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Thai government could face ‘thousands’ of lawsuits as it seeks to ban recreational cannabis use

Thailand’s cannabis industry is lawyering up as the cabinet weighs a bill to roll back legal weed, which industry insiders say is propelled by political calculation rather than sound public health policy.

While the cabinet did not take up the Cannabis and Hemp Act at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, entrepreneurs, producers and cannabis advocates forecast grave economic harm and a storm of litigation should lawmakers adopt the proposed regulations, which in present form, would ban recreational consumption and reintroduce stiff criminal penalties.

“If this bill completely passes, it’s going to be hard. It prohibits a lot of things. It puts criminal charges and heavy fines on violations which are unfair,” said Rattapon Sanrak, the founder of advocacy group Highland, which has hosted annual pro-cannabis festivals for nearly a decade.

Soranut “Beer” Masayavanich, the owner of a cannabis dispensary that was stocked and ready on day one of decriminalisation just over 600 days ago, says he is shifting between anxiety and measured optimism as he considers the future.

“Nobody in their right mind would do what they’re doing,” he said. “So I hope they’re just bluffing.”

What they’re doing, according to the Health Ministry’s draft legislation, is safeguarding public health by reining in cannabis anarchy. The latest spasm of outrage burst just days ago, after media reports amplified complaints that Coldplay’s sold-out Bangkok concert was cloaked in weed smoke.

Fears of rampant access to cannabis for schoolchildren have also surged in the legal free-for-all which followed the June 9, 2022, decriminalisation of cannabis, ostensibly for medicinal and wellness purposes.

Industry insiders say the ganja genie can’t be rebottled, yet they have been