Thailand's Cannabis Industry at a Crossroads: Prime Minister Seeks Reforms to Tackle Challenges

Delve into the evolving landscape of Thailand's cannabis sector as the new prime minister aims to reverse recreational legalization. Explore the complex issues surrounding oversupply, regulatory gaps, and the industry's shift towards medicinal focus. Discover expert insights on the potential impact, export prospects, and the crucial role of clear regulations in steering the industry toward sustainable growth.


R. Letner

12/18/20233 min read

In a groundbreaking move in June 2022, Thailand became the first Asian nation to decriminalize recreational marijuana, sparking a surge in the cannabis market. However, over a year later, the landscape is shifting once again as the new prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, sets out to roll back this legislation. The move is driven by a desire to address the current glut in the market and bring about long-term benefits to the burgeoning industry.

The aftermath of legalization has seen Thai cities teeming with dispensaries, many flouting regulations on THC content and licensing. The lack of enforcement regarding age restrictions for cannabis consumption has triggered a backlash among locals, leading to calls for tighter legislation. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who assumed office just last month, is taking a stance to limit cannabis use solely to medicinal purposes.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Prime Minister Srettha stated, "The law will need to be rewritten. It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only." This proposed shift aligns with the concerns raised by industry experts who argue that stricter laws are necessary to prevent oversupply and correct misconceptions about cannabis as a recreational rather than a medicinal substance.

Soratat Pongsangiam, President at Greenhead Clinic, emphasizes the chaotic nature of the current market, stating, "The oversupply has resulted in a substantial drop in prices, down by 50-60% since we first began. If stricter regulations are implemented, it could potentially restore credibility and control to the industry."

The anticipated reforms may include an outright ban on vape products, stricter monitoring of sales, and crackdowns on unlicensed pop-up shops. Sornkanok Vimolmangkang, an associate professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, echoes the industry's sentiment, emphasizing the need for clear regulations and restricting cannabis use to medical purposes.

Interestingly, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, a key figure in legalizing recreational cannabis, has shifted his stance, now advocating for tighter industry monitoring. While he does not wish for the marijuana plant to be reclassified as a drug, the call for increased regulation highlights the challenges faced by the industry.

The widespread circulation of cannabis, often for hedonistic purposes, has led to a social stigma that deters some patients from considering it for medical treatment. Health experts argue that stricter measures could instill greater confidence among patients and foster a more positive perception of the cannabis industry.

Dr. Jintana Manorompatrasal, founder of Bangkok-based Sawasdee Clinic, emphasizes the urgent need to instill confidence among patients seeking cannabis treatment. "This could foster a more positive perception of the cannabis industry among the public, and for the industry to sustain in the long run," Jintana said. "From a medical provider’s standpoint, stricter measures could also highlight the need for more study and research."

Before the general election, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin expressed the possibility of Thailand becoming an exporter of cannabis products to legal foreign markets. This vision aligns with Srettha’s proposed law, which could open doors for the industry's growth and advancement.

While some market watchers see the potential for Thailand to become a hub for medicinal cannabis and traditional herbs, others remain skeptical. Vimolmangkang of Chulalongkorn University emphasizes the need for improved quality standards to meet international export requirements.

In conclusion, Thailand's cannabis industry stands at a crossroads, with the prime minister's proposed reforms aiming to address the challenges of oversupply, regulatory gaps, and societal perceptions. The potential shift to medicinal focus and the prospect of cannabis exports to legal foreign markets underscore the importance of clear and stringent regulations to ensure the industry's sustainable growth. As the debate unfolds, stakeholders, including growers, producers, and dispensaries, await the outcome of discussions on how to navigate the changing regulatory landscape.

Thailand's Prime Minister Plans Cannabis Law Reversal to Tackle Market Glut