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Thailand moves to outlaw cannabis again, 2 years after it was decriminalized

The prime minister of Thailand, the first country in Asia to legalize the drug, ordered that it be restricted to medical use amid concerns that the lack of regulation had made it available to children and increased crimes.


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BANGKOK — The prime minister of Thailand, the first country in Asia to legalize cannabis two years ago, said Wednesday that he wants to outlaw the drug again amid concerns that the lack of regulation had made it available to children and increased crimes. 


Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin wrote on the social media platform X that he had asked the Health Ministry to amend its list of narcotics to again include cannabis, and issue new rules to allow its use for medical purposes only.


Srettha also ordered local authorities to suppress criminal activities linked to the illegal drug trade and demanded to see progress within 90 days. 


After cannabis was decriminalized in 2022, it was initially said that it would be allowed only for medicinal use, but in practice the market was unregulated. It has prompted public backlash and concerns over misuse and crime.


Decriminalization was spearheaded by the Bhumjaithai Party, whose stronghold is in the impoverished northeast where it promised farmers cannabis would be a new cash crop.


In the 2023 elections, all major parties — including Bhumjaithai — promised to restrict cannabis for medical use. 


Cannabis advocates and entrepreneurs have opposed a radical rollback, which they claimed would be damaging to the economy. Legal cannabis has fueled Thailand’s tourism and farming sectors and spawned thousands of cannabis retail outlets ranging from shops and trucks to market stalls all over the country.

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