Thailand’s new Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Friday spoke out against the recreational use of cannabis, but said his administration would continue the policies supporting its medical use.
Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country last year to decriminalise cannabis, but within a week of the move, issued a raft of rushed, piecemeal regulations to curb its potential unchecked use, including by children.
“Cannabis policy will be medical cannabis. On recreational use, I do not agree with that,” he said in an interview with Thai news website, The Standard.
Srettha’s Pheu Thai party leads an 11-party coalition government, which came into power in August. Its largest partner, the Bhumjaithai party successfully spearheaded decriminalising cannabis under the last administration.
Both parties have said they only support medical use.
The country’s cannabis industry is projected to be worth up to US$1.2 billion over the next few years, with thousands of businesses springing up in tourist hotspots.
“Drug abuse is a big problem for the country that’s been under-addressed … cannabis has to be used medically,” Srettha said.
Prior to becoming prime minister, Srettha had spoken out against the dangers of cannabis use on Thai children.
“Since I’ve been on campaign trail I have experienced first-hand the suffering of the people and their discontent with images of 10-year-olds smoking ganja as well as other drug problems in communities,” he tweeted on May 2.
“These are images that many Thai people – including myself – cannot have expected to see and we don’t want the future of our children to be like this.”
Earlier this week, Srettha, who is also finance minister, unveiled an economic policy aimed at boosting consumption and spending as recovery drags in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.
“This is a targeted policy, domestic spending will increase enormously,” he said, referring to his signature policy of a 10,000 baht (US$282.09) giveaway via digital wallet to all Thais aged above 16.
The handouts worth 560 billion baht are expected to be rolled out in February.
Srettha also said in the interview he plans to draw in foreign investors at meetings with business leaders in New York when he attends the United Nations General Assembly meetings later this month. – SCMP