The future of Thailand’s cannabis industry is up in the air after a new legal challenge could bring everything to a screeching halt. In response, advocates in the country are mobilizing today in Bangkok to fight back.
An order, issued by Thailand’s Public Health Ministry, effectively removed cannabis from the country’s Category 5 narcotics list on June 9. Under those regulations, marijuana and hemp cultivation and commerce were legalized. Restaurants and cafes are permitted to sell foods and beverages infused with cannabis, but only if they contain no more than 0.2% THC. Products with higher concentrations of THC are permitted, but only for medicinal purposes.
Things didn’t go over well with the opposition, however, and Thailand’s cannabis industry was slammed for its lack of basic controls. The opposition argues that Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul caused social problems for the country and violated local and international laws by issuing the decriminalization order. In response to the growing criticism, the Public Health Ministry announced a new ministerial rule to better control the promotion and sale of cannabis flower, but the law has not yet taken effect.
The Central Administrative Court on Monday accepted a lawsuit spearheaded by Smith Srisont of Thailand’s Medical Council and MPs from opposition political parties who seek to revoke the decriminalization order. Srisont is a member of the Medical Council and president of the Forensic Physician Association of Thailand. His lawsuit names Charnvirakul and the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) as co-defendants.
The political parties opposed to cannabis include Move Forward, Pheu Thai, Thai Liberal, Thai People Power, and Prachachat parties.
Cannabis advocates in the area, however, aren’t going to accept the current legal challenge and are making efforts to have their voices heard.
Cannabis Advocates Fight Back
One of Thailand’s top cannabis advocates Chokwan “Kitty” Chopaka announced on Facebook that she and other dispensary owners would rally together at noon on November 22 at the Government House in Bangkok to protest against the lawsuit that could end everything.
“Dropping by different dispensaries around Sukhumvit to invite them to attend the protest tomorrow which went better than what I thought, I guess having your business threaten can make people quite active,” Chopaka posted on Facebook, translated from Thai.
“I apologize if I could not personally invite every dispensary, and I would like to take this time to invite all dispensaries to come out and protest against the Narcotics Control Board re-criminalizing cannabis again. Which means that all dispensaries may get shut down.”
“Those that do not want their businesses shut down. Those that do not want their investment disappeared. Those that do not want to hide their grow again. Those that want to sell cannabis legally. Those that do not want to go back to getting piss tested. Those that want to see cannabis stay legal, come and join us.”
ABC News reports that about 200 people showed up to the rally at the Government House in Bangkok. “We want to ensure that these politicians are not trying to put cannabis on the narcotics list again. If that happens, our fight for years will mean nothing,” Akradej Chakjinda, a coordinator of Cannakin, a network of cannabis decriminalization supporters, told The Associated Press.
A proposed bill, the Cannabis Act, would implement Anutin’s decriminalization policy, and will be introduced in Parliament on November 23.
Another advocate, Soranut “Beer” Masayavanich, owner of Sukhumweed dispensary, announced that another group will gather at the Ministry of Public Health to discuss the upcoming Cannabis Act with Charnvirakul.
“We aim to create mutual understanding on benefits that cannabis will bring,” Beer stated. “We insist that decriminalizing cannabis brings benefits to several sectors from tourism and economy to agriculture.”
Opposition leaders say that it is better to put cannabis back on the country’s banned narcotics list until the proper legislation is put into place.