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Thailand wants to rein in recreational cannabis

Lack of policy-making hurting industry's chances

Good morning. 

We hope your first (real) week back at work after the holidays is going smoothly. We’ve got a ton in the works for you over the next few weeks, so standby for some announcements on that front.

A 7-minute read from JB and JR

💡What’s the big deal?

Thailand wants to reign in recreational cannabis

What’s happening: Thailand’s Health Ministry introduced a new draft bill on Sunday that would essentially kill the country’s booming cannabis industry. 

The draft bill would deem recreational cannabis consumption illegal — only allowing medical consumption — and would levy fines of 60,000 baht or around $1,720 for rule breakers. Those found to be selling cannabis recreationally would face fines of $100,000 baht or up to a year in jail.

Driving the news: Thailand became the first country in relatively conservative Southeast Asia to decriminalize cannabis in 2022. 

But stop us if you’ve heard this before: In the absence of proactive policy-making after decriminalization, cannabis shops sprouted up throughout the country, particularly in busy tourist areas of Bangkok, its biggest city.  

These shops are loosely regulated, and the Thai government has struggled to create effective rules to govern the legal market. In other words, it’s a bit of a Wild West. There are far too many shops selling far too similar products for the market to continue to support their existence. 

And concerns remain over the quality of the supply chain and how consumers are protected from inhaling pesticides or heavy metals with their pot. 

Our take: Lawmakers argued over how best to regulate the market, and decided to go for a half-in, half-out decriminalization measure. This only serves to exacerbate and magnify the worst effects of cannabis legalization, while letting the myriad benefits, from tax revenue, to job creation and economic growth, go uncaptured.

I can attest to this. I just returned from a few weeks in Thailand, where the situation looks very much like New York. There are bootleg cannabis shops on every street corner, selling all sorts of products with what seemed to me to be quite inflated THC percentages on the label. 

All these stores couldn’t possibly continue to exist in a well-regulated, fair market. 

And it’s obvious that the situation would fuel cannabis opponents, who conflate poorly regulated cannabis markets with the ills of legalization more generally. It’s fuel for those who are against legalization for spurious reasons. 

Other countries should take note: Have a clear plan in place if your lawmakers want to push for decriminalization. As I’ve written before, have clarity about what the goals of legalization are and how you want to accomplish them.

Otherwise you’ll become Thailand. (All that being said, Thailand is one of my favorite countries to visit and I love spending time with family and friends there. Politics is a different story). 

What’s next: Thailand’s cannabis industry obviously isn’t happy about the bill, and voters will have until January 23 to offer comments. 

Democracy looks a bit different in Thailand than it does in the US, for many reasons, but it remains to be seen whether public pressure will force the government to change course. I’m not so sure. 


🥊 Quick hits

Canopy Growth is raising $30 million through a private placement, at $4.29 per unit. 

Canadian cannabis retailer High Tide Inc is the investment bank Echelon’s top pick for cannabis in Q1 this year. 

Medical cannabis sales in Arkansas hit $283 million last year, the state’s Department of Health announced.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas launched a new Cannabis Policy Institute and plans to host a cannabis policy summit this year. 

Medical marijuana is similarly effective as opioids at reducing pain, but with fewer negative consequences, according to a new study.

Cannabis and psychosis in Ontario

What’s new: Legalizing recreational cannabis in Ontario hasn’t yet led to an uptick in psychosis-related disorders, according to new research published in the International Journal of Drug Policy

Why it matters: While adolescent cannabis use can be a precursor to psychiatric disorders, as some research shows — some anti-legalization advocates, including noted vaccine skeptic Alex Berenson have peddled outright misinformation, predicting that legal cannabis would lead to an uptick in violent crime everywhere it’s legalized.

It’s classic reefer madness, but with (probably) less racial overtones and updated for the 21st century. 

That prediction has not come true by any stretch. 

But still: The researchers caution that it would be “premature to conclude” that legalization won’t ever lead to an uptick in psychosis-related issues. As with most studies, more research is needed.

People moves

Nick Pateras is stepping down from the CEO role at Lyphe Group after shepherding the company through a sale.

🗞️What we’re reading

😎 One fun thing

Who, exactly, is this 100-mg cannabis suppository for? We’d love to see the market research.