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Prasitchai Nunual Rallies Against Cannabis Reclassification in Thailand: A Fight for Fair Regulations

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An employee meticulously inspects thriving marijuana plants inside the luxuriant confines of a greenhouse operated by Actera, a reputable cannabis cultivation company nestled in Samut Prakan. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Amidst the vibrant green foliage and the hum of horticultural activities, a storm brews on the policy front. Cannabis advocates are gearing up for a significant, long-term rally next month, defiantly opposing the Ministry of Public Health’s controversial plan to reclassify cannabis as a narcotic. Prasitchai Nunual, the dynamic secretary-general of the Writing Thai Cannabis’ Future Network, made waves with this announcement shortly after the group’s dramatic walkout from a tense meeting with Public Health Minister Somsak Thepsutin on a heated Wednesday.

Before the walkout, hopes were high. The group passionately urged Minister Somsak to champion a dedicated law governing the use of cannabis and to spearhead a committee to rigorously study whether Thailand needs a bespoke cannabis act to effectively regulate its use. Their argument was simple: without a tailored act, cannabis use falls back under the harsh stipulations of the Criminal Code, infamous for its stringent penalties on cannabis-related offenses.

The backdrop to this controversy is notable. Two years ago, cannabis was triumphantly removed from the narcotics list, yet the triumph was short-lived as no robust regulations were introduced to oversee its use. The consequence? An unprecedented surge in recreational use and an explosion of shops nationwide, eager to cash in on the cannabis boom, selling everything from basic marijuana to an array of related products.

Attempts to pass a comprehensive cannabis bill by the previous administration floundered spectacularly. Enter Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, adamantly asserting that cannabis would make a swift return to the narcotics list before the year’s end. This hardline stance set the stage for the current clash.

Fervent in his opposition, Mr. Prasitchai passionately called for the ministry to abandon its reclassification plans, except in contexts where it’s demonstrably against the public interest to relax enforcement. The tension was palpable in the meeting room. An hour in, amid rising frustration, Mr. Prasitchai and his group staged their dramatic exit.

“Minister Somsak was unyielding, unwilling to entertain any compromise,” an insider revealed, lending insight into the contentious discussions.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, especially for patients. Mr. Prasitchai issued a stark warning before his departure: at least 10,000 patients who depend on cannabis-based traditional medicine might be thrown into turmoil should cannabis be recriminalized. Their access to this essential medicine hangs in the balance. He forewarned that citizens would also lose the right to cultivate cannabis in their backyards for personal use, should the minister’s tough stance prevail.

Reclassifying cannabis as a Category 5 narcotic significantly restricts its cultivation to large-scale, capital-heavy ventures aimed at medicinal and research purposes. Critics argue that such a move blatantly capitalizes the industry, handing over control to big businesses. Prasitchai hinted at a hidden agenda, suggesting that financiers with political ties are already eyeing involvement in these lucrative ventures, though he stopped short of naming names.

Amidst rising dissent, the network has vowed strategic patience, planning to strike with a robust rally on July 8 near Government House. Their rallying cry: implement fair cannabis regulations that genuinely serve the people’s interests.

On the other side of the debate, Minister Somsak isn’t backing down. He emphasized the need for at least two ministerial regulations: one to clarify which cannabis plant parts are narcotics, and another to outline the legalities of cultivating cannabis for medical and research needs, complete with licensing requirements. Recreational use, he insists, is a no-go.

“The problem chiefly lies in public use. The pervasive smell of weed in public spaces offends others,” he explained, underscoring the ministry’s stance.

Opas Karnkawinpong, the permanent secretary for public health, confirmed the minister’s resolve to quash private cannabis cultivation for personal use, further crystallizing the regulatory direction.


  1. John Doe June 13, 2024

    This is just another case of the government trying to overregulate something that should be a personal choice! Cannabis has so many medical benefits and should not be demonized.

    • Jane S. June 13, 2024

      But recreational use has gotten out of hand. I can’t walk down the street without smelling it everywhere. Regulation is necessary for public health reasons.

      • John Doe June 13, 2024

        That’s what designated smoking areas are for. Enforcing those would be a better solution than a blanket ban!

      • Ben336 June 13, 2024

        Exactly! Regulation doesn’t have to mean banning everything. They should create more nuanced rules.

    • GrowerX June 13, 2024

      This is exactly what folks like me have been fearing. Big businesses swooping in and taking control. Small farmers will be obliterated.

    • John Doe June 13, 2024

      The reclassification would only serve to benefit big pharma. It’s a blatant power grab.

  2. Emily K. June 13, 2024

    I don’t think anyone should be able to grow cannabis in their backyards. It’s too risky with kids around.

    • CannaDave June 13, 2024

      That’s a parental responsibility issue, not a legal matter. Should we ban alcohol and cigarettes too?

    • Emily K. June 13, 2024

      Alcohol and cigarettes are regulated too. Cannabis should be no different.

    • SaraH. June 13, 2024

      It’s also a plants vs. processed products discussion. Growing a plant is far less risky.

    • Emily K. June 13, 2024

      It’s not just about risk, it’s about regulation and containment. Harder to control backyard grows.

  3. Dr. Peterson June 13, 2024

    As a medical professional, I’m concerned that reclassification would limit patients’ access to necessary treatments. This is a step backward.

    • HealthWatch June 13, 2024

      Indeed, how can they just disregard the needs of 10,000 patients? Minister Somsak needs to think this through.

    • Nancy L. June 13, 2024

      Patients need it for serious conditions. They shouldn’t be punished for recreational abuses by others.

    • Dr. Peterson June 13, 2024

      Exactly! It’s cruel to yank away essential treatments because of controversy.

  4. PrepSteve June 13, 2024

    Reclassifying cannabis is about controlling the market more than public health.

  5. Jacob123 June 13, 2024

    If they deeply regulate it, more people will turn to underground sources, which is way more dangerous.

    • MarieS June 13, 2024

      Absolutely. Underground markets are rife with unregulated products. This reclassification could backfire massively.

  6. Visit0r June 13, 2024

    Thailand ramping up regulations is a disaster waiting to happen. The U.S. has seen similar issues.

  7. RandomDude June 13, 2024

    There’s a real risk of losing the economic benefits cannabis brings. Loads of small businesses could collapse.

    • Jeff99 June 13, 2024

      Definitely. The current boom of cannabis shops would reverse, leading to job losses.

  8. Patty L. June 13, 2024

    The whole situation underscores the hypocrisy in government regulation. Alcohol gets a free pass, but cannabis is vilified?

  9. LaVerne June 13, 2024

    The aroma is a serious issue. Public spaces should not be clouded with cannabis smoke.

    • TommyToker June 13, 2024

      They could just enforce stricter rules for smoking in public. No need to ban personal cultivation.

  10. Manny G. June 13, 2024

    Why are we focusing on the smell when people’s access to pain relief is on the line?

    • PolicyExpert June 13, 2024

      Because public acceptability also matters. It’s about balancing both perspectives.

  11. Richard June 13, 2024

    In any case, having a bespoke cannabis act seems the right way to go. Failing to regulate was a mistake in the first place.

    • LegalEagle June 13, 2024

      A dedicated act would ensure cannabis is used safely and fairly, benefiting society and individuals alike.

    • Richard June 13, 2024

      Exactly, it could also preempt so much of this conflict.

  12. GreenJones June 13, 2024

    Prasitchai Nunual and supporters are absolutely right in rallying against this. We need to fight for sensible policies.

  13. People4Weed June 13, 2024

    Draconian measures won’t work; they will only drive cannabis use underground.

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