless of the reason for its use.

One approach that Thailand could take is to combine its cultural heritage of traditional medicine with modern scientific research to develop novel cannabis-based therapies. By investing in research and development of cannabis-based medicine, Thailand could create a new industry that capitalizes on the country’s expertise in traditional medicine.

Thailand could also position itself as a leader in the development of personalized cannabis-based medicine. Recent research has shown that cannabis can have different effects on different individuals, depending on a variety of factors such as genetics, age, and sex. By leveraging the country’s expertise in traditional medicine, Thailand could develop personalized cannabis-based therapies that are tailored to the individual needs of patients.

This role is already played by Thai traditional medicine practitioners, who are happy to develop such therapies that include the full spectrum of cannabis products, including dried flower.

In addition to the potential benefits for patients, the legalization of over-the-counter medical cannabis could also have massive economic benefits for Thailand. The global market for medical cannabis is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years, with some estimates predicting that it could reach $50 billion by 2025.

By legalizing medical cannabis and investing in research and development, Thailand could position itself to capture a significant share of this market.

The recreational/medical use dichotomy has been created by Western lawyers as clever moves to overcome obstacles along the way to real legalization. The “either recreation/ or medical” cannabis binary fails to reflect the needs and values of the people who want to use it. In contrast, Thai traditional medicine has long recognized the benefits of cannabis for a range of health issues, and we should look to this tradition to inform our policy decisions.

The use/abuse distinction recognizes that the risks associated with cannabis use are related to the amount, frequency, and method of use, rather than the reason for use.

Objections

1.  “Thai traditional medicine does not include or justify the recreational use of cannabis. Rather, it advocates using non-psychotropic cannabis only; no ingredients recommended by Thai traditional medicine contain THC beyond trace levels.”

Traditional Thai medicine includes all parts of the cannabis plant in its remedies, and smoking dried flowers, though not central to cannabis therapies, is advised in many cases. Evidence of smoking being recommended by Thai traditional medicine practitioners can be found in texts dating back at least 500 years. On the other hand, “Recreational use” is a term first used in 1967.

Taking THC out of traditional Thai medicine to support a Western distinction between medical and recreational use would mean erasing over a thousand years of Thai tradition in order to comply with a dichotomy that Western lawyers pulled from thin air roughly 55 years ago.

2.  “Legalizing cannabis for recreational use will lead to increased drug abuse.”

While it is true that some people may abuse cannabis, this risk can be mitigated by providing accurate information and education about responsible use. Moreover, the use/abuse distinction acknowledges that the responsibility for responsible use lies with the individual, not the government.

3.  “Cannabis is a gateway drug to harder drugs.”

This claim is not supported by scientific evidence; rather, it is based on a flawed understanding of the causes of drug abuse.

4.  “Legalizing cannabis for recreational use will undermine public health and safety.”

This claim is also not supported by evidence, and ignores the potential benefits of legalizing cannabis, including reducing the harms associated with black market sales.

By rejecting the recreational/medical use distinction in favor of a use/abuse distinction, Thailand can create a more sensible and effective legal framework for cannabis use – a Cannabis Act grounded in the traditional values of Thai medicine. Finally, deciding not to refer to “recreational use” at all would show respect for the sovereignty of the individual and recognize their personal responsibility to use cannabis like grown-ups.

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About author
I write the # 1 Newsletter for cannabis in Thailand. I call it Cannabis in Thailand. http://carlklinn.substack.com. I'm crazy about Cannabis Policy Analysis, Weed Business, Popular Cannabis Science, Thai Cannabis Culture & Cannabis Tourism. Live in Phuket Thailand.
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