The green rush goes brown: Cannabis to remain highly regulated despite partial decriminalisation

The excitement expressed during the recent Cannabis decriminalisation may be dashed as an upcoming ministerial announcement, signed on 8 February 2022 by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, bears no sign of allowing the once-anticipated liberal approach to cannabis and hemp.

The upcoming ministerial announcement is expected to take effect 120 days after its publication in the Royal Gazette; and while it will remove most parts of cannabis and hemp plants from Category 5 of the list of narcotic substances, recreational use will remain illegal as cannabis extracts or products that contain more than 0.2% of THC by weight will not be delisted.

During the signing ceremony, Mr Anutin clarified that growing cannabis is not considered an illegal activity and is permitted, but only when relevant licenses and permissions have been obtained. He also mentioned that a bill on cannabis and hemp will be submitted to parliament, which indicates the possibility of additional requirements and clarifications on the use of the plants and their substances. Therefore, it is fair to expect further changes in cannabis regulations soon.

What does this mean for Thailand’s cannabis industry?

The primary change to be introduced by the upcoming ministerial announcement is the decriminalisation of most parts of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. This means that the use of these plants and their substances will no longer incur criminal liabilities, although civil liabilities and penalties will still apply to those who violate provisions of existing laws. However, the ministerial announcement does little to change existing requirements and restrictions, and those interested in growing Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica or producing goods made from them will still be required to seek permission from authorities such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Office of the Narcotics Control Board, and relevant provincial public health offices.

The ministerial announcement also makes no mention of any changes to who will be allowed to participate in Thailand’s cannabis industry. As of writing, it is limited to Thai citizens or Thai majority companies that comprise a Thai majority directorship. Moreover, the objectives for obtaining licenses for producing cannabis, hemp, and their substances, remain limited to medical use, research, commercial or industrial use, and traditional or cultural medicines.

While the initial declaration of decriminalisation was seen as an exciting new chapter for Thailand’s cannabis industry, the reality is that the upcoming ministerial announcement introduces very few changes. Unlike what many have assumed, the decriminalisation of cannabis and hemp does not give individuals and businesses free rein over the use of the plant, and care must be taken to comply with existing restrictions.

As mentioned previously, Mr Anutin has indicated that additional regulations will be introduced later. However, it is unclear what these regulations will entail or whether they will bring any more changes to current requirements.

Individuals and businesses interested in participating in the cannabis or hemp industries are advised to seek legal counsel from professionals like Silk Legal to assess what they need to do in order to meet new regulations.

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