BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thailand’s prime minister said Friday he was against the recreational use of cannabis, widely available in the kingdom following its controversial decriminalisation last year.
The country removed parts of the marijuana plant from its narcotics list in June 2022 under the former coalition government, fulfilling a longtime pledge of the Bhumjaithai party.
The move — unprecedented in a nation infamous for its tough drug laws — prompted hundreds of cannabis dispensaries to sprout in the capital Bangkok, provoking a furious reaction from critics who urged the need for tighter legislation.
“I don’t support the recreational use of cannabis… only its use for medicinal purposes,” Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told local media Friday.
“If this problem spreads in society, it may cause wider narcotic drug problems,” he said in an interview with Thai outlet The Standard.
But he reiterated the importance of compromising with his Pheu Thai party’s former rivals to find a “middle ground” for the benefit of the people.
Bhumjaithai is among the larger parties in Srettha’s sprawling coalition government, which took power last month after a summer of political deadlock following May’s election.
Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul said prior to the coalition deal that he would continue to push for pro-cannabis laws in parliament.
But he has maintained that decriminalisation should only allow for medicinal use and consumer goods.
Srettha also voiced his opposition to the recreational use of the drug during his election campaign.
Marijuana’s decriminalisation was touted as a lucrative move for the tourism-heavy economy badly dented by the pandemic, with the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce predicting last year the market may be worth US$1.2 billion by 2025.
Critics, as well as some dispensary owners, have said further legislation on the drug’s use and sale is needed.
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