Thai Lawmakers Withdraw Bill to Regulate Cannabis

The southeast Asian country continues to grapple with fallout from its new weed law.

A proposed bill that would have brought greater regulation to cannabis use in the country was withdrawn by lawmakers in Thailand on Wednesday, the latest attempt by the government to get a handle on a burgeoning marijuana industry.

Bloomberg reports that lawmakers “in the House of Representatives voted 198 to 136 to pull the bill and send it back to the drafting committee for further revision late on Wednesday.”

The bill “passed the first reading in June and was designed to give the government more control over the industry,” and “may now be reintroduced in November,” according to Bloomberg.

“The bill doesn’t control cannabis but even promotes it, leaving room for its use to stray from medical to extremely recreational,” said Thai lawmaker Sutin Klangsang, as quoted by Bloomberg. “We’re afraid that children and people will smoke it and become addicted.”

The proposed bill follows the Thai government’s decision in June to decriminalize marijuana, which made it the first country in Asia to do so.

The new policy has led to the opening of several cannabis cafes in the country’s capital city, Bangkok, much to the dismay of government officials there.

Last month, Thailand’s health minister Anutin Charnvirakul issued a blunt message to would-be tourists looking to visit the country for an easy toke.

“We don’t welcome those kinds of tourists,” Anutin told reporters at the time.

The new decriminalization law removed cannabis from the country’s list of banned substances, but officials such as Anutin insisted at the time that it should not be construed as the legalization of recreational pot use.

“It’s a no,” Anutin said in June. “We still have regulations under the law that control the consumption, smoking or use of cannabis products in non-productive ways.”

“We [have always] emphasized using cannabis extractions and raw materials for medical purposes and for health,” Anutin continued. “There has never once been a moment that we would think about advocating people to use cannabis in terms of recreation — or use it in a way that it could irritate others.”

He added: “Thailand will promote cannabis policies for medical purposes. If [tourists] come for medical treatment or come for health-related products then it’s not an issue but if you think that you want to come to Thailand just because you heard that cannabis or marijuana is legal … [or] come to Thailand to smoke joints freely, that’s wrong. Don’t come. We won’t welcome you if you just come to this country for that purpose.”

But perhaps not surprisingly, that is exactly what has happened in the months following the enactment of the new law.

Reuters reported last month that the new measure “has led to an explosion in its recreational use,” even though “that government officials – concerned about negative effects on health and productivity often linked to uncontrolled use of the drug – have retro[s]pectively tried to discourage.”

That set the stage for members of parliament to get their arms around the new law this week.

Bloomberg has more details on the bill that fizzled out on Wednesday: “The parties opposed to the cannabis bill in its current form have threatened to vote against the legislation unless the revised version clamped down on recreational smoking. They are also against a clause that allows households to register and grow up to 15 cannabis plants. The opposition to the bill was also seen as a political tussle ahead of a general election due to be called by March. The passing of the bill would hand a fresh victory to Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul’s Bhumjaithai Party, which led the drafting of the bill and spearheaded cannabis liberalization as part of its campaign promises during the 2019 general election.”

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