While nearly every street corner in tourist areas of Thailand is selling cannabis legally now (a recent driver in Samui spotted nine shops in a two-block stretch), not everyone is in favour of it, especially politicians.
Politicians believe the rushed legalization and subsequent free-for-all is a strong talking point against the Bhumjaithai Party, who pushed for decriminalization. Now, the Democrat Party has launched its election campaign with a vow to reverse the blanket legalization of cannabis.
The hardline anti-cannabis party platform comes despite being a coalition partner of the Bhumjaithai Party in the 2019 election. According to Chanin Rungsaeng, assistant secretary-general of the Democrat Party, the decision to oppose the free sale of marijuana was made after carefully listening to public opinion.
“Children and youths can easily buy ganja to smoke. We don’t agree with the use of ganja for recreational purposes, which is now happening. We will switch off this channel by drafting a new law to control ganja sales. Sales will be allowed only with doctor’s prescriptions to protect children and ease the worries of parents.”
The Democrat Party supports the use of cannabis only for medical purposes and not for recreational purposes. Many – including Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul and the Bhumjaithai Party – have called for cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes, and claim they never intended to make smoking weed a leisure pastime, like drinking in a bar.
In June 2022, the Public Health Ministry, which was controlled by Bhumjaithai, removed hemp and cannabis from the narcotics list as per the party’s 2019 election pledge to decriminalise these plants. However, decriminalisation was done with no infrastructure in place and no regulations or restrictions.
What at first seemed like a major political win for the party later resulted in complaints from some parents and doctors about the widespread use of cannabis for recreational purposes. Now the proponents of legalised weed are being stymied in their attempts to add restrictions by hardliners who call for a complete criminalisation of cannabis, seeing the public backlash as a political advantage.
Due to the opposition from the Democrat Party, the bill proposed by Bhumjaithai to regulate the use of marijuana and hemp is likely to expire as the House’s term comes to a close next month.
While cannabis control was the attention-grabbing leg of the party’s platform, the Democrats are pushing other reforms to help communities.
They have called for the establishment of community banks with a 2-million-baht fund to offer low-interest loans for local small and medium-sized enterprises. The Democrats also pledge to convince food delivery platforms to lower their cut on sales to 20% from 30%. And they want to eliminate online sales tax for local shops and community enterprises. (Full Story)