By Marguerite Arnold
For all of its enthusiastic entry into the legal cannabis space of late, Thailand has also caught the attention of international regulators (specifically the International Narcotics Control Board INCB). In fact, the agency recently issued a warning to the government to go slow when it comes to bucking a century of prohibition.
Thailand has already been warned that if it decriminalizes cannabis for recreational use it might also lose import privileges for certain types of medicines.
While such dire threats were not issued when Luxembourg recently made international headlines for committing to cannabis reform measures, this is also mostly driven by the reality that Thailand, unlike Luxembourg, seems to be gearing up for both an export policy and an active tourist economy.
Then again, there are three international treaties at stake – namely the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
The warning comes at a time when the excitement about Thailand proceeding with cultivation licenses is increasing, however, the Public Health Ministry has yet to decide on a composition of a committee to oversee said production if not consumption downstream.
If this confusion sounds familiar, there is a reason. Every country, from Germany to Canada, has gone through a protracted, and often painful, internal and external rulemaking and implementation process.
In Germany for example, a country with a now formalized cultivation bid process, the German government seems more interested in importing flower across the border with Holland than tendering any domestically produced product for now (although a new bid round is also widely rumoured to be in the cards within the next 24 months).
In Canada, health regulators are now dealing with the extremely messy backlash due to moving too quickly into a regulated market that still allowed a major disaster like CannTrust to happen.
And those are just the “easy” examples.
South of the U.S. border, in particular, every attempt to liberalize drug policy and end the drug war has run into opposition from U.S. banks in addition to everything else. See both Mexico and Uruguay.
In summary, what Thailand is facing is no more, and no less, than official notification from bodies who have yet to catch up with the speed of events on the ground and that cannabis is still a highly stigmatized and controlled substance.
How the country adapts to such realities and learns from others now in similar circumstances (such as Greece) will be interesting to watch as another subchapter in reform now rolls into the history book.
Even in Asia.
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