Inside Thailand’s Sudden Marijuana Reversal

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Two years ago, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to decriminalize marijuana in order to bolster tourism in the country. The results were swift, with weed cafes sprouting up all over Bangkok and the notorious smell of the plant becoming inescapable.

But the backlash was just as swift, and now polls are showing that 75% of Thais support the recriminalizing of marijuana. So that’s exactly what the government under the new Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, is doing. He announced earlier in the month that marijuana will soon be listed as an illegal narcotic that is limited to medical purposes.

Thailand has been an anomaly in Southeast Asia, with Indonesia and Singapore having laws so strict that some marijuana charges result in the death penalty. In 2019, Thailand first allowed medicinal marijuana and separated itself in the region.

The reasons were the same as those found in the US: money. The industry had an estimated potential of $1.2 billion by 2025, which was nothing to sneeze at. That, and the overcrowding of its jails (75% of inmates being incarcerated for drug charges), was enough to consider drastic changes, leading to decriminalization in 2022.

Now, with about 8,000 dispensaries across the country and a spike in marijuana usage (25% of 18 to 65 year-olds having smoked marijuana since decriminalization from 2.2% in 2019), many in country clearly feel that they’ve gone too far. Ideally there’s a middle ground between free-for-all and full-on criminalization, but unfortunately it seems the government plans to go back to square one, meaning possession of weed could result in up 15 years in jail.

If only backlashes were a little more reasonably thought through.

Read the full story at Bangkok Post.

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