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November 23, 2022

Cannabis Dispensaries and E-commerce in Thailand—Will There Be Another Surprise?

The delisting of cannabis as a controlled narcotic in Thailand on June 9, 2022, was a breakthrough moment for the industry.  Not only are farmers and others in the industry elated that such a step was taken, it has triggered the establishment of an abundance of cannabis dispensaries in Bangkok and other popular domestic and international tourist destinations in Thailand, including Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, and many islands.

Vulnerable populations, such as children, accessing cannabis has also become a hot-button issue. Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) was initially criticized by some for its policy of allowing cannabis to be sold with few restrictions. On June 17, 2022, the MOPH followed up with the Announcement Re: Controlled Herbs (Cannabis) under the Thai Traditional Medical Knowledge Act, which seemed to implement a viable mechanism to regulate cannabis dispensaries. This announcement contained prohibitions on selling cannabis to vulnerable populations (minors, expectant women, and breastfeeding mothers) and on smoking cannabis in public. Furthermore, the draft Cannabis and Hemp Act includes provisions related to sales and distribution channels and advertisements for particular dispensaries. However, the draft act has been delayed due to disagreements among some political parties during the reading of the legislation, and is unlikely to be implemented in 2022 as had been widely expected.  The tug-of-war among the political parties has caused concerns about whether the country’s recent liberalized cannabis policy will be revisited and cannabis relisted as a narcotic.

With this uncertainty over when the draft Cannabis and Hemp Act will be implemented, the MOPH has focused on identifying gaps in current regulation that might allow the misuse of cannabis. The minister of the MOPH has announced that the MOPH announcement of June 17, 2022, will be repealed and replaced by the November 11, 2022, Announcement Re: Controlled Herbs (Cannabis). Unlike the prior announcement, the new announcement states that only the flower bud of marijuana (Cannabis sativa) is a controlled “herb.” This means any dispensaries that sell such flower buds must obtain a license from the MOPH first. Dispensaries that sell other parts of the marijuana plant or hemp will not need a license. Similar to the prior announcement, it is prohibited to sell marijuana flower bud to any person under the age of twenty, or to pregnant or breastfeeding women. In addition, the new announcement also precludes the following:

  • Selling marijuana flower bud for smoking at a dispensary shop;
  • Selling marijuana flower bud through a vending machine, electronic channel, or computer network;
  • Advertising marijuana flower bud through any channel.

Dispensaries and online e-commerce platforms will be most affected by this new announcement which may be further updated pending the final outcome of the draft Cannabis and Hemp Act. Nonetheless, the legislative process in Thailand can be complex. According to the Thai Traditional Medical Knowledge Act, MOPH announcements must be published in the Government Gazette before they can be implemented. However, the cabinet prefers that this new MOPH announcement not be published in the Government Gazette at this time—instead suggesting that the new announcement first be reviewed by the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) at the Ministry of Justice. After receiving comments from the ONCB, the MOPH may need to further revise the announcement.

Dispensaries and online e-commerce platforms (as well as the recreational industry as a whole) will need to keep abreast of the progress of this new announcement, as well as the eventual implementation of the Cannabis and Hemp Act, as it will greatly impact how they conduct their business in Thailand. For more information on this MOPH announcement, or on any of Thailand’s cannabis-related regulations, please contact Dr. Atthachai Homhuan at [email protected].

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