Thai Weed Heats Up: Advocates Against Reclassification, Push for Cannabis Act

Cannabis farmers and supporters of marijuana for recreational purposes marched to the Government House to camp out on Monday afternoon, July 8, 2024.

BANGKOK The battle between anti-cannabis and pro-cannabis groups has intensified once again since the Committee for the Control of Narcotic Drugs approved the reclassification of hemp and cannabis as narcotics on July 5, 2024.

Pro-cannabis advocates gathered to push for a Cannabis Act and oppose reclassification as a narcotic, as it reversed the decriminalization from June 9, 2022.

 On July 8, about 100 members of the Thai Cannabis Future Network, led by Prasitchai Noonuan, the network’s secretary-general, marched from the United Nations headquarters on Ratchadamnoen Road to the front of Government House to submit a proposal to the government. They called for cannabis to be regulated under a special cannabis law to resolve conflicts according to international standards.

Prasitchai explained that the network has proposed forming a joint committee to research cannabis in four dimensions:


  1. Whether cannabis poses more health risks than cigarettes and alcohol.
  2. Whether cannabis has caused more severe social harm in the last two years compared to cigarettes and alcohol.
  3. Whether the medicinal properties of cannabis are superior to those of cigarettes and alcohol.
  4. Whether cannabis actually causes psychiatric disorders and brain damage in young people, as claimed by the government.
pro cannabis3
Cannabis plants that protesters arranged along the police barricade near the Government House on July 8, 2024.

Once the research is complete, the results should determine the legal status of cannabis. If cannabis is found to be no more harmful than cigarettes and alcohol and is not a cause of psychiatric disorders or brain damage, it should be regulated under a cannabis law. If it proves to be more harmful, it should come under the Narcotics Act.

Prasitchai also urged Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin to adhere to international principles to resolve the conflict by setting up a joint committee to investigate before control measures are determined. He emphasized the importance of clarifying who misled the public.

“From now on, we will expose the connections between business groups and government officials, especially those of the Pheu Thai Party, including Somsak Thepsutin and Srettha Thavisin, and their relationships with the party’s influential figures. We will expose their connections and the real motives behind calling for cannabis to be reclassified as a narcotic without really caring about public safety,” Prasitchai said.

A worker tends to cannabis plants at a farm in Chonburi province, eastern Thailand on June 5, 2022. Photo: Sakchai Lalit / AP
A worker tends to cannabis plants at a farm in Chonburi province, eastern Thailand on June 5, 2022. Photo: Sakchai Lalit / AP

Hiranrat Mahadisthadakul, a director and secretary of the Hemp and Cannabis Industry Association (HCIA), told Matichon that the association, which has over 20 member companies with investments of over 5 billion baht, does not support the reclassification of cannabis and hemp as narcotics. They prefer regulation under a special cannabis law for more business flexibility.

She said that the existence of a cannabis law allows for more flexible business activity than a return to narcotic status. We want to get on with the cannabis law and avoid excessive political interference. We have invested on the basis of clear government policy, not the policy of a particular party.

“If cannabis is reclassified as a narcotic, it would be a step backwards. HCIA has no confidence in the new government’s approach unless it comes from the Pheu Thai Party. Many entrepreneurs have expressed that they no longer want to stay in this business. Our group has been a driving force in this industry, but we have never received protection from the government. We were left to fend for ourselves,” she added.

pro cannabis1
Cannabis farmers and supporters of marijuana for recreational purposes marched to the Government House to camp out on Monday afternoon, July 8, 2024.

Hiranrat explained that while most companies focus on hemp, reclassifying cannabis and hemp as narcotics would affect investor confidence. Although hemp and cannabis are considered part of the same family, their active ingredients differ.

Hemp contains CBD, which is useful for industrial and commercial purposes, such as CBD oil, beverages and cosmetics. Cannabis contains THC, which has medicinal benefits. The public does not know enough about cannabis and often confuses CBD-containing products with intoxicating cannabis products. Therefore, the government needs to educate the public more.

She emphasized the importance of government dialog with the industry when reclassification is necessary, as past policy uncertainties have led to significant losses for entrepreneurs. The association wants clarity on whether the Cannabis Act will continue and what the future status of cannabis and hemp will be.

A staff member of a cannabis shop uses his mobile outside the shop in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Although the government promotes cannabis for health and hemp for business, the actual practice is different. The private sector cannot extract cannabis flowers because the law does not allow it. Only government agencies can do this in collaboration with private entities, which comes with many strings attached. This prevents the midstream process from entering the economic cycle. Reclassifying cannabis as a narcotic would exacerbate this problem, Hiranrats concluded.

“We see great business potential for cannabis in the global market. However, with the ever- changing policy, we are unsure of the direction the government is taking. If this continues, businesses will not be able to survive,” she said.