Proposals Unveiled for Restrictions on Recreational Cannabis in Thailand

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Less than two years after recreational cannabis was legalized, officials disclose new details of legislation restricting its use once more.

In June 2022, Thailand decriminalized cannabis for recreational uses, the first country in Southeast Asia to do so (1,2). As a result, dispensaries increased—an estimated 20,000 registered new ones opened—and the industry had once been projected to reach $1.68 billion in sales by 2025 (2,3). In September 2023, National Geographic had explored the potential of the newly formed Thai recreational cannabis industry as a draw for cannabis tourism alongside several other countries around the globe (4). Cannabis for medical uses had been legal in the country since 2018 (1).

However, autumn 2023, marked the beginning of the end for the new industry, as the newly elected Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, stated his intent to roll back the looser regulations (5). Thailand’s Health Minster, Cholnan Srikaew, recently explained the intent to return to a medical cannabis market only by the end of this year (1). "Under the new law, cannabis will be a controlled plant, so growing it would require permission,” he said in an interview (6). “We will support (cannabis cultivation) for the medical and health industry.” In the meantime, the plan is to introduce a bill for the Cabinet to review this month (1).

Included in drafts of the new ban on recreational cannabis (1,7):


  • A fine of up to $1600 for unauthorized cannabis smoking
  • A fine of up to $2800 and/or a year in prison for selling cannabis illegally
  • A fine of about $8000 and one to three years in prison for farming cannabis illegally

“Simply put, you’ll still be able to sell buds, but only for medical use and health benefits,” Srikaew also explained (7). "Recreational use will be banned."

Several concerns had emerged around the growing recreational industry. “I cannot deny that is a good economy for a lot of people and it’s good for tourism for some parts as well,” explained Kalyapat Rachitroj of the Move Forward Party (7). “But the social problems that arise and, you know, the parents that are scared of their children getting their hands on marijuana is like it gives us no better option but to put marijuana back.”

A February 2024 report from NPR offered some other reasons behind the reversal (2). “Don't forget we are still a very conservative country,” explained Chokwan Kitty Chopaka, a cannabis rights activist in an interview (2).

Concerns about the forthcoming bill include negative effects on business, conflicting motivations in political parties, confusion over the distinction and regulation of medical cannabis, and the opportunity for the illegal market to proliferate once more (1). “I've lived here through, you know, the harshest of times, where you could do five years in prison for having some marijuana,” explained a customer in Chopaka’s cannabis shop in an interview with NPR (2). “So the whole paranoia that used to exist around purchasing and smoking weed here was pretty serious. So yeah, I think they should not go back to how things were before. I just sell weed underground. I can go sell it underground again. I don't care. I make more money underground anyway.”

A finalized bill is expected to be presented before Parliament in October of this year (1).


  1. Board, J., 'A perfect mess': Thailand's proposed cannabis crackdown steeped in political games and business owner anger (accessed Mar 14, 2024).
  2. Sullivan, M., Thailand bans cannabis use in policy reversal (accessed Mar 14, 2024).
  3. Colli, M., Thailand puts a pin on the plan to cannabis legalization reform (accessed Mar 14, 2024).
  4. McEvoy, E., Cannabis tourism–where in the world next? (accessed Mar 14, 2024).
  5. McEvoy, E. Thailand's prime minister aims to roll back cannabis legalization amid rising concerns (accessed Mar 14, 2024).
  6. Thepgumpanat, P. and Wongcha-um, P., Thailand to ban recreational cannabis use by year-end, health minister says (accessed Mar 14, 2024).
  7. Cannabis: Thailand wants to ban recreational marijuana (accessed Mar 14, 2024).