The Thai government has proposed a new Bill that seeks to end the legal vacuum created after the country became the first in Asia to decriminalise cannabis. The Bill proposes a complete ban on the recreational use of cannabis and hefty penalties for offenders. The draft legislation, which was published by the Health Ministry on January 9th, stipulates that the smoking of marijuana and its use in any other form for recreational purposes will be prohibited. The use of cannabis plant or its products will be limited to medical and health purposes only.

This new Bill is the latest attempt by the Thai authorities to regulate the cannabis industry after an earlier Bill failed to win Parliament backing. The proposed legislation also meets the election pledge of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to restrict the use of marijuana to medical purposes due to concerns over addiction.

Under the proposed Bill, anyone found smoking cannabis for recreational purposes will face a fine of up to 60,000 baht (S$2,284). Those found selling cannabis or its extracts for recreational purposes may face up to one year in jail or 100,000 baht in fines, or both.

The cannabis industry in Thailand has been operating in a grey area, as the plant was decriminalised in 2022 before lawmakers could agree on how to regulate the industry. The proposed Bill seeks to provide a clear legal framework for the industry and to ensure that cannabis is used only for medical and health purposes.

The new legislation is expected to face some opposition from cannabis users and industry players who argue that the recreational use of cannabis should be allowed. However, the Thai government is determined to restrict the use of marijuana to medical purposes only, in line with its commitment to promoting public health and safety. The proposed Bill is expected to be debated in Parliament soon, and its fate remains to be seen.

The widespread availability of cannabis products in Thailand has been facilitated by a regulatory vacuum that has allowed thousands of dispensaries to pop up all over the country. These dispensaries offer a range of products, from cannabis buds to oil extracts that contain less than 0.2 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that gives users a "high" sensation.

However, the Thai government is now taking steps to regulate the cannabis industry. Under proposed new rules, advertising and marketing campaigns for cannabis buds, extracts, and smoking devices will be prohibited. The government also plans to tighten licensing rules for cannabis planting, sales, exports, and imports.

One area where the government is taking a particularly hard line is driving under the influence of cannabis. The proposed rules make it clear that this behavior is punishable by a fine of up to 20,000 baht or one year in jail.

Despite the crackdown, the government is not moving to reclassify cannabis as a narcotic again. This would have entailed longer jail terms and higher fines, but the government seems to recognize that cannabis has some medicinal value and can be used responsibly.

The new rules will require cannabis growers to apply for a license within 60 days of the rules taking effect. Existing dispensaries will be allowed to continue operating until they renew their permits. The government is also soliciting feedback from the public and industry stakeholders on the proposed rules, with a deadline of January 23.

It remains to be seen whether the health ministry will make any changes to the proposed rules before submitting them to the Cabinet for approval. However, it is clear that the government is taking a more proactive approach to regulating the cannabis industry, which could have significant implications for businesses and consumers alike.