Thailand: Upcoming Control for the Safe Usage of Cannabis and Hemp

Thailand has paved the way for a more relax usage of cannabis and hemp, e.g., for medical purposes, promote of cannabis and hemp as a commercial cash crop and usage in food and beverage industries, by removing both items from category 5 of the Narcotics Code. This was done by way of a Notification Re: Prescribing the List of Narcotics Under Category 5, released on 8 February 2022 (“Notification”). However, the extracts from any part of the cannabis and hemp plant remain banned with the following exceptions:

  • a) Extracted substance containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) not exceeding 0.2 percent, per weight but only for a substance authorised to be extracted from cannabis or hemp grown in Thailand; and
  • b) Extracted substance of cannabis or hemp seeds grown in Thailand.

 

The question on many people’s lips is whether or not adverse effects may arise from the decriminalization of cannabis and hemp usage. Cannabis has long been known for its possible harm; it may cause symptoms such as psychosis, thought disorder, high levels of anxiety, panic attacks, rapid heart rate, paranoia, and hallucinations. In recent news, the abuse or misuse of the cannabis has led to a traffic accident where there is death and injury, and the other, is where a man caused a self-inflicted injury by amputating his sexual organ. This is mainly a result of an uncontrol usage of cannabis following its legalization.

On 8 June 2022, the House of Representatives voted on the first draft of the Cannabis and Hemp Act. After a five-hour long debate, the draft was passed, with 373 out of 400 voting to agree in principle. This is considered as the first attempt to achieve safe usage of cannabis and hemp (medical not recreational purposes) following its decriminalization.

The key highlights of the first draft of the Cannabis and Hemp Act include:

  • 1. Appointment of a “Board” to supervise and regulate cannabis and hemp;
  • 2. Permission requirements for the production, import, export and sale of cannabis and hemp (including permit fees);
  • 3. Permission requirements for advertising cannabis and hemp;
  • 4. Protective measures for people against the consumption and misuse of cannabis and hemp (sale for the purpose of consumption is prohibited for anybody below 20 years of age, as well as pregnant and lactating women); and
  • 5. Provision of penalties and provisional measures (the highest penalty has an imprisonment period of not exceeding three years, a fine not exceeding THB 300,000, or both).

 

Please note that this process could take months or more until the final draft of the Cannabis and Hemp Act is passed and comes into effect. In the meantime, it is encouraged that people only use cannabis and hemp for medical purposes and refrain from recreational use in order to avoid any potential harmful effects.

In parallel, the Public Health Authority has taken its own measures and issued a secondary law to control the usage of cannabis in public. On 14 June 2022, the Ministry of Public Health published its notification in the Royal Gazette re: Nuisance Caused from Smoke or Odor of Cannabis, Hemp, or Other Plants B.E. 2565 (2022)[1] (“Notification on Nuisance”); in order to prevent the misuse of cannabis, hemp, or other types of plants from recreational use which may cause harm to people suffering from respiratory disorders such as asthma, as well as to prevent public nuisance. The Notification on Nuisance defines cannabis and hemp as follows:

  • i)  Cannabis means a herb plant belongs to the genus of Cannabis. It has a greyish green stem, long oval shape leaves with deep lobbed to its base, sawtooth blade edges, green flowers, and contain psychotic and nerves affecting substances.
  • ii)  Hemp means a herb plant with botanical features similar to Cannabis. However, it has a higher stem, more light-color steep leaves, and contain psychotic and nerves affecting substances.

 

The Notification on Nuisance provides that causing smoke or odor from cannabis, hemp, or other types of plants which may deteriorate or harm the health of bystanders or any person who suffers from such an action, is considered as a public nuisance under the public health law. This is effective as of the date upon which the Notification on Nuisance was published in the Royal Gazette – 15 June 2022.

 

The penalty[2] for causing said public nuisance is prescribed under the Public Health Act B.E. 2535 (“PHA”), where the person causing such public nuisance may serve imprisonment sentence for a period not exceeding three months, a fine of up to THB 25,000, or both.

Later, on 16 June 2022, the Ministry of Public Health also published a notification in the Royal Gazette re: Controlled Herb (Cannabis) B.E. 2565 (2022)[3] (“Notification on Controlled Herb”) recognizing Cannabis’s economic value and sustainable usage. The Notification on Controlled Herb prescribes as follows:

  • 1. Cannabis or its extracts thereof, belonging to Cannabis genus, is a controlled herb.
  • 2. A person over 20 years of age is permitted to possess, use, handle, safeguard, relocate, and sell the controlled herb under Clause 1, except for:
    •    i) use for smoking in public;
    •    ii) use by a pregnant or lactating woman;
    •    iii) sale to a person under the age of 20, as well as to a pregnant or lactating woman.
  • 3. A medical professional, Thai traditional medical professional, Thai applied traditional medical professional, practitioner of Chinese medicine and practitioner of folk medicine under the laws regarding Thai traditional medicine are permitted to use the controlled herb under Clause 1 with their patients.
  • 4.  Patients under Clause 3 are permitted to possess, transport, handle, safeguard, and use said controlled herb in the amount as prescribed for use for a period of 30 days.
  • 5.This notification is effective as of the day directly following the date upon which it was published.

 

The Notification on Controlled Herbs is a “quick fix” attempt to further prevent public nuisance and to restrict persons below 20 from being involved with cannabis until the Cannabis and Hemp Act becomes effective.

This is intended merely to provide a regulatory overview and not to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. Should you have any questions on this or on other areas of law, please do not hesitate to contact:

Nuttaros Tangprasitti                                                
Partner                                                                         

Sattapat Suradecha
Attorney-at-Law


[1] Issued under Section 25(5) of the Public Health Act B.E. 2535 (1992)

[2] Section 74 of the Public Health Act B.E. 2535 (1992)

[3] Issued under section 4, 44, 45(3) and (5) of the Act to Protect and Promote the Wisdom of Thai Traditional Medicine B.E. 2542 (1999)

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