The Ministry of Public Health has issued an urgent letter to the Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police to conduct immediate legal prosecutions against cannabis researchers, sellers, exporters, and processors who are not holding legal licenses.
According to the letter, the Public Health Ministry informed the Royal Thai Police to collaborate with officers to enforce the law under Section 46 of the Protection and Promotion of Traditional Thai Medicine Wisdom Act, B.E. 2542 (1999), to conduct arrests and proceed with legal prosecution against any person or juristic person who fails to comply with the said Act in the following cases:
- Those who are not legally allowed to study cannabis
- Those who did not request permission to export cannabis
- Those who are not legally allowed to sell marijuana
- Those who did not ask for permission to process cannabis for commercial purposes.
TPN Media notes that more details of the announcement are still limited, in exact terms of who should be granting the permission or what having the permission means.
The order does not forbid the use of cannabis so private smoking or possession is still legal. The order is essentially using a 1999 herb act to control the sales and distribution of cannabis, citing that permission needs to be granted from relevant agencies.
Under this prior herb act, the licenses were generally 10,000 to 20,000 baht depending on the purpose. It is not crystal clear however if the process would be exactly the same and multiple Thai media sources have reported that Thai dispensaries and sellers attempting to reach relevant health departments or licensing divisions today have either been turned away or their calls and e-mails not answered, likely because the divisions are just as surprised by the abrupt order.
Some dispensaries in Bangkok have temporarily closed or stopped selling THC products, however, others have said it is business as usual-for now. Yet others have taken lawyers for advice.
Of course, cannabis permits, licenses, and official permission do not exist per se due to the fact that final cannabis laws are still being drafted and formed by relevant Parliamentary committees, although these law makers have stated they expect to be done with the draft to present to Parliament proper by the end of this month.
As a result, the urgent order has raised question marks from both law enforcement and cannabis vendors/dispensaries, with many seeking more clarity from law enforcement or relevant health agencies and to discuss how to legally gain permission to sell cannabis.
Earlier, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul stated there would be no going back on decriminalization of cannabis despite repeated protests by doctors and religious groups. However, the urgent order to require permission to sell cannabis appears to be an attempt at a stop-gap measure to pause increasing number of pop up sales and stalls, especially in tourist areas, until final laws are completed.
Meanwhile, the Royal Thai Police stated they would be meeting with the Ministry of Public Health later this week to seek clarity on the order as well before any sort of enforcement. The order appears to have caught police just as off guard, notes TPN.
TPN will provide further updates on this developing story as they become available.
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