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Thailand’s New Cannabis Law: Dr. Surachoke Tangwiwat Declares Medical-Only Usage

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An official checking the licence of a cannabis shop on Khao San Road, Bangkok, April 2023. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

In a scene right out of a modern-day drama, Bangkok’s famous Khao San Road witnessed an official meticulously checking the licence of a shop selling cannabis. This April 2023 snapshot captured a pivotal moment in the tug-of-war over cannabis in Thailand. Fast forward to now, a critical decision has been made, tilting the scales back toward tighter regulation.

The winds of change blew through the Ministry of Public Health as a special committee, charged with overseeing the control of illegal drugs, cast their votes. Dr. Surachoke Tangwiwat, the committee chair and deputy permanent secretary at the ministry, declared that the majority had spoken – cannabis and hemp would be reclassified as narcotics come January 1 of next year.

Dr. Surachoke, in his earnest demeanor, explained that the committee’s votes mirrored a shared belief: cannabis should strictly be a tool for medical treatment. They drew a hard line against its recreational use. Yet, as with any group of passionate minds, there were some points of contention.

After much deliberation, a consensus was reached. The committee’s final report, along with its recommendations, now awaits the scrutiny of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board next week. If the board concurs, this will be a game-changer for cannabis regulation in Thailand.

Under the new classification, cannabis plants and hemp are once again deemed narcotics – with exceptions. Branches, roots, and seeds escape this label. Nevertheless, cannabis buds and any parts of the plant boasting more than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) don’t get a free pass. These will join the narcotics list, effectively tightening the grip on the industry.

Dr. Surachoke laid out the steps ahead with a roadmap that signaled an impending overhaul. “Should the Office of the Narcotics Control Board share our stance, the Food and Drug Administration will be tasked to rewrite cannabis-related legislations. The aim is to set clear, stringent criteria for the plant’s usage, all of which should fall into place by January 1. That’s our intended timeline,” he emphasized with resolve.

However, not all voices in the committee resonated with this decision. Panthep Puapongpan cast a dissenting vote but chose to withhold his reasons, leaving a lingering sense of mystery about the opposition’s perspective.

Outside the halls of bureaucracy, a clamor of dissent brews among civic groups. Vocal and impassioned, these groups have not shied away from expressing their disapproval of reclassifying cannabis as a narcotic. Their arguments often center around the benefits of cannabis beyond the confines of medical applications, advocating for a more nuanced approach to regulation.


  1. Joe Y. July 5, 2024

    I can’t believe they’re stepping backwards! Cannabis has so many benefits beyond just medical use.

    • Anna Davis July 5, 2024

      Joe, it’s probably for the best. Recreational cannabis can lead to abuse and societal issues.

      • GreenThumb123 July 5, 2024

        Anna, that’s such an outdated perspective. Regulating properly could prevent abuse and still harness the benefits.

      • Joe Y. July 5, 2024

        Exactly, GreenThumb! Regulation is key, not outright bans which just drive it underground.

    • Clark B. July 5, 2024

      Joe, it’s not just about the benefits, it’s about societal readiness. Are we really ready for it?

      • Ivan July 6, 2024

        if we are not ready for cannabis, by would we be for alcohol, that can kill yourself just by consuming, or others when you Drive. Also if kids are the main focus, why dont we ban alcohol too, since in this alcohol culture you start drinking as soon as your first party. Its just crazy how back in the caves you guys live…

    • HerbalGuru July 5, 2024

      @Clark B., society will never be 100% ready for anything new. Change is inevitable.

  2. WiseOwl July 5, 2024

    Dr. Surachoke is making a sensible decision. Cannabis needs strict controls to prevent misuse.

    • Sunny K. July 5, 2024

      Sensible? It’s a step backwards! Educate people rather than treat them like children.

      • GreenThumb123 July 5, 2024

        Sunny, exactly! Proper education and regulation can work together.

      • WiseOwl July 5, 2024

        Education works, but you can’t deny the potential for abuse without control.

    • CatMom July 5, 2024

      I agree with WiseOwl. Better safe than sorry.

  3. Dr. Mike L. July 5, 2024

    From a medical perspective, focusing on cannabis for treatment makes sense. Recreational use can obscure real benefits.

  4. RebelWithoutAClue July 5, 2024

    This is just a ploy to keep big pharma rich! Cannabis is a natural remedy.

    • Bethany J. July 5, 2024

      RebelWithoutAClue, you’re onto something. Big pharma doesn’t want competition from natural remedies.

    • RationalThinker July 5, 2024

      Or maybe it’s about ensuring safety and preventing misuse, and not some grand conspiracy?

    • RebelWithoutAClue July 5, 2024

      Bethany and RationalThinker, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

  5. LegalizeIt July 5, 2024

    What’s next? Banning alcohol and tobacco? Ridiculous!

    • HealthFirst July 5, 2024

      LegalizeIt, both alcohol and tobacco are heavily regulated. Why should cannabis be any different?

    • LegalizeIt July 5, 2024

      HealthFirst, because cannabis has more proven benefits compared to the harms of alcohol and tobacco.

  6. Sunflower734 July 5, 2024

    This law will hurt small businesses relying on cannabis sales. It’s unfair!

    • BlueSky July 5, 2024

      Sunflower734, those businesses can pivot to other products. Adaptability is key in any market.

  7. SilverFox July 5, 2024

    As a parent, I support this change. Recreational cannabis poses too many risks for youth.

    • Stargazer July 5, 2024

      SilverFox, parents should guide their children and not rely solely on laws to protect them.

    • SilverFox July 5, 2024

      Stargazer, guidance is crucial, but laws provide a framework to help set boundaries.

  8. Izzy M. July 5, 2024

    I think this is a well-meaning but misguided decision. More research is needed before making such drastic moves.

  9. HempLover July 5, 2024

    What about the agricultural impact? Hemp can be a cash crop for many farmers!

    • EcoWarrior July 6, 2024

      Exactly, HempLover! This new law could destroy livelihoods and economies.

  10. LogicalLarry July 6, 2024

    This isn’t about banning hemp, just regulating it to prevent misuse. Let’s not exaggerate.

  11. FreeSpirit9 July 6, 2024

    Government control is getting out of hand. What’s next, regulating our breathing?

  12. Marie T. July 6, 2024

    Medical use only makes sense. Recreational cannabis still needs more studies to understand its full impact.

    • JustChill July 6, 2024

      Marie T., how many more studies do we need? It’s already proven to be safer than many legal substances.

  13. Ross G. July 6, 2024

    This is just a conservative knee-jerk reaction to something they don’t understand.

    • SkepticalSam July 6, 2024

      Ross G., it’s not about being conservative or liberal. It’s about public health and safety.

    • Ross G. July 6, 2024

      SkepticalSam, true, but those concerns can be addressed without outright regression.

  14. PragmaticPete July 6, 2024

    Regulation is the key here. It’s about finding a balanced approach, not extreme measures.

  15. Cannabis set to return to illegal drugs list after vote – Chrome Crumpet July 6, 2024

    […] Thailand’s New Cannabis Law: Dr. Surachoke Tangwiwat Declares Medical-Only Usage […]

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