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‘Make space in the prisons’: Thailand’s cannabis entrepreneurs defiant as relisting looms

Two years after Thailand decriminalised cannabis in a giddy plume of publicity, businesses and free weed advocates say their dreams are about to go up in smoke, with the government poised to reclassify the plant as a narcotic by year-end.

Worse still, Thailand’s cannabis community fears the motivation is less based on legitimate concerns for public health, than appeasing big players eyeing domination of a sector potentially worth hundreds of millions a year once the law is changed.

On June 9 – the anniversary of decriminalisation – cannabis activists will rally near Government House in a “Return Cannabis Rights to the People” demonstration against what they say is a law reversal which will kick smaller businesses out of the industry.

“This move is driven by the ability to create exclusive regulations allowing only certain groups to cultivate cannabis, leading to a market value of tens of billions of baht,” said Kitty Chopaka, a leading Thai leading cannabis advocate, in an Instagram post on Friday.

There is a fear that “big cannabis monopolisation” will emerge, the post added.

Instead, activists want of a carefully constructed Cannabis Act to regulate use, protect young people and other groups from accessing weed and allow domestic businesses to grow.

Thailand peeled back years of stringent drug laws two years ago, ostensibly to allow for medicinal cultivation and use of the non-high parts of cannabis plant.

It was the banner political promise of the Bhumjaithai Party – Thailand’s third largest – and gave it a national profile. The party is in the governing coalition headed by Pheu Thai and does not agree with reversing the law.

But in the absence of a Cannabis Act defining who can grow and use cannabis and where, a vast market